Food poverty in UK has reached level of ‘public health emergency’, warn experts

The Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem

Charlie Cooper

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.

A surge in the number of people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families, and a doubling of the number of malnutrition cases seen at English hospitals represent “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action,” they write.

Continue reading “Food poverty in UK has reached level of ‘public health emergency’, warn experts”

Green tea and red wine extracts interrupt Alzheimer’s disease pathway in cells

Contact: Chris Bunting c.j.bunting@leeds.ac.uk 44-113-343-2049 University of Leeds

Natural chemicals found in green tea and red wine may disrupt a key step of the Alzheimer’s disease pathway, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

In early-stage laboratory experiments, the researchers identified the process which allows harmful clumps of protein to latch on to brain cells, causing them to die. They were able to interrupt this pathway using the purified extracts of EGCG from green tea and resveratrol from red wine.

The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, offer potential new targets for developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, which affects some 800,000 people in the UK alone, and for which there is currently no cure.

“This is an important step in increasing our understanding of the cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead researcher Professor Nigel Hooper of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. “It’s a misconception that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of ageing; it’s a disease that we believe can ultimately be cured through finding new opportunities for drug targets like this.”

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by a distinct build-up of amyloid protein in the brain, which clumps together to form toxic, sticky balls of varying shapes. These amyloid balls  latch on to the surface of nerve cells in the brain by attaching to proteins on the cell surface called prions, causing the nerve cells to malfunction and eventually die.

“We wanted to investigate whether the precise shape of the amyloid balls is essential for them to attach to the prion receptors, like the way a baseball fits snugly into its glove,” says co-author Dr Jo Rushworth. “And if so, we wanted to see if we could prevent the amyloid balls binding to prion by altering their shape, as this would stop the cells from dying.”

The team formed amyloid balls in a test tube and added them to human and animal brain cells. Professor Hooper said: “When we added the extracts from red wine and green tea, which recent research has shown to re-shape amyloid proteins, the amyloid balls no longer harmed the nerve cells. We saw that this was because their shape was distorted, so they could no longer bind to prion and disrupt cell function.

“We also showed, for the first time, that when amyloid balls stick to prion, it triggers the production of even more amyloid, in a deadly vicious cycle,” he added.

Professor Hooper says that the team’s next steps are to understand exactly how the amyloid-prion interaction kills off neurons.

“I’m certain that this will increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease even further, with the potential to reveal yet more drug targets,” he said.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, which part-funded the study, said: “Understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s is vital if we are to find a way of stopping the disease in its tracks. While these early-stage results should not be a signal for people to stock up on green tea and red wine, they could provide an important new lead in the search for new and effective treatments. With half a million people affected by Alzheimer’s in the UK, we urgently need treatments that can halt the disease – that means it’s crucial to invest in research to take results like these from the lab bench to the clinic.”

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The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Medical Research Council.

Further information

For interviews, please contact Chris Bunting, Press Officer, University of Leeds; phone 0113 343 2049, email c.j.bunting@leeds.ac.uk

The Full Paper:  Jo V. Rushworth, Heledd H. Griffiths, Nicole T. Watt and Nigel M. Hooper, ‘Prion protein-mediated neurotoxity of amyloid-β oligomers requires lipid rafts and the transmembrane LRP1,’ Journal of Biological Chemistry [DOI:10.1074/jbc.M112.400358] is available at http://www.jbc.org/content/early/2013/02/06/jbc.M112.400358.full.pdf+html from 6pm (EST), February 5.  Copies of the paper are available on request from the University of Leeds press office.

Notes for editors:

1. Nigel Hooper is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Leeds. Further information about his research can be found here: http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/staff/profile.php?un=bmbnmh

2. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, costing the UK economy £23 billion per year.  One in three people aged over 65 are expected to die with a form of dementia and 163,000 new cases are diagnosed in England and Wales each year. Worldwide, more than 35 million people are estimated to have dementia. (Source: www.alzheimersresearchuk.org )

3. University of Leeds, Faculty of Biological Sciences

The Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds is one of the largest in the UK, with over 110 academic staff and over 400 postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. The Faculty is ranked 4th in the UK (Nature Journal, 457 (2009) doi:10.1038/457013a) based on results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).  The RAE feedback noted that “virtually all outputs were assessed as being recognized internationally, with many (60%) being internationally excellent or world-leading” in quality. The Faculty’s research grant portfolio totals some £53M and funders include charities, research councils, the European Union and industry.  www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk

4. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk

5. Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia. We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth over £20 million in leading Universities across the UK. To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or calling 01223 843899.

