UK raises alarm on deadly rise of superbugs.


Britain to call for G8 action against spread of drug-resistant bacteria by clamping down on overuse of antibiotics

Britain is to urge the G8 to take action against the spread of drug-resistant microbes as medical and veterinary experts warn that co-ordinated international action is needed to prevent soaring rates of potentially lethal infections turning into a public health catastrophe.

Resistant strains of bacteria are on the rise

David Willetts, the science minister, will propose far-reaching measures that would clamp down on the overuse of antibiotics by GPs and hospital doctors. He will also try to restrict usage on farms and fisheries, where the drugs are blended with feed to boost yields.

Willetts will push for a consensus on ways to ramp up the discovery of new drugs to fight bacteria, speed their approval and delivery to patients, and strengthen cross-border surveillance for emerging resistant strains.

“Across the G8, we should regard the spread of antibiotic resistance as a global challenge that is up there with climate change, water stress and environmental damage, and there are genuine policy consequences that follow from that,” Willetts told the Guardian ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of science ministers at the Royal Society in London.

Drug-resistance is an inevitable consequence of antibiotics. The drugs wipe out susceptible infections but leave resistant organisms behind. The survivors multiply and, in time, can become immune to even the strongest antibiotics. Though improved surveillance and hygiene has reduced levels of life-threatening MRSA and C difficile “superbugs” in hospitals, resistant strains are on the rise.

In Britain, doctors see ever more resistant strains of TB, E coli andKlebsiella, which causes pneumonia. Some 80% of gonorrhoea is now resistant to the frontline antibiotic tetracycline. Of serious concern is the rise of resistance to powerful drugs called carbapenems, the antibiotics of last resort. The first few cases were detected in Britain in 2003, but since then the numbers have soared to 217 cases in the first six months of 2011.

Willetts has asked England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to brief the meeting after she warned in a March report that untreatable infections posed a “catastrophic threat” to the population.

Davies has asked for antibiotic resistance to be added to the government’s national risk register, a move that makes the issue easier to raise abroad.

Davies has already briefed senior figures in Whitehall on the threat and has rallied international experts and chief medical officers in other countries to push the EU and World Health Organisation to beef up their action plans. Ultimately, she seeks a UN treaty that would ban antibiotics in food production, such as fish farming and fruit growing, streamline the regulatory process for licensing new drugs, and commit nations to educational drives that instil more prudent usage of the drugs.”The soaring number of antibiotic-resistant infections poses such a great threat to society that in 20 years’ time we could be taken back to a 19th century environment where everyday infections kill us as a result of routine operations,” Davies said.

The government is to publish its antimicrobial resistance strategy next month. It will set out plans to slow the emergence and spread of drug-resistant bugs, maintain the effectiveness of existing drugs and bolster support for researchers.

The G8 meeting is seen as an opportunity to urge other nations to follow suit. “We can’t tackle the problem on our own and urgently need coordinated international action,” Davies said.

New research published by the Guardian also reveals that GPs in some areas are almost three times more likely than elsewhere to prescribe antibiotics. Keith Ridge, NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, said he was aware of this worryingly wide variation and keen to see if lessons from hospitals’ improved prescription of antibiotics could now be applied to England’s 8,500 GP practices.

Davies said: “Our proposals are far-reaching, including stimulating development of new drugs through some sort of public-private partnership, cutting down the antibiotics given to farm animals and used in medical practice, making infection surveillance go across borders, and getting countries to sign up to their own education programmes.”

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said some GPs were over-prescribing antibiotics to patients simply because they were overworked, increasing the long-term risks.

“I’m not blaming them. I’ve been there myself, at the end of a very busy clinic. If you’re running over time and have a queue of patients waiting, sometimes the least worst option is to give a prescription, even though you know that medically it’s of little value,” she said.

In the past, drug resistance was countered by a steady flow of new antibiotics on to the market. Over the past 60 years, the pharmaceutical industry released three generations of drugs, starting with natural penicillins, then synthetic penicillins, and most recently the carbapenems. But the supply has dried up. The number of new drugs in the pipeline is at an all-time low as research was shelved in favour of more profitable drugs in the 1990s, coupled with the difficulties in discovering new medication.

