How zinc starves lethal bacteria to stop infection

Contact: Dr Christopher McDevitt christopher.mcdevitt@adelaide.edu.au 61-449-823-946 University of Adelaide

Australian researchers have found that zinc can ‘starve’ one of the world’s most deadly bacteria by preventing its uptake of an essential metal.

The finding, by infectious disease researchers at the University of Adelaide and The University of Queensland, opens the way for further work to design antibacterial agents in the fight against Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is responsible for more than one million deaths a year, killing children, the elderly and other vulnerable people by causing pneumonia, meningitis, and other serious infectious diseases.

Published today in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, the researchers describe how zinc “jams shut” a protein transporter in the bacteria so that it cannot take up manganese, an essential metal that Streptococcus pneumoniae needs to be able to invade and cause disease in humans.

“It’s long been known that zinc plays an important role in the body’s ability to protect against bacterial infection, but this is the first time anyone has been able to show how zinc actually blocks an essential pathway causing the bacteria to starve,” says project leader Dr Christopher McDevitt, Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s Research Centre for Infectious Diseases.

“This work spans fields from chemistry and biochemistry to microbiology and immunology to see, at an atomic level of detail, how this transport protein is responsible for keeping the bacteria alive by scavenging one essential metal (manganese), but at the same time also makes the bacteria vulnerable to being killed by another metal (zinc),” says Professor Bostjan Kobe, Professor of Structural Biology at The University of Queensland.

The study reveals that the bacterial transporter (PsaBCA) uses a ‘spring-hammer’ mechanism to bind the metals. The difference in size between the two metals, manganese and zinc, causes the transporter to bind them in different ways. The smaller size of zinc means that when it binds to the transporter, the mechanism closes too tightly around the zinc, causing an essential spring in the protein to unwind too far, jamming it shut and blocking the transporter from being able to take up manganese.

“Without manganese, these bacteria can easily be cleared by the immune system,” says Dr McDevitt. “For the first time, we understand how these types of transporters function. With this new information we can start to design the next generation of antibacterial agents to target and block these essential transporters.”

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The research has been funded by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Media Contact:

Dr Christopher McDevitt Research Fellow Research Centre for Infectious Diseases School of Molecular and Biomedical Science The University of Adelaide Mobile: +61 449 823 946 christopher.mcdevitt@adelaide.edu.au

Professor Bostjan Kobe Professor of Structural Biology Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences The University of Queensland Phone : +61 7 3365 2132 b.kobe@uq.edu.au

Robyn Mills Media Officer The University of Adelaide Phone: +61 8 8313 6341 Mobile: +61 410 689 084 robyn.mills@

Depression: ‘Now the Second biggest cause of disability’ in world

By Helen Briggs BBC News

Depression
Depression is common across the world

 

Depression is the second most common cause of disability worldwide after back pain, according to a review of research.

The disease must be treated as a global public health priority, experts report in the journal PLOS Medicine.

The study compared clinical depression with more than 200 other diseases and injuries as a cause of disability.

Globally, only a small proportion of patients have access to treatment, the World Health Organization says.

“Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now”

End Quote Dr Alize Ferrari University of Queensland

Depression was ranked at number two as a global cause of disability, but its impact varied in different countries and regions. For example, rates of major depression were highest in Afghanistan and lowest in Japan. In the UK, depression was ranked at number three in terms of years lived with a disability.

Dr Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health led the study.

“Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now,” she told BBC News.

“There’s still more work to be done in terms of awareness of the disease and also in coming up with successful ways of treating it.

“The burden is different between countries, so it tends to be higher in low and middle income countries and lower in high income countries.”

Policy-makers had made an effort to bring depression to the forefront, but there was a lot more work to be done, she added.

“There’s lots of stigma we know associated with mental health,” she explained.

“What one person recognises as disabling might be different to another person and might be different across countries as well, there are lots of cultural implications and interpretations that come in place, which makes it all the more important to raise awareness of the size of the problem and also signs and how to detect it.”

The data – for the year 2010 – follows similar studies in 1990 and 2000 looking at the global burden of depression.

Commenting on the study, Dr Daniel Chisholm, a health economist at the department for mental health and substance abuse at the World Health Organization said depression was a very disabling condition.

“It’s a big public health challenge and a big problem to be reckoned with but not enough is being done.

“Around the world only a tiny proportion of people get any sort of treatment or diagnosis.”

The WHO recently launched a global mental health action plan to raise awareness among policy-makers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24818048

 

Vitamin E in front line of prostate cancer fight

2010 study posted for release

 

Survival rates of the world’s most common cancer might soon be increased with a new vitamin E treatment which could significantly reduce tumour regrowth.