6. For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including the first antibiotic penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk

Researchers develop cocktail of bacteria that eradicates Clostridium difficile infection ( 100%!!! )

Contact: Aileen Sheehy press.office@sanger.ac.uk 0044-012-234-96928 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

C’est difficile

In a new study out today, researchers used mice to identify a combination six naturally occurring bacteria that eradicate a highly contagious form of Clostridium difficile, an infectious bacterium associated with many hospital deaths. Three of the six bacteria have not been described before. This work may have significant implications for future control and treatment approaches.

The researchers found that this strain of C. difficile, known as O27, establishes a persistent, prolonged contagious period, known as supershedding that is very difficult to treat with antibiotics. These contagious ‘supershedders’ release highly resistant spores for a prolonged period that are very difficult to eradicate from the environment. Similar scenarios are likely in hospitals.

C. difficile can cause bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and is a contributing factor to over 2,000 deaths in the UK in 2011. It lives naturally in the body of some people where other bacteria in the gut suppress its numbers and prevent it from spreading. If a person has been treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as clindamycin, our bodies’ natural bacteria can be destroyed and the gut can become overrun by C. difficile. The aggressive strain of C. diff analysed in this study has been responsible for epidemics in Europe, North America and Australia.

“We treated mice infected with this persistent form of C. diff with a range of antibiotics but they consistently relapsed to a high level of shedding or contagiousness,” says Dr Trevor Lawley, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “We then attempted treating the mice using faecal transplantation, homogenized faeces from a healthy mouse. This quickly and effectively supressed the disease and supershedding state with no reoccurrence in the vast majority of cases.”

“This epidemic caused by C. diff is refractory to antibiotic treatment but can be supressed by faecal transplantation, resolving symptoms of disease and contagiousness.”

The team wanted to take this research one step further and isolate the precise bacteria that supressed C. diff. and restored microbial balance of the gut. They cultured a large number of bacteria naturally found in the gut of mice, all from one of four main groups of bacteria found in mammals. They tested many combinations of these bacteria, until they isolated a cocktail of six that worked best to suppress the infection.

“The mixture of six bacterial species effectively and reproducibly suppressed the C. difficile supershedder state in mice, restoring the healthy bacterial diversity of the gut,” says Professor Harry Flint, senior author from the University of Aberdeen.

The team then sequenced the genomes of the six bacteria and compared their genetic family tree to more precisely define them. Based on this analysis, the team found that the mixture of six bacteria contained three that have been previously described and three novel species. This mix is genetically diverse and comes from all four main groups of bacteria found in mammals.

These results illustrate the effectiveness of displacing C. diff and the supershedder microbiota with a defined mix of bacteria, naturally found in the gut.

“Our results open the way to reduce the over-use of antibiotic treatment and harness the potential of naturally occurring microbial communities to treat C. difficile infection and transmission, and potentially other diseases associated with microbial imbalances,” explains Professor Gordon Dougan, senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “Faecal transplantation is viewed as an alternative treatment but it is not widely used because of the risk of introducing harmful pathogens as well as general patient aversion. This model encapsulates some of the features of faecal therapy and acts as a basis to develop standardized treatment mixture.”

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Notes to Editors

Publication Details

Trevor D. Lawley, Simon Clare, Alan W. Walker, Mark D. Stares, Thomas R. Connor, Claire Raisen, David Goulding, Roland Rad, Fernanda Schreiber, Cordelia Brandt, Laura J. Deakin, Derek J. Pickard, Sylvia H. Duncan, Harry J. Flint, Taane G. Clark, Julian Parkhill, Gordon Dougan (2012). ‘Targeted restoration of the intestinal microbiota with a simple, defined bacteriotherapy resolves relapsing Clostridium difficiledisease in mice’

Published in PLOS Pathogens on 25 October DOI: ppat.1002995

Funding

This project was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

Participating Centres

Bacterial Pathogenesis Laboratory, Microbial Pathogenesis Laboratory, Pathogen Genomics and Mouse Genomics, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK,

Microbial Ecology Group, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK,

Departments of Infectious and Tropical Diseases and Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, WC1E 7HT, UK

Selected Websites

For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world’s leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease. http://www.sanger.ac.uk

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

Contact details

Don Powell Media Manager Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SA, UK Tel +44 (0)1223 496 928 Mobile +44 (0)7753 7753 97 Email press.office@sanger.ac.uk

Human nose too cold for bird flu, says new study ( H5N1 )

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: Lucy Goodchild
lucy.goodchild@imperial.ac.uk
44-207-594-6702
Imperial College London

Avian influenza viruses do not thrive in humans because the temperature inside a person’s nose is too low, according to research published today in the journal PLoS Pathogens. The authors of the study, from Imperial College London and the University of North Carolina, say this may be one of the reasons why bird flu viruses do not cause pandemics in humans easily.