Meanwhile, other experts are warning that increasing use of the drugs on farms poses a threat to people. Recent studies have shown that the overuse of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming could lead to the evolution of strains of dangerous bacteria, including MRSAE coli and salmonella, that are resistant to some of the strongest antibiotics. An increasing body of evidence shows they can spread from farms to farm workers and their families as well as to consumers through affected meat.

Farms in the UK are not supposed to use antibiotics routinely, as happens in many non-EU countries, but the Guardian has uncovered clear problems with this regime as the current monitoring of usage does not give government regulators enough information to decide how the drugs are used in practice.

Antibiotics are routinely dumped into animal feed in the US – where 80% of antibiotics are used for animals – and Latin America and other regions because they help animals put on weight faster.

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP who has tabled a motion in parliament for stronger regulation, said dealing with antibiotics on farms was as urgent as changing prescribing practices and hygiene in hospitals. “We need to phase out the routine use of antibiotics on intensive farms altogether, starting with those most important in human medicine.”

John Rex, vice-president and medical director for infection at Astra Zeneca, said necessary changes were planned for the regulatory process too. “The idea that we as a society should wait for these cases before we start drug development is a non-starter. Bacterial infections can kill you in a couple of days, We are now treating young women with complicated urinary tract infections with intravenous antibiotics, not a pill. We are seeing strains of gonorrhoea for which we have no antibiotics, not just a small number, not just one, but zero,” he said.

This summer, the European Medicines Agency will overturn this system by allowing trials of antibiotics to be done differently. Trials will no longer need to recruit people with the same infection in the same place.

Instead, they can pool people with infections at any body area, such as the lungs, stomach, or skin, as long as they are caused by the same bug. The shift means trials can be run much faster, said Rex. The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to make similar changes to its guidelines.

Source: Guardian

Scientists Discover New Layer of the Human Cornea.


cornea

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered a previously undetected layer in the cornea, the clear window at the front of the human eye.

The breakthrough, announced in a study published in the academic journal Ophthalmology, could help surgeons to dramatically improve outcomes for patients undergoing corneal grafts and transplants.

The new layer has been dubbed the Dua’s Layer after the academic Professor Harminder Dua who discovered it.

Professor Dua, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, said: “This is a major discovery that will mean that ophthalmology textbooks will literally need to be re-written. Having identified this new and distinct layer deep in the tissue of the cornea, we can now exploit its presence to make operations much safer and simpler for patients.

“From a clinical perspective, there are many diseases that affect the back of the cornea which clinicians across the world are already beginning to relate to the presence, absence or tear in this layer.”

The human cornea is the clear protective lens on the front of the eye through which light enters the eye. Scientists previously believed the cornea to be composed of five layers, from front to back, the corneal epithelium, Bowman’s layer, the corneal stroma, Descemet’s membrane and the corneal endothelium.

The new layer that has been discovered is located at the back of the cornea between the corneal stroma and Descemet’s membrane. Although it is just 15 microns thick — the entire cornea is around 550 microns thick or 0.5mm — it is incredibly tough and is strong enough to be able to withstand one and a half to two bars of pressure.

The scientists proved the existence of the layer by simulating human corneal transplants and grafts on eyes donated for research purposes to eye banks located in Bristol and Manchester.

During this surgery, tiny bubbles of air were injected into the cornea to gently separate the different layers. The scientists then subjected the separated layers to electron microscopy, allowing them to study them at many thousand times their actual size.

Understanding the properties and location of the new Dua’s layer could help surgeons to better identify where in the cornea these bubbles are occurring and take appropriate measures during the operation. If they are able to inject a bubble next to the Dua’s layer, its strength means that it is less prone to tearing, meaning a better outcome for the patient.

The discovery will have an impact on advancing understanding of a number of diseases of the cornea, including acute hydrops, Descematocele and pre-Descemet’s dystrophies.

The scientists now believe that corneal hydrops, a bulging of the cornea caused by fluid build up that occurs in patients with keratoconus (conical deformity of the cornea), is caused by a tear in the Dua layer, through which water from inside the eye rushes in and causes waterlogging.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

Transhumanism: How Elite Plan to Live Forever.


The eugenicists at The Royal Society, in conjunction with Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academyand Royal Academy of Engineering came together this month to discuss the potentials, opportunities and challenges of the melding of man with machine (i.e. transhumanism) under the guise of augmentationtechnologies.