 

 

 

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) prostate cancer researchers are leading the fight against a disease which kills 3000 Australian men a year.

 

Dr Patrick Ling, whose research will be a centrepiece of the new $354 million Translational Research Institute (TRI) when it opens in Brisbane, is leading a team of researchers who have identified a particular constituent of vitamin E, known as tocotrienol (T3), which can inhibit the growth of prostate tumours.

 

Construction of TRI officially began today (October 19) at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The world-class facility brings together some of Queensland’s best medical researchers from four leading Australian research facilities to turn their work into accessible and potentially life-saving health treatments.

 

Dr Ling’s research has been funded by Davos Life Science in Singapore, who recently awarded him a further $128,000 to undertake a one-year study of the long-term effectiveness of T3 to prevent the recurrence of treated prostate cancer tumours.

 

“Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in developed countries,” Dr Ling said.

 

“It is responsible for more male deaths than any other cancer, except lung cancer.”

 

Dr Ling said existing chemotherapy and hormonal therapy treatment of prostate cancer was insufficient because it failed to kill off the prostate cancer stem cells (CSCs) which were believed to be responsible for the regrowth of tumours.

 

However, the research team have discovered a particular form of T3, called gamma-tocotrienol (γ-T3), can successfully kill off the prostate cancer CSCs.

 

“Currently there is no effective treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, because it grows back after conventional therapies in more than 70 per cent of cases,” he said.

 

“But with γ-T3, QUT researchers have found a better way to treat prostate cancer, which has the potential to inhibit recurrence of the disease.”

 

Dr Ling said in animal trials, γ-T3 completely inhibited tumour formation in more than 70 per cent of the mice implanted with prostate cancer cells and fed the vitamin E constituent in water. In the remaining cases, tumour regrowth was considerably reduced, while tumours reformed in 100 per cent of the control group.

 

The findings were published recently in the International Journal of Cancer.

 

The next stage of Dr Ling’s study has begun and will determine the long-term effectiveness of the γ-T3 treatment, with plans to progress to clinical trials in the future.

 

“Previous clinical trials using another vitamin E constituent to inhibit prostate cancer development were unsuccessful, but these trials did not use the vitamin E constituent γ-T3,” he said.

 

“Other research has found γ-T3 is also effective in suppressing other types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver and gastric.”

 

Dr Ling said while not all vitamin E preparations had the active constituent, natural vitamin E obtained from palm oil was rich in γ-T3.

 

Professor Ross Young, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), said one of TRI’s greatest strengths was to bring together leading researchers.

 

“Collaboration, which combines the expertise of researchers from different disciplines and institutions to achieve common goals, will lead to better solutions,” Professor Young said.

 

QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake said TRI would greatly benefit Queensland’s and Australia’s economy and ability to attract the world’s best researchers to our shores.

 

“By having this world-class facility producing research of the highest quality, we will be increasing Queensland’s international competitiveness in research,” Professor Coaldrake said.

 

TRI is a collaboration of QUT, the University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital and the Mater Medical Research Institute, with funding from the Australian Government, Queensland Government, The Atlantic Philanthropies, QUT and UQ.

 

Dr Ling is based at IHBI and the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre – Queensland, a comprehensive research centre to investigate new ways to treat prostate cancer established by QUT and the Princess Alexandra Hospital with funding from the federal government.

 

His research is funded by world-leading tocotrienol manufacturer Davos Life Science. The Singapore-based company produces γ-T3 from sustainable palm plantations.

Overeating now bigger global problem than lack of food

 

Not good for global health <i>(Image: Peter Reali/Plainpicture)</i>Not good for global health (Image: Peter Reali/Plainpicture)

The largest ever study into the state of the world’s health has revealed that, for the first time, the number of years of healthy living lost as a result of people eating too much outweigh the number lost by people eating too little.

The Global Burden of Disease report – a massive research effort involving almost 500 scientists in 50 countries – also concludes that we have finally got a handle on some common infectious diseases, helping to save millions of children from early deaths. But collectively we are spending more of our lives living in poor health and with disability.

“The Global Burden of Disease 2010 is the most comprehensive assessment of human health in the history of medicine,” says Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, in which the report will be published. “It provides insights into human health that are comparable in scope and depth to the sequencing of the human genome.”

The report assessed the prevalence of diseases and causes of death across the globe in 2010, and compared these to data collected in 1990 to identify any trends.

