Scientific Study of Surfer Butts Reveal Drug-Resistant Bacteria in the Oceans


Surfers are known to brave bad weather, dangerously sized waves, and even sharks, for the perfect ride. But, it seems another danger of surfing has been lying in plain sight all along: ocean waters are full of drug-resistant bacteria — and surfers are most at risk.

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In a study published this weekend in the journal Environmental International, a team of researchers from the University of Exeter found that regular surfers and bodyboarders are four times as likely as normal beach-goers to harbor bacteria with high likelihoods of antibiotic resistance. This is because surfers typically swallow ten times more seawater during a surf session than sea swimmers.

The cheekily named Beach Bums study, carried out with the help of UK charity Surfers Against Sewage compared rectal swabs from 300 participants and found that 9 percent of the surfers and bodyboarders (13 of 143) harbored drug-resistant E. coli in their systems, compared to just 3 percent of non-surfers (four of 130).

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The World Health Organization is concerned about drug resistance.

The World Health Organization has warned that widespread drug resistance may render antibiotics useless in the face of otherwise easily treatable bacterial infections, meaning that just as in the age before Penicillin, diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, food– and water-born illnesses as well as routine medical procedures that can lead to infection, including joint replacements and chemotherapy, could once again be fatal.

 Indeed, a 2016 report commissioned by the British government estimated that, by 2050, infections stemming from antimicrobial resistance could kill one person every three seconds.

Solutions to an impending drug resistance epidemic have largely focused on prescriptions and use, but there is an increasing focus on the role of the environment in transmitting drug-resistant bacteria strains. The Beach Bums study adds important insight into how sewage, run-off, and pollution that makes its way into the oceans spread the drug-resistant bacteria.

“We are not seeking to discourage people from spending time in the sea,” says Dr. Will Gaze of the University of Exeter Medical School, who supervised the research. “We now hope that our results will help policy-makers, beach managers, and water companies to make evidence-based decisions to improve water quality even further for the benefit of public health.”

Though the study’s purpose is not to alarm beachgoers — or surfers — Dr. Anne Leonard, who led the research, tells Inverse that the risk for anti-drug resistance may actually be lower in the United Kingdom, which “has invested a great deal of money in improving water quality at beaches, and 98 percent of English beaches are compliant with the European Bathing Water Directive. The risk of exposure to and colonization by antibiotic resistant bacteria in seawater might be greater in other countries which have fewer resources to spend on treating wastewater to improve water quality.”

For surfers on this side of the pond, check out the free app available for Apple and iOS, Swim Guide, for updated water quality information on 7,000 beaches in Canada and the U.S.

DEFYING THE ACHILLES HEEL OF ‘WONDER MATERIAL’ GRAPHENE: RESILIENCE TO EXTREME CONDITIONS


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Researchers from the University of Exeter have discovered that GraphExeter – a material adapted from the ‘wonder material’ graphene – can withstand prolonged exposure to both high temperature and humidity.

The research showed that the material could withstand relative humidy of up to 100 per cent at room temperature for 25 days, as well as temperatures of up to 150C – or as high as 620C in vacuum.

The previously unknown durability to extreme conditions position GraphExeter as a viable and attractive replacement to indium tin oxide (ITO), the main conductive material currently used in electronics, such as ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, or even solar panels. The research also suggests that GraphExeter could extend the lifetime of displays such as TV screens located in highly humid environments, including kitchens.

These research findings are published in the respected scientific journal, Scientific Reports, on Thursday, 8 January 2015.

Lead researcher, University of Exeter engineer Dr Monica Craciun said: “This is an exciting development in our journey to help GraphExeter revolutionise the electronics industry.

“By demonstrating its stability to being exposed to both high temperatures and humidity, we have shown that it is a practical and realistic alternative to ITO. This is particularly exciting for the solar panel industry, where the ability to withstand all weathers is crucial.”

Dr Saverio Russo, also from the University of Exeter, added: “The superior stability of GraphExeter as compared to graphene was unexpected since the molecules used to make GraphExeter (that is FeCl3) simply melt in air at room temperature.

“Having a metallic conductor stable at temperatures above 600C, that is also optically transparent and flexible, can truly enable novel technologies for space applications and harsh environments such as nuclear power centrals.”

At just one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials. The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for flexible electronics. This has been a challenge because of its sheet resistance, which limits its conductivity.

RESEARCH FINDS CLUE TO WHY FEMALES LIVE LONGER THAN MALES


A study from the University of Exeter has found that male flies die earlier than their female counterparts when forced to evolve with the pressures of mate competition and juvenile survival. The results could help researchers understand the mechanisms involved in ageing.

