Posts Tagged ‘Medicine’

MRSA from farm animals found in humans in UK for first time

June 11, 2008

Three people have been infected with a form of MRSA usually found in pigs, the first time any humans in Britain have been infected by an animal strain of the superbug.

The variation has been found in farm animals and humans on the Continent, causing serious heart, bone, blood and skin diseases, as well as pneumonia.

Dr Giles Edwards, the director of the Scottish MRSA Reference Laboratory, said three people in Scotland had contracted the strain, known as ST398, in recent months.

“A lot of the patients who got this infection in Holland and Canada have been people who work with animals, such as farmers and vets. But none of the three individuals in Scotland have been in contact with animals, not that we could find.”

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First Transgenic Monkey Model Of Huntington’s Disease Developed

May 22, 2008

Scientists have developed the first genetically altered monkey model that replicates some symptoms observed in patients with Huntington’s disease, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers are now able to better understand this complex, devastating and incurable genetic disorder affecting the brain. This advance, reported in the May 18 advance of online publication edition of Nature, could lead to major breakthroughs in the effort to develop new treatments for a range of neurological diseases.

Huntington’s is an inherited disease caused by a defective gene that triggers certain nerve cells in the brain to die. Symptoms may include uncontrolled movements, mood swings, cognitive decline, balance problems, and eventually losing the ability to walk, talk or swallow. It affects five to 10 people in every 100,000. There is no known treatment to halt progression of the disease, only medications to relieve symptoms. Death typically occurs 15 to 20 years after onset.

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Chinese Ants Show Promise For Fighting Arthritis, Other Diseases

May 6, 2008

Ants may be an unwelcome intruder at picnics, but they could soon be a welcome guest in your medicine cabinet. Chemists in China report identification of substances in a certain species of ants that show promise for fighting arthritis, hepatitis, and other diseases.

For centuries, ants have been used as a health food or drink ingredient in China to treat a wide range of health conditions, including arthritis and hepatitis. Researchers suspect that these health effects are due to anti-inflammatory and pain-killing substances in the ants. However, the exact chemicals responsible for its alleged medicinal effects are largely unknown.

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Species loss ‘bad for our health’

April 27, 2008

A new generation of medical treatments could be lost forever unless the current rate of biodiversity loss is reversed, conservationists have warned.

They say species are being lost before researchers have had the chance to examine and understand their potential health benefits.

The findings appear in Sustaining Life, a book involving more than 100 experts.

It is being published ahead of a global summit in May that will look at ways to stem biodiversity loss by 2010.

“While extinction is alarming in its own right, the book demonstrates that many species can help human lives,” said co-author Jeffrey McNeely, chief scientist at IUCN (formerly known as the World Conservation Union).

“If we needed more justification for action to conserve species, it offers dozens of dramatic examples of both why and how citizens can act in ways that will conserve, rather than destroy, the species that enrich our lives.”

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When Tuberculosis Hits Cows

April 22, 2008

Bovine tuberculosis is a progressive wasting disease. It affects mainly cattle but also sheep, goats, pigs and other animals. People who get bovine TB have to take strong antibiotics for up to nine months to cure them.

Humans can get sick from infected cows by drinking milk that has not been heated to kill germs. Another risk is eating meat that has not been cooked to seventy-four degrees Celsius.


In the early twentieth century, bovine TB probably killed more animals in the United States than all other diseases combined. To control it, the government launched a highly successful testing program. Historians say animal doctors ordered the destruction of about four million cattle between nineteen seventeen and nineteen forty.

But currently, the state of Michigan in the Midwest is fighting an outbreak of tuberculosis in cattle. Experts identified wild deer as the source of infection. More recently the neighboring state of Minnesota has also had to deal with TB in cattle and deer.

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New AHI Website Focuses on the Importance of Healthy Animals

April 8, 2008

The Animal Health Institute (AHI) today launched its newly designed “Keeping Animals Healthy” website to help consumers and policymakers better understand the important role of public policy in providing animal medicines to keep both animals and humans healthy.

“Americans are becoming more aware of the relationship between animal health and public health,” said AHI President and CEO Alexander S. Mathews. “Thoughtful public policies are needed to manage the risk of diseases that can be spread between animals and humans.”

Animal medicines are valuable tools needed by veterinarians and livestock and poultry producers to keep pets and farm animals healthy. Exciting breakthroughs are being made on products that are successfully extending the length and quality of life for dogs and cats and on products that will help livestock and poultry producers deliver a safer product to American consumers.