For the first time on a global scale, being overweight has become more of a health problem than lack of nutrition. In 1990, undernutrition was the leading cause of disease burden, measured as the number of years of healthy life an average person could expect to lose as a result of illness or early death. Back then, a high body-mass index, or BMI, was ranked tenth. Now, undernutrition has dropped to eighth place, while BMI has risen to become the sixth leading cause of disease burden.

Too much to eat

“A greater amount of disease burden has occurred because people are fat and have too much to eat, as opposed to having too little to eat,” says Alan Lopez at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who worked on the study.

Being overweight can hike a person’s blood pressure and cause stroke and heart disease; together, these two conditions are responsible for a quarter of all deaths. And the problem isn’t limited to the west – the Middle East is one region that is seeing significant increases in BMI.

But while more of us may be overweight, we are also living longer. In some countries, the change has been huge – the Maldives, for example, has seen an increase in life expectancy of almost 30 years since the 1970s. Rural health programmes have also contributed to big improvements in countries including Bangladesh and Iran.

“There has been a lot of progress,” says Majid Ezzati at Imperial College London, who led part of the study investigating the risk factors of disease. “These are countries that have implemented programmes in large regions and nationwide to get interventions to the people that really need them.”

Progress in eliminating the causes of early childhood death – mainly infections, diarrhoea and birth problems – has been astounding. The rate of death in the under-5s has dropped by 60 per cent since 1990.

High mortality

Sub-Saharan Africa is still experiencing high levels of mortality from infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria, yet globally deaths from infectious diseases have dropped. In fact, we are more likely to die from non-infectious diseases – especially those caused by being overweight.

Looking forward, obesity and the use of tobacco and alcohol are obvious targets for health policy change. But it is also important to focus on healthy ageing.

“The large burden [of disease] related to disability was a surprise,” says Christopher Murray at the University of Washington in Seattle. “There’s been a focus on mortality, but there’s a huge volume [of disease burden] related to things that don’t really kill you.”

Musculoskeletal disorders – such as neck and back pain – dominate this category, as do mental disorders and substance abuse.

There’s a need to improve awareness of these chronic conditions in the developing world, says Irene Agyepong at the University of Ghana in Accra, who was not involved in the study. “The kind of awareness we have in the western world is not there in the south,” she says. “We have to focus on it now rather than wait until it is upon us, like the HIV AIDS epidemic is on us.”

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23004-overeating-now-bigger-global-problem-than-lack-of-food.html?full=true&print=true

 

Research find Extract of kava useful in treating anxiety and improving mood: safe and effective

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: Joan Robinson
joan.robinson@springer.com
49-622-148-78130
Springer

Research finds kava safe and effective

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have found a traditional extract of Kava, a medicinal plant from the South Pacific, to be safe and effective in reducing anxiety.

To be published online this week in the Springer journal Psychopharmacology, the results of a world-first clinical trial which found that a water-soluble extract of Kava was effective in treating anxiety and improving mood. The Kava was prescribed in the form of tablets.

Lead researcher Jerome Sarris, a PhD candidate from UQ’s School of Medicine, said the placebo-controlled study found Kava to be an effective and safe treatment option for people with chronic anxiety and varying levels of depression.

“We’ve been able to show that Kava offers a natural alternative for the treatment of anxiety, and unlike some pharmaceutical options, has less risk of dependency and less potential of side effects,” Mr. Sarris said.

Each week participants were given a clinical assessment as well as a self-rating questionnaire to measure their anxiety and depression levels. The researchers found anxiety levels decreased dramatically for participants taking five tablets of Kava per day as opposed to the placebo group which took dummy pills.

“We also found that Kava had a positive impact on reducing depression levels, something which had not been tested before,” Mr. Sarris said.

In 2002 Kava was banned in Europe, UK and Canada due to concerns over liver toxicity.

While the three-week trial raised no major health concerns regarding the Kava extract used, the researchers said larger studies were required to confirm the drug’s safety.

“When extracted in the appropriate way, Kava may pose less or no potential liver problems. I hope the results will encourage governments to reconsider the ban,” Mr. Sarris said.

“Ethanol and acetone extracts, which sometimes use the incorrect parts of the Kava, were being sold in Europe. That is not the traditional way of prescribing Kava in the Pacific Islands. Our study used a water-soluble extract from the peeled rootstock of a medicinal cultivar of the plant, which is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia and is currently legal in Australia for medicinal use.”