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The research, published in the journal Functional Ecology, used populations of the fly Drosophila simulans that had evolved under different selection regimes.The study shows that mate competition (sexual selection), along with survival (natural selection), is tougher on male ageing than it is on females reducing their lifespan by about a third.

Some species, like the flies in this study, age quickly over a number of days while others – including some trees and whales – age slowly across centuries.

Professor David Hosken from Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: “We found dramatic differences in the effects of sexual and natural selection on male and female flies. These results could help explain the sex differences in lifespan seen in many species, including humans, and the diverse patterns of ageing we observe in nature.”

The flies were subjected to elevated or relaxed sexual and natural selection and left to evolve in these conditions. To elevate sexual selection groups of males were housed with single females. A stressful temperature was used to elevate natural selection.

Males court females by singing, dancing and smelling good but their efforts come at considerable cost and this cost is amplified when they also have to cope with stressful temperatures.

The results of the study showed that under relaxed sexual and natural selection, male and female flies had very similar lifespans – around 35 days. However males that evolved under elevated sexual selection and elevated natural selection had a much shorter lifespan – just 24 days – and died seven days earlier than females under the same conditions.

Both sexual selection and natural selection were found to affect lifespan but their effects were greatest on males. The findings show that the sexes can respond differently to the same selection regimes.

The study was funded by Natural Environment Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Royal Society.

Snail study reveals that stress is bad for memory.


New research on pond snails has revealed that high levels of stress can block memory processes. Researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Calgary trained snails and found that when they were exposed to multiple stressful events they were unable remember what they had learned. Previous research has shown that stress also affects human ability to remember. This study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that experiencing multiple simultaneously has a cumulative detrimental effect on .

Dr Sarah Dalesman, a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, from the University of Exeter, formally at the University of Calgary, said: “It’s really important to study how different forms of stress interact as this is what animals, including people, frequently experience in real life. By training snails, and then observing their behaviour and brain activity following exposure to , we found that a single stressful event resulted in some impairment of memory but multiple stressful events prevented any memories from being formed.”

The pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, has easily observable behaviours linked to memory and large neurons in the brain, both useful benefits when studying . They also respond to stressful events in a similar way to mammals, making them a useful model species to study learning and memory.

In the study, the pond snails were trained to reduce how often they breathed outside water. Usually pond snails breathe underwater and absorb oxygen through their skin. In water with low oxygen levels the snails emerge and inhale air using a basic lung opened to the air via a breathing hole.

To train the snails not to breathe air they were placed in poorly oxygenated water and their breathing holes were gently poked every time they emerged to breathe. Snail memory was tested by observing how many times the snails attempted to breathe air after they had received their training. Memory was considered to be present if there was a reduction in the number of times they opened their breathing holes. The researchers also assessed memory by monitoring neural activity in the brain.

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Immediately before training, the snails were exposed to two different stressful experiences, low calcium – which is stressful as calcium is necessary for healthy shells – and overcrowding by other pond snails.

When faced with the stressors individually, the pond snails had reduced ability to form long term memory, but were still able to learn and form short and intermediate term memory lasting from a few minutes to hours. However, when both stressors were experienced at the same time, results showed that they had additive effects on the ‘ ability to form memory and all learning and memory processes were blocked.

Is Sprite the cure for your hangover woes?


Hungover? New research suggests you may want to reach for a can of Sprite.
A study published in the September 2013 issue of Food and Function showed that chemicals in the non-caffeinated beverage can halt that awful next-day feeling.
6 Photos “Hangover Heaven” bus rolls out in Las Vegas View the Full Gallery » While drinking too much alcohol could certainly lead to a hangover, the booze itself isn’t the culprit — it’s how it’s broken down. The authors point out that when the liver processes alcohol (also known as ethanol) it creates several chemical byproducts. One is called acetaldehyde,which causes the feelings of a hangover. Acetaldehyde eventually turns into acetate, which does not cause hangover symptoms and can provide some benefits like extra energy.
The Mayo Clinic cites additional reasons that alcohol can cause hangovers, including the beverage’s ability to cause your body to produce more urine — which in turn makes you dehydrated — and to trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system. Alcohol is also known to irritate the lining of your stomach, cause blood sugar to fall and expand blood vessels, leading to headaches. It also makes people sleepy and reduces their quality of sleep. There’s also the possibility that ingredients in alcohol that give it flavor called congeners, also add to that hangover.
The researchers focused on how to stop acetaldehyde from lingering in the body for too long. They believed that if they manipulated alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), an enzyme that turns ethanol into acetaldehyde, and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH, which turns acetaldehyde into acetate), they could shorten the time it took acetaldehyde to turn into acetate, essentially cutting the time the person was hungover.
5 Photos Hangover “cures” View the Full Gallery » The researchers tested 57 different beverages including Huo ma ren(a hemp-seed based beverage), various teas and different carbonated drinks.
Herbal teas were observed to slow down the process. However, Sprite and soda water were shown to speed up ALDH activity, which would theoretically curb the hangover.
Edzard Ernst, a medical expert at the University of Exeter in the U.K., told Chemistry World that the study was intriguing, but cautioned that people shouldn’t start stocking up on Sprite if they are going out on the town.
“These results are a reminder that herbal and other supplements can have pharmacological activities that can both harm and benefit our health,” Ernst said.
This isn’t the first scientific analysis of a hangover cure reported this year. Dr. Alyson E. Mitchell, a food chemist at the University of California at Davis, looked closely at the New Orleans-based hangover cure, Yak-a-mein soup. She found, for example, eggs in the soup help clear acetaldehyde from the body.