The website,, explains the advocacy positions taken by AHI to promote animal health and gives the public information about the rigorous, science-based review processes in place at the federal agencies that regulate animal health products.

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Microchips Could Speed Up Detection Of Livestock Viruses

March 31, 2008

Some of the worst threats to farm workers and farm animals such as bird flu, foot-and-mouth disease and other emerging viruses could soon be quickly identified by using a simple screening chip developed by scientists from the Institute for Animal Health, scientists will hear March 31, 2008 at the Society for General Microbiology’s 162nd meeting.

“The last major SARS outbreak — severe acute respiratory syndrome — which started on the border of China and Hong Kong was identified using a microarray chip. Fortunately, because of the rapid identification of the virus it was brought under control, and in spite of its seriousness caused relatively few deaths,” says Dr Paul Britton of the Institute for Animal Health in Compton, near Newbury, Berkshire. “We need a similar way of quickly identifying viruses that attack chickens, cattle, pigs, sheep and other farm animals.”

The scientists have developed a microarray, called a chip, which contains specific small regions of virus genes that react with any viruses in the samples being tested, showing up as coloured spots on glass slides. The method can also be used to see if a sample contains two or more viruses.

“At the moment the common methods for detecting viruses rely on some previous knowledge, such as recognising the clinical signs of a disease,” says Dr Paul Britton. “A system that can be used by almost anyone, and that can quickly and accurately be used to identify the particular virus early on is vital to control these diseases before they spread, and will have much wider applications.”

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Washington State University creates School for Global Animal Health

March 22, 2008


The Washington State Board of Regents on Friday approved creation of a new school that will focus on research and treatment of diseases passed from animals to humans.

Just how the new School for Global Animal Health will be paid for is not known, but the university is expected to announce Monday a record $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the school, The Spokesman-Review reported Friday.

WSU President Elson Floyd told the regents Friday at their meeting in Richland that the school will be administered by the College of Veterinary Medicine. WSU hopes to house the school in an $83.5 million building. Its request for money was not included in the state’s latest budget.

About 70 percent of the diseases that affect humans have their origins in animals, Floyd said. Those “zoonotic” diseases, such as rabies and tuberculosis, are caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between, or shared by, animals and humans.

Floyd said the school will bring together scientists who are experts in human and animal disease. The school will coordinate the university’s efforts in infectious disease research and diagnostics, with a particular focus on the intersection of human and animal disease, he said.

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Consider how we interact with animals in the wild, farms, laboratories or our homes

February 29, 2008


The use of animals in research and testing is a controversial issue that arouses strong feelings in many people. The moral acceptability of using animals in experiments – whether in medical or veterinary research, to test the safety of chemicals such as pesticides, or simply to acquire scientific knowledge – is therefore heavily debated.

It is widely acknowledged, including within the law that regulates animal experiments in the UK, that animals are sentient and can have negative experiences, including those of fear and pain. This makes their potential for suffering and their use in experiments a matter of serious concern for the RSPCA. It is also unsurprising that, whilst appalled by the unacceptable activities of extremists, large sectors of the public consistently express their unease regarding this use of animals.

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Pathogen Resistance To Antibiotics In Animals Could Lead To Resistant Human Pathogens

February 22, 2008


It’s bad enough when pathogenic bacteria work their way into the animal food supply. Here’s a related problem that has recently attracted scientists’ attention: some of the pathogens may become resistant to the antimicrobials that are used to fight animal disease, and that might lead to more human resistance to the benefits of antibiotics.

“We’re speculating that there may be a possibility of a link,” said Daniel Fung, a food science professor at Kansas State University who led research into the question for the Food Safety Consortium. “We are looking at it from the food scientist’s standpoint. The resistant cultures may get into the food supply and may get into human beings. But those are speculations only.”

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Study: More Deadly Diseases Crossing Barrier From Animals to Humans

February 21, 2008

Scores of deadly infectious diseases are crossing the species barrier from animals to humans, scientists have reported.

A three-year investigation has shown that since 1940 around 250 viruses such as HIV, Ebola Virus, Sars and H5N1 bird flu have jumped from wild animals to people.

Presenting the first-ever map of “hotspots” of new infectious diseases in the British journal Nature, researchers predicted the next pandemic is most likely to come out of poor tropical countries.

It is here where burgeoning human populations most frequently come into contact with wildlife.

The report said that if a monitoring system is not put in place “then human populations will continue to be at risk from pandemic diseases”.