 

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Reference

1. Sarris J et al. (2009). The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study (KADSS): a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial using an aqueous extract of Piper methysticum. Psychopharmacology. DOI 10.1007/s00213-009-1549-9

The full-text article is available to journalists as a pdf.
Contact: Joan Robinson, Springer, tel +49-6221-487-8130, joan.robinson@springer.com

Psychological Science in the Public Interest claims those that question popular belief lack cognitive effort: Recommends “debiasing” Campaigns

Engineering Evil: A very entertaining article in the venue of double speak. To question scientific conformity is to be in question yourself. 😉

PRESS RELEASE

September 19, 2012  For Immediate Release

Contact:   Anna Mikulak   Association for Psychological Science   202.293.9300 amikulak@psychologicalscience.org

Misinformation: Psychological Science Shows Why It Sticks and How to Fix It

Childhood vaccines do not cause autism. Barack Obama was born in the United States. Global warming is confirmed by science.  And yet, many people believe claims to the contrary.

Why does that kind of misinformation stick? A new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, explores this phenomenon. Psychological scientist Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia and colleagues highlight the cognitive factors that make certain pieces of misinformation so “sticky” and identify some techniques that may be effective in debunking or counteracting erroneous beliefs.

The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true – it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold.

And when we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, there are only a few features that we are likely to pay attention to: Does the information fit with other things I believe in? Does it make a coherent story with what I already know? Does it come from a credible source? Do others believe it?

Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our preexisting political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief.

“This persistence of misinformation has fairly alarming implications in a democracy because people may base decisions on information that, at some level, they know to be false,” says Lewandowsky.

“At an individual level, misinformation about health issues—for example, unwarranted fears regarding vaccinations or unwarranted trust in alternative medicine—can do a lot of damage. At a societal level, persistent misinformation about political issues (e.g., Obama’s health care reform) can create considerable harm. On a global scale, misinformation about climate change is currently delaying mitigative action.”

Though misinformation may be difficult to correct, all is not lost. According to Lewandowsky, “psychological science has the potential to counteract all those harms by educating people and communicators about the power of misinformation and how to meet it.”

In their report, Lewandowsky and colleagues offer some strategies for setting the record straight.

  • Provide people with a narrative that replaces the gap left by false information
  • Focus on the facts you want to highlight, rather than the myths
  • Make sure that the information you want people to take away is simple and brief
  • Consider your audience and the beliefs they are likely to hold
  • Strengthen your message through repetition

Research has shown that attempts at “debiasing” can be effective in the real world when based on these evidence-based strategies.

The report, “Misinformation and its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing,” is published in the September issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest and is written by Stephan Lewandowsky and Ullrich Ecker of the University of Western Australia, Colleen Seifert and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan, and John Cook of the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia.

The report also features a commentary written by Edward Maibach of George Mason University.

The full report and the accompanying commentary are available free online.

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For more information about this study, please contact: Stephan Lewandowsky at stephan.lewandowsky@uwa.edu.au.

Psychological Science in the Public Interest is a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. It publishes an eclectic mix of thought-provoking articles on the latest important advances in psychology. For a copy of the article “Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing” and access to other Psychological Science in the Public Interest research findings,             please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

PCB cocktails for two: Effects Second Generation

Re-Post for filing 2008

Contact: Judith Jansen
bor2@ssr.org
608-256-2777
Society for the Study of Reproduction

 

Since the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, awareness of how environmental toxicants can impact fertility has increased. In an article on p. 1091 of this issue, Steinberg and colleagues provide evidence that adverse reproductive effects of toxicants may extend not only to the children of exposed individuals, but also to the next generation. They treated pregnant rats with a mixture of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and found that reproductive markers were disrupted not only in the female offspring of these rats, but also in the “grand offspring,” which are derived from oocytes present in fetuses of the treated females. Changes in the second generation included blunting of preovulatory LH release, reduced progesterone concentrations and reduced uterine weights. The use of low doses of PCBs in this study increases the potential relevance of these findings to reproductive health.

Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Could Increase Asthma Symptoms

Exposure to Common Toxic Substances Could Increase Asthma Symptoms

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2012) — Children who are exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were commonly used in a range of industrial products, could be at risk of an increase in asthma symptoms, according to new research.

The study will be presented in a poster discussion September 2, 2012 at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Vienna.

PCBs were regularly used between 1930s and 1970s in a range of electrical equipment, lubricants and paint additives. They were eventually phased out due to the harm they were causing to the environment and animals.

Although they are not widely used now, the toxic substance does not break down easily. It can be transported in water and air and it can exist in the environment, particularly at waste sites, for a number of years.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia examined 240 children to assess the impact PCBs are having on asthma symptoms. They measured the levels of PCBs found in their blood, along with three pesticides, and also assessed prevalence of wheeze, a common symptom of asthma.