At the Human Enhancement and the Future of Work conference, and further expanded upon in their published report, explains how science and ethics are coming into conflict as technology promises to replace the faulty human body with an eternal, mechanical replacement.

These transhumanists define human enhancement as everything that

“encompasses a range of approaches that may be used to improve aspects of human function (e.g. memory, hearing, mobility). This may either be for the purpose of restoring an impaired function to previous or average levels, or to raise function to a level considered to be ‘beyond the norm’ for humans.”

Rebuilding the human body is being researched in institutions such as Stanford University in California has recently devised a mathematical algorithm, called ReFIT that can decipher neurological signals in the brain that convey movement, speed and accuracy. The public justification for this study is to improve “prosthetic system performance and robustness in paralyzed people”, yet the implications could serve to create super humans and super soldiers.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved ReFIT for human clinical trials as the researchers endeavor to create neuroprosthetics where mind – controlled robotic limbs will become a viable future.

One working prototype is the Bebionic3 myoelectric hand, formed from aluminum with alloy knuckles that mimic real human hand movements. This neuroprosthetic sends electro-signals to the human brain and helps the mind operate and control the function of the prosthetic.

The replacement of bio-mechanical creations in “the nature of work” for the future is expected to improve society by:

  • Using autonomous robots in the workplace
  • Altering the global temperament of work and business
  • Transition robotic workforce to provide goods and services
  • Structure organizations that influence international understanding of robotic advancements
  • Utilize robotics in medical care to advert disease, change illnesses and add to the progress of medicine
  • Promote a new sense of physical well-being

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has a $2 billion yearly budget for research into creating a super solider as well as developing a synthetic police force. Working with the human genome, DARPA hopes to manipulate certain gene expressions. In experimentation, DARPA and the military industrial pharmaceutical complex are using natural abilities that are enhanced through genetic engineering.

Some of the medical feats DARPA would like to enhance are the ability of military soldiers to regrow limbs destroyed in battle.

By eliminating empathy, the Department of Defense (DoD) hopes to “enhance” a soldier’s ability to “kill without care or remorse, shows no fear, can fight battle after battle without fatigue and generally behave more like a machine than a man.”

Scientists are researching the construction of soldiers that feel no pain, terror and do not suffer from fatigue as tests on the wiring of the human brain are furthered by Jonathan Moreno, professor of bioethics at Pennsylvania State University. Moreno is working with the DoD in understanding neuroscience. The Pentagon allocated $400 million to this research.

Further study could be passed onto the general public in order to maximize profits as well as enhance the drug’s effectiveness. According to Joel Garreau, professor at Arizona University, DARPA is learning how to genetically modify human fat into pure energy by rewiring the metabolic switch which would create soldiers that require less food. By using gene therapy and combining enhancements to alter the color of the human eye is a blending of mutations that have no basis in the natural world.

Many transhumanist groups can be found throughout the world, such as the UK Transhumanist Associationwho believes that scientific research must be applied to answer questions of the human condition and bring substantial benefit to society. The Oxford Transhumanists promote “radical life extension, artificial intelligence, cognitive enhancement, existential risks and mind – uploading.”

The Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford endeavors to answer the “big – picture questions about humanity and its prospects.”

These transhumanists favor the Singularity Summit, an annual extension of the Singularity Institute wherein robotics, artificial intelligence, brain – computer interfacing and [various] emerging technologies” into genetics and regenerative medicine are examined under the perspective of transhumanism.

 

Source: http://csglobe.com

The hi-tech tattoo that could replace ALL your passwords.


Motorola reveals plans for ink and even pills to identify us.

mt2

Motorola has announced it is looking at alternatives to traditional passwords in a bid to make logging into online sites, or accessing mobile phones, more secure.

Among the ideas discussed at the D11 conference in California on Wednesday were electronic tattoos and authentication pills that people swallow.

The tattoos, developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm MC10, contain flexible electronic circuits that are attached to the wearer’s skin using a rubber stamp.

MC10 originally designed the tattoos, called Biostamps, to help medical teams measure the health of their patients either remotely, or without the need for large expensive machinery.

Motorola claims that the circuits, which also contain antennae and built-in sensors, could be adapted to work with mobile phones and tablets.

mt3

HOW DOES THE MC10 ELECTRONIC TATTOO WORK?

A researcher at the University of Illinois used standard CMOS semiconductor computer chip technologies to create the Biostamp.