Climate Change and Violence.


An analysis of 60 studies finds that warmer temperatures and extreme rainfall lead to a rise in violence.

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In the coming decades, the world’s changing climate could herald a rise in violence at every scale—from individuals to nations, from assault to war—according to a comprehensive new analysis of the link between climate and conflict.

Analyzing data from 60 earlier studies, Solomon Hsiang from the University of California, Berkeley, found that warmer temperatures and extremes in rainfall can substantially increase the risk of many types of conflict. For every standard deviation of change, levels of interpersonal violence, such as domestic violence or rape, rise by some 4 percent, while the frequency of intergroup conflict, from riots to civil wars, rise by 14 percent. Global temperatures are expected to rise by at least two standard deviations by 2050, with even bigger increases in the tropics.

“The paper is remarkably strong,” said Thomas Homer-Dixon, an environmental and political scientist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who was not involved in the study. “[It means] the world will be a very violent place by mid-century if climate change continues as projected.”

Hsiang, together with UC Berkeley colleagues Marshall Burke and Edward Miguel, focused only on studies that provided the strongest evidence for a causal connection. “The ideal thing would be to take two identical Earths, heat one up and watch how conflict evolves,” said Hsiang dryly. “We can’t do that, so we looked for these natural experiments.”

The researchers ignored any studies that compared levels of conflict between different countries, which also differ in their history, culture, and politics. Instead, they focused on data that revealed how violence rises and falls in a single place as climate changes.

For example, crime statistics in the United States reveal that the number of rapes, murders, or assaults increases on a hot day. Civil conflicts in the tropics become twice as frequent during the hot and dry years caused by El Niño events. Farmers in Brazil are more likely to invade each other’s land if they have a particularly wet or dry year. And Chinese dynasties all collapsed during long dry periods.

The team analyzed these studies and more using a common statistical framework to control for any biases on the part of the individual authors. Together, the data sets stretch back to 10,000 BC, and cover all major world regions. They represent the collective efforts of more than 190 researchers working across varied disciplines, from psychologists looking at the effects of temperature on aggressive behavior to archaeologists studying levels of violence in the ancient civilizations.

Despite this diversity, “we were shocked at how well the results from all these fields lined up,” said Hsiang. “Given how some people had been talking, we thought they’d be all over the map,” but the data consistently showed that temperature and rainfall affect violence, across locations, times and disciplines.

“This is a contested area and the convergence of results in this meta-analysis represents a significant step forward,” said Neil Adger, an environmental geographer at the University of Exeter, who was not involved in the study. He notes that responses to climate change, such as “widespread growing of biofuels or displacing populations to build dams” could exacerbate any increased propensity for conflict. “The impacts of climate change will factor large in the future, especially if the world is already fractured and unequal,” he said.

David Zhang, a geographer from the University of Hong Kong who was not involved in the study, said the results were robust and important. However, he noted that most of the data sets cover the last century, and the effects of climate on conflict, may have differed across centuries of human history. Hsiang acknowledges this gap, but said that a few century-spanning data sets have found similar trends.

“Another obvious criticism is that older societies may not be a good analogue for modern ones,” Hsiang added. For example, technological advances might help us to adapt to changing climate more effectively than past generations.

Hsiang also emphasized that climate is just one of many factors that influence the frequency of conflict, and that his study does not address why such a link between conflict and climate exists. Shifts in climate could change the availability of important resources like water or crops, leading to failing economies, weaker governments, and more incentives to fight or rebel. They could also lead to mass migration, rapid urbanization, or growing inequalities.

“We now want to understand what the underlying mechanisms are,” said Hsiang. “If we understand them, we could come up with policies that could decouple climate and conflict, which might help society to adapt. That’s a good reason to push the research ahead.”

Source: http://www.the-scientist.com