The results found that overall, those with higher levels of PCBs were more likely to report wheeze (odds ratio 1.61). The findings also suggest that the link between PCBs and wheeze was stronger in non-atopic (non-allergic) asthma.

Lead author, Professor Sly, from the University of Queensland, said: “Despite PCBs being banned from use in many countries, people are still suffering from the effects of these toxic substances. Our findings suggest that people with high levels of the chemicals in their blood stream are suffering from higher levels of wheeze, a common asthma symptom.

“This could be due to high concentration levels being passed from a mother to a baby while in the womb, or PCBs may be ingested if a person consumes contaminated food. They could also be inhaled from contaminated hazardous waste sites.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120831203414.htm

Sea life ‘facing major shock’

Life in the world’s oceans faces far  greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in  human history, a team of the world’s leading marine scientists has warned.

The researchers from Australia, the US,  Canada, Germany, Panama, Norway and the UK have compared events which drove  massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking  place in the seas and oceans globally today.

Three of the five largest extinctions  of the past 500 million years were associated with global warming and  acidification of the oceans – trends which also apply today, the scientists say  in a new article in the journal Trends in  Ecology and Evolution.

Other extinctions were driven by loss  of oxygen from seawaters, pollution, habitat loss and pressure from human  hunting and fishing – or a combination of these factors.

“Currently,  the Earth is again in a period of increased extinctions and extinction risks,  this time mainly caused by human factors,” the scientists stated. While the  data is harder to collect at sea than on land, the evidence points strongly to  similar pressures now being felt by sea life as for land animals and plants.

The researchers conducted an extensive  search of the historical and fossil records to establish the main causes of  previous marine extinctions – and the risk of their recurring today.

“We  wanted to understand what had driven past extinctions of sea life and see how  much of those conditions prevailed today,” says co-author Professor John  Pandolfi, of the ARC Centre of  Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland, an  authority on the fate of coral reefs in previous mass extinction events.

“It is very useful to look back in time  – because if you forget your history, you’re liable to repeat it.”

Marine extinction events vary greatly.  In the ‘Great Death’ of the Permian 250 million years ago, for example, an  estimated 95 per cent of marine species died out due to a combination of  warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat. Scientists have traced the  tragedy in the chemistry of ocean sediments laid down at the time, and abrupt  loss of many sea animals from the fossil record.

“We are seeing the signature of all  those drivers today – plus the added drivers of human overexploitation and  pollution from chemicals, plastics and nutrients,” Prof. Pandolfi says.

“The fossil record tells us that sea life  is very resilient – that it recovers after one of these huge setbacks.  But also that it can take millions of years  to do so.”

The researchers wrote the paper out of  their concern that the oceans appear to be on the brink of another major  extinction event.

“There may be still time to act,” Prof.  Pandolfi says. “If we understand what drives ocean extinction, we can also  understand what we need to do to prevent or minimise it.

“We need to understand that the oceans  aren’t just a big dumping ground for human waste, contaminants and CO2 – a  place we can afford to ignore or overexploit. They are closely linked to our  own survival, wellbeing and prosperity as well as that of life on Earth in  general.

“Even though we cannot easily see what  is going on underwater, we need to recognise that the influence of 7 billion  humans is now so great it governs the fate of life in the oceans. And we need  to start taking responsibility for that.”

He adds “The situation is not hopeless.  If fact we have seen clear evidence both from the past and the present that sea  life can bounce back, given a chance to do so.

“For example, in Australia we have  clear evidence of that good management of coral reefs can lead to recovery of  both corals and fish numbers.

“So, rather, our paper is an appeal to  humanity to give the oceans a chance.

“In effect, it says we need to stop  releasing the CO2 that drives these massive extinction events, curb the  polluted and nutrient-rich runoff from the land that is causing ocean ‘dead  zones’ manage our fisheries more sustainably and protect their habitat  better.

“All these things are possible, but  people need to understand why they are essential. That is the first step in  taking effective action to prevent extinctions.”

Their  paper Extinctions  in ancient and modern seas by Paul G. Harnik, Heike K. Lotze, Sean C.  Anderson, Zoe V. Finkel, Seth Finnegan, David R. Lindberg, Lee Hsiang Liow,  Rowan Lockwood, Craig R. McClain, Jenny L. McGuire, Aaron O’Dea, John M.  Pandolfi, Carl Simpson and Derek P. Tittensor appears in the online edition of Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).