It uses high-performance silicon and can stretch up to 200 per cent.

The Biostamp can monitor temperature, hydration and strain, among other medical statistics.

The first prototypes were stuck on using an plaster-style patches.

More recent prototypes are applied directly to the skin using a rubber stamp.

It can then be covered with spray-on bandage to make it more durable and waterproof enough to wash.

The MC10 Biostamp is said to last up to two weeks before it starts to come loose.

The mobile devices could then be used to confirm the owner’s identity and log them in to accounts automatically.

This would prevent thieves and other people from being able to access a phone, or individual apps on the device, if it is stolen or lost.

Another idea presented during the keynote talk at the Wall Street Journal conference with head of Motorola Dennis Woodside and senior vice president for advanced technology and products, Regina Dugan, was a swallowable pill.

The Proteus Digital Health pill has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration and was given European regulatory approval in 2010.

It contains a computer chip that can be powered like a battery using the acid in the wearer’s stomach.

Once swallowed the ‘vitamin authentication pill’ creates an 18-bit ECG-like signal inside the wearer’s body that can be picked up by mobile devices and authentication hardware outside.

This could be used verify the wearer is the correct owner of the device or account.

Dugan continued that the pill could be taken every day for 30 days, if necessary, without any problems.

Woodside added Motorola would not be shipping these ‘right away’ but they have ‘tested it authenticating a phone, and it works.’

He continued:

‘Having the boldness to think differently about problems that everybody has every day is really important for Motorola now.’

Dugan, who used to be head of the US Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, explained that each signal emitted by the pill could be unique to each user.

Both these ideas move away from traditional passwords and towards technology that turns the user into a physical authentication token.

Explaining the reasons behind the plans, Dugan said: ‘Authentication is irritating. In fact its so irritating only about half the people do it.

‘Despite the fact there is a lot of information about you on your smartphone, which makes you far more prone to identity theft.

‘After 40 years of advances in computation, we’re still authenticating the same way we did years ago – passwords.

HOW DOES THE PROTEUS DIGITAL HEALTH PILL WORK?

mt1

The Proteus Digital Health pill contains a computer chip and a switch.

Once swallowed, the acid in the wearer’s  stomach causes electrolytes to turn the switch on and off.

This creates an 18-bit ECG-like signal that can be picked up by mobile devices and authentication hardware to verify the wearer is the correct owner of the device or account.

It can also monitor heart rate.

The pill was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration in 2012 after getting European regulatory approval in 2010.

Motorola’s Regina Dugan called it the ‘vitamin authentication pill’ and said the pills can be taken every day for 30 days, if necessary, without any problems.

‘In fact it’s worse, the average users does it 39 times a day and it takes them 2.3 seconds every time they do it.

‘Power users will do it up to 100 times a day.

‘So what are we doing about it? Well [Motorola] is thinking of a whole variety of options for how to do better at authentication such as near-term things including tokens or fobs that have NFC or bluetooth.

‘But you can also think about a means of authentication you can wear on your skin every day, say an electronic tattoo or a vitamin pill’.

During the talk, Woodside also unveiled Motorola’s plans to launch a new handset.

Motorola was bought by Google 2011, which owns the Android operating system.

The new phone, called the Moto X, will be built  in Texas and Woodside said he was ‘pretty confident in the products we’re going to be shipping in the fall’.

Woodside added that the Moto X would benefit from Motorola’s expertise in managing ultra-low power sensors — such as in accelerometers and gyroscopes — that can sense usage contexts and turn off certain components when not required, to save power.

He added that it will interact in different ways to other handsets and said the camera would ‘fire up in a way not seen before’ calling the handset ‘more contextually aware’ than other phones.

Motorola’s engineers have also come up with processors that will help save power, but didn’t elaborate further.

PASSWORDS ARE NO LONGER SECURE

A team of hackers, commissioned by technology website Ars Technica, recently managed to crack more than 14,800 supposedly random passwords – from a list of 16,449  – as part of a hacking experiment.

The success rate for each hacker ranged from 62 per cent to 90 per cent, and the hacker who cracked 90 per cent of hashed passwords did so in less than an hour using a computer cluster.

The hackers also managed to crack 16-character passwords including ‘qeadzcwrsfxv1331′.