There are 16 subtypes of avian influenza and some can mutate into forms that can infect humans, by swapping proteins on their surface with proteins from human influenza viruses.

Today’s study shows that normal avian influenza viruses do not spread extensively in cells at 32 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside the human nose. The researchers say this is probably because the viruses usually infect the guts of birds, which are warmer, at 40 degrees Celsius. This means that avian flu viruses that have not mutated are less likely to infect people, because the first site of infection in humans is usually the nose. If a normal avian flu virus infected a human nose, the virus would not be able to grow and spread between cells, so it would be less likely to damage cells and cause respiratory illness.

The researchers also found that when they created a mutated human influenza virus by adding a protein from the surface of an avian influenza virus, this mutated virus struggled to thrive at 32 degrees Celsius. This suggests that if a new human influenza strain evolved by adopting proteins from an avian influenza virus, this would need to undergo further changes in order to adapt to the conditions in the human body.

The researchers reached their conclusions by growing cells from the human airway and infecting them with different human and avian influenza viruses, including H5N1, to see how well the viruses grew and spread. The human influenza viruses grew equally well in the cells whether they were maintained at 37 degrees Celsius, our core body temperature, or at 32 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the nose. In contrast, the four avian influenza viruses tested grew well at 37 degrees Celsius but grew very slowly at 32 degrees Celsius.

When the researchers added proteins from an avian influenza virus to a human influenza virus, the human influenza virus also grew slowly and struggled to replicate at 32 degrees Celsius.

As viruses kill the cells they infect, the researchers also measured the extent of cell death in the model. This showed that at 32 degrees Celsius, far fewer cells died as a result of infection with avian influenza compared with human influenza, supporting the idea that the avian virus could not thrive at that temperature.

Professor Wendy Barclay, one of the authors of the study from the Division of Investigative Science at Imperial College London, said: “Bird viruses are out there all the time but they can only cause pandemics when they undergo certain changes. Our study gives vital clues about what kinds of changes would be needed in order for them to mutate and infect humans, potentially helping us to identify which viruses could lead to a pandemic.

“It would be impossible to develop vaccines against all 16 subtypes of avian flu, so we need to prioritise. By studying a range of different viruses in systems like this one we can look for warnings that they are already beginning to make the kinds of genetic changes in nature that mean they could be poised to jump into humans; animal viruses that spread well at low temperatures in these cultures could be more likely to cause the next pandemic than those which are restricted,” added Professor Barclay.

 

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The research was funded by the Medical Research Council in the UK and by the NIH in the USA.

Compound discovered that boosts effect of vaccines against HIV and flu: polyethyleneimine (PEI) 100% Letahl Flu Protection

Contact: University of Oxford press.office@admin.ox.ac.uk 44-018-652-80530 University of Oxford

Novel vaccine additive to enhance the body’s immune response shows promise in mice

Oxford University scientists have discovered a compound that greatly boosts the effect of vaccines against viruses like flu, HIV and herpes in mice.

An ‘adjuvant’ is a substance added to a vaccine to enhance the immune response and offer better protection against infection.

The Oxford University team, along with Swedish and US colleagues, have shown that a type of polymer called polyethyleneimine (PEI) is a potent adjuvant for test vaccines against HIV, flu and herpes when given in mice.

The researchers were part-funded by the UK Medical Research Council and report their findings in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Mice given a single dose of a flu vaccine including PEI via a nasal droplet were completely protected against a lethal dose of flu. This was a marked improvement over mice given the flu vaccine without an adjuvant or in formulations with other adjuvants.

The Oxford researchers now intend to test the PEI adjuvant in ferrets, a better animal model for studying flu. They also want to understand how long the protection lasts for. It is likely to be a couple of years before a flu vaccine using the adjuvant could be tested in clinical trials in humans, the researchers say.

‘Gaining complete protection against flu from just one immunisation is pretty unheard of, even in a study in mice,’ says Professor Quentin Sattentau of the Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University, who led the work. ‘This gives us confidence that PEI has the potential to be a potent adjuvant for vaccines against viruses like flu or HIV, though there are many steps ahead if it is ever to be used in humans.’