HIV/Aids, which has killed or infected as many as 65 million people worldwide, is believed to have jumped from chimpanzees to humans, possibly through hunters who killed and butchered apes.

Most new diseases come from wild animals, especially mammals, which are the most closely related species to humans.

Pathogens that adapt to humans can be extremely lethal, as we have no resistance to them.

“We are crowding wildlife into ever-smaller areas, and human population is increasing,” said the report’s co-author Marc Levy.

“Where those two things meet, that is a recipe for something crossing over.”

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US to replace animals with robots in toxic chemical tests

February 15, 2008


US regulators have announced plans to reduce the number of animals used to test the safety of everyday chemicals.

Instead of using animals such as rats and mice, scientists will screen suspected toxic chemicals in everything from pesticides to household cleaners using cell cultures and computer models.

According to the Home Office, more than 3.1m experiments in the UK were carried out on animals in 2006. Of these more than 420,000 were done to test the safety of chemicals. According to the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), more than 100 million animals are used annually in experiments in the US, of which 15 million are used in toxicity tests.

The plans to replace animals in the US, announced yesterday in Boston, will see researchers from the national institute of health and the environmental protection agency develop robotic machines to screen the chemicals. They said if successful the robots could test a greater number of chemicals more quickly.

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Inbred Chihuahuas make great pocket-sized kangaroos – which is just sad.

January 23, 2008

Three Chihuahuas came to New York’s North Shore Animal League in April so badly deformed they resembled pint-sized kangaroos.

These three pups, born without front legs, quickly learned to hop on their back paws. But it was a short-term solution. And now they’ve got what they really need — a set of wheels.

“Chihuahuas aren’t meant to hop around. Long term, it would lead to spine and hip injuries,” Animal League spokesman Devora Lynn told

Lynn suspects that the dogs fell victim to human misbehavior. “Celebrities have made Chihuahuas a hot commodity, and some breeders are not acting responsibly.”

And now the three 11-month-olds — Venus, Carmen and Pablo — are learning to steer Chihuahua-sized aluminum wagons, small and light enough for them to push, that will let them lead normal lives.

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Happy to take animal organs, unless it’s Spot

January 23, 2008


Researchers in Queensland have found that most people will happily accept cells and tissues from a dog or cat if it means a cure for their disease – but only if the animal is bred expressly for xenotransplantation.

Scientists have long thought people would not accept organs from animals which were usually kept as household pets, or from primates, such as baboons and chimpanzees. But a researcher from the Queensland University of Technology, Peta Cook, found most people were not that fussy.

“It’s fascinating because scientists have always categorised animals by their species, but it seems that individuals are more likely to look at an animal’s purpose,” Ms Cook said.

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Now scientists create a sheep that’s 15% human

January 10, 2008


Scientists have created the world’s first human-sheep chimera – which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells – and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep’s foetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

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Of Gay Sheep, Modern Science and Bad Publicity

January 10, 2008


Dr. Charles Roselli, a researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University, has searched for the past five years for physiological factors that might explain why about 8 percent of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes. The goal, he says, is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of sexual orientation in sheep. Other researchers might some day build on his findings to seek ways to determine which rams are likeliest to breed, he said.

But since last fall, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals started a campaign against the research, it has drawn a torrent of outrage from animal rights activists, gay advocates and ordinary citizens around the world — all of it based, Dr. Roselli and colleagues say, on a bizarre misinterpretation of what the work is about.

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New animal-testing alternative shows potential, and Europe set to outlaw cosmetic testing on live animals

January 7, 2008


As pressure rises to eliminate animal testing in the cosmetics industry, a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of California have announced a potential alternative.

The scientists have created the DataChip and MetaChip, which mimic the reaction of the human body and reveal the potential toxicity of chemicals. The biochips also could be used in the development of pharmaceuticals.

“There’s a desperate need in some industries, like cosmetics, to have technologies that can replace animal testing,” said Jonathan Dordick, a professor of biochemistry engineering at RPI.

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Tests of cosmetic products on rabbits and mice will soon be banned after European scientists announced that most experiments can now be carried out using non-animal alternatives.

The switch will spare almost 20,000 rabbits a year and 240,000 mice from a life of misery in the laboratory.

Scientists say the new tests will actually provide a more reliable way of checking the safety of chemicals in everyday products such as makeup and washing-up liquid.

Yesterday, the scientific advisory committee of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods approved five new tests which make the use of live rabbits and mice unnecessary.

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