Earlier this month PayPal’s chief security officer, Michael Barrett said he wants to see a mixture of online passwords with hardware-based identification such as finger print scanning becoming more common.

Talking at the IT conference Interop in Las Vegas at the start of May, Barrett said: ‘Passwords, when used ubiquitously everywhere at Internet-scale are starting to fail us.

‘Users pick poor passwords and then they’ll reuse them everywhere.

‘That has the effect of reducing the security of their most secure account to the security of the least secure place they visit on the internet.’

Source: http://csglobe.com

 

Ancient Egyptians space jewellery?


Bead2cropped

Iron in Egyptian relics came from space

The ancient Egyptians wore jewelry made from space rock, and meteors raining from the sky may have shaped their ideas of the gods, according to new analysis of a 5,000-year-old iron bead. Meteorite impacts thousands of years ago may have helped to inspire ancient religion.

The 5,000-year-old iron bead might not look like much, but it hides a spectacular past: researchers have found that an ancient Egyptian trinket is made from a meteorite.

The result, published on 20 May in Meteoritics & Planetary Science, explains how ancient Egyptians obtained iron millennia before the earliest evidence of iron smelting in the region, solving an enduring mystery. It also hints that they regarded meteorites highly as they began to develop their religion.

“The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptians,” says Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester, UK, and a co-author of the paper. “Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods.”

The iron in the 2-centimeter-long tube-like bauble — found at a burial site near Cairo — couldn’t have come from accidental smelting. The tube-shaped bead is one of nine found in 1911 in a cemetery at Gerzeh, around 70 kilometres south of Cairo. The cache dates from about 3,300 bc, making the beads the oldest known iron artefacts from Egypt.

A study in 1928 found that the iron in the beads had a high nickel content — a signature of iron meteorites — and led to the suggestion that it was of celestial origin. But scholars argued in the 1980s that accidental early smelting could have led to nickel-enriched iron, and a more recent analysis of oxidized material on the surface of the beads showed low nickel content.

To settle the argument, Diane Johnson, a meteorite scientist at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, and her colleagues used scanning electron microscopy and computed tomography to analyse one of the beads, which they borrowed from the Manchester Museum.

The researchers were not able to cut the precious artefact open, but they found areas where the weathered surface had fallen away, providing what Johnson describes as “little windows” to the preserved metal beneath.

Microscopy showed that the nickel content of this original metal was high — as much as 30% — suggesting that it did indeed come from a meteorite. Backing up this result, the team observed that the metal had a distinctive crystalline structure called a Widmanstätten pattern. This structure is found only in iron meteorites that cooled extremely slowly inside their parent asteroids as the Solar System was forming.

Using tomography, the researchers built up a three-dimensional model of the bead’s internal structure, revealing that the ancient Egyptians had made it by hammering a fragment of iron from the meteorite into a thin plate, then bending it into a tube.

Gifts from the gods

The first evidence for iron smelting in ancient Egypt appears in the archaeological record in the sixth century bc. Only a handful of iron artefacts have been discovered in the region from before then: all come from high-status graves such as that of the pharaoh Tutankhamun. “Iron was very strongly associated with royalty and power,” says Johnson.

Objects made of such divine material were believed to guarantee their deceased owner priority passage into the afterlife.

Campbell Price, a curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum who was not a member of the study team, emphasizes that nothing is known for certain about the Egyptians’ religious beliefs before the advent of writing. But he points out that later on, during the time of the pharaohs, the gods were believed to have bones made of iron.

He speculates that meteorites may have inspired this belief, the celestial rocks being interpreted as the physical remains of gods falling to Earth.

Johnson says that she would love to check whether other early Egyptian iron artefacts are of meteoritic origin — if she can get permission to study them.

Source: http://csglobe.com

 

 

INTERNATIONAL ANTI CHILD LABOUR DAY.


Child labour robs millions of children of health, education and growth

Today we celebrate the International Day against Child Labour. On this day, let us take a pledge to raise our voice against child labour.

Globally 150 million children aged 5-14, or nearly 1 in 6 children in this age group, are involved in child labour. In India close to 29 million children in the age group are involved in child labour?

Child labour is the effect and the cause of poverty. Child labourers are drawn from the socio-economically most marginalised communities, such as those from minorities and the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).

Please do not employ children. Say No To Child Labour.

Source: UNICEFchild