HIV, flu and herpes are some of the most difficult targets to develop vaccines against. HIV and flu viruses are able to change and evolve to escape immune responses stimulated by vaccines. There aren’t any effective vaccines against HIV and herpes as yet, and the flu vaccine needs reformulating each year and doesn’t offer complete protection to everyone who receives it. Finding better adjuvants could help in developing more effective vaccines against these diseases.

Most vaccines include an adjuvant. The main ingredient of the vaccine – whether it is a dead or disabled pathogen, or just a part of the virus or bacteria causing the disease – primes the body’s immune system so it knows what to attack in case of infection. But the adjuvant is needed as well to stimulate this process.

While the need for adjuvants in vaccines has been recognised for nearly 100 years, the way adjuvants work has only recently been understood. The result has been that only a small set of adjuvants is used in current vaccines, often for historical reasons.

The most common adjuvant by far is alum, an aluminium-containing compound that has been given in many different vaccines worldwide for decades. However, alum is not the most potent adjuvant for many vaccine designs.

‘There is a need to develop new adjuvants to get the most appropriate immune response from vaccines,’ says Professor Sattentau, who is also a James Martin Senior Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford.

The Oxford University team found that PEI, a standard polymer often used in genetic and cell biology, has strong adjuvant activity.

When included in a vaccine with a protein from HIV, flu or herpes virus, mice subsequently mounted a strong immune response against that virus. The immune response was stronger than with other adjuvants that are currently being investigated.

The team also showed that PEI is a potent adjuvant in rabbits, showing the effect is not just specific to mice and could be general.

Another potential advantage of PEI is that it works well as an adjuvant for ‘mucosal vaccines’. These vaccines are taken up the nose or in the mouth and absorbed through the mucus-lined tissues there, getting rid of any pain and anxiety from a needle. Mucosal vaccines may also be better in some ways as mucosal tissues are the sites of infection for these diseases (airways for respiratory diseases, genital mucosa for HIV and herpes).

Professor Sattentau suggests that: ‘In the best of all possible worlds, you could imagine people would have one dose of flu vaccine that they’d just sniff up their nose or put under their tongue. And that would be it: no injections and they’d be protected from flu for a number of years.

‘It’s just a vision for the future at the moment, but this promising adjuvant suggests it is a vision that is at least possible.’

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Notes to Editors

* The body’s immune system is made up of two arms: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The adaptive immune system consists of the antibodies and immune cells (T and B cells) the body develops specifically to combat a particular foreign agent.

The innate immune system had been thought of as playing a more primitive, non-specific role in protecting against invaders like viruses and parasites. However, it is now realised that the innate immune system is essential in kicking off any immune response. It needs to be activated first to generate an adaptive immune response.

But the innate immune system doesn’t just press the start button. It tailors the body’s adaptive immune response, deciding on what particular mix of antibodies and T cells is needed and teaching them what to attack.

It is the adjuvants in vaccines that stimulate the innate immune system. So having the right adjuvant can help the body produce the most appropriate immune response to protect against future infection.

* The paper ‘Polyethyleneimine is a potent mucosal adjuvant for glycoproteins with innate and adaptive immune activating properties’ is to be published in the journal Nature Biotechnology with an embargo of 18:00 UK time / 13:00 US Eastern time on Sunday 26 August 2012.

* The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, European Commission, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dormeur Investment Service Ltd.

* Professor Sattentau is an investigator in the Jenner Institute at Oxford University and a James Martin Senior Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University.

* For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk

* The Oxford Martin School

is a unique interdisciplinary community within the University of Oxford. The School fosters innovative thinking, deep scholarship and collaborative activity to address the most pressing risks and realise new opportunities of the 21st century. It was founded in 2005 through the vision and generosity of James Martin, and currently comprises over 35 interdisciplinary research programmes on global future challenges. The Oxford Martin School’s Director is Ian Goldin, Professor at the University of Oxford. http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk

* Oxford University’s Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe, with over 2,500 people involved in research and more than 2,800 students. The University is rated the best in the world for medicine, and it is home to the UK’s top-ranked medical school.

From the genetic and molecular basis of disease to the latest advances in neuroscience, Oxford is at the forefront of medical research. It has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in the UK and great expertise in taking discoveries from the lab into the clinic. Partnerships with the local NHS Trusts enable patients to benefit from close links between medical research and healthcare delivery.

A great strength of Oxford medicine is its long-standing network of clinical research units in Asia and Africa, enabling world-leading research on the most pressing global health challenges such as malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and flu. Oxford is also renowned for its large-scale studies which examine the role of factors such as smoking, alcohol and diet on cancer, heart disease and other