Researchers discover never-before-seen tick-borne disease

EurekAlert 22-Apr-2015

Tick-borne diseases are a major public health problem around the world. Ticks carry and transmit a variety of microbes that cause disease. These illnesses, which include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Tularemia, can cause a variety of symptoms, often serious and sometimes deadly.
Now, just in time for spring and the explosion of ticks in forests, lawns and trails, a new study by researchers from China and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) has uncovered a never-before-seen illness transmitted by ticks. It’s possible that the disease could be a “substantial health threat” to humans and animals in areas where the carrier tick is common, the authors write in the paper.
J. Stephen Dumler, MD, a professor of pathology at the school, helped identify the newly discovered bacterial species, which the researchers named Anaplasma capra. The paper was published in the latest issue of the journal Lancet Infectious Disease.

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Link to Lancet article abstract

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Hazelwood mine fire inquiry to be re-opened to examine claims of smoke-related deaths

ABC News 24 April 2015

The Hazelwood mine fire inquiry will be re-opened to examine whether smoke from the blaze in February last year caused premature deaths in the area.
The coal mine fire burned for 45 days near Morwell, in Victoria’s south-east, putting thick, acrid smoke over the nearby town.
In the first week of the fire, about 20 firefighters were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, while vulnerable residents were not advised to leave until weeks later.

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A Change in Vaccine Efficacy and Duration of Protection Explains Recent Rises in Pertussis Incidence in the United States

PLOS Computational Biology Manoj Gambhir et al.23 April 2015

Over the past ten years the incidence of pertussis in the United States (U.S.) has risen steadily, with 2012 seeing the highest case number since 1955. There has also been a shift over the same time period in the age group reporting the largest number of cases (aside from infants), from adolescents to 7–11 year olds. We use epidemiological modelling and a large case incidence dataset to explain the upsurge. We investigate several hypotheses for the upsurge in pertussis cases by fitting a suite of dynamic epidemiological models to incidence data from the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS) between 1990–2009, as well as incidence data from a variety of sources from 1950–1989. We find that: the best-fitting model is one in which vaccine efficacy and duration of protection of the acellular pertussis (aP) vaccine is lower than that of the whole-cell (wP) vaccine, (efficacy of the first three doses 80% [95% CI: 78%, 82%] versus 90% [95% CI: 87%, 94%]), increasing the rate at which disease is reported to NNDSS is not sufficient to explain the upsurge and 3) 2010–2012 disease incidence is predicted well. In this study, we use all available U.S. surveillance data to: 1) fit a set of mathematical models and determine which best explains these data and 2) determine the epidemiological and vaccine-related parameter values of this model. We find evidence of a difference in efficacy and duration of protection between the two vaccine types, wP and aP (aP efficacy and duration lower than wP). Future refinement of the model presented here will allow for an exploration of alternative vaccination strategies such as different age-spacings, further booster doses, and cocooning.

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Budget cuts are harder if people know the benefits of research

The Conversation Maggie Hardy 24 April 2015

An old academic joke you start to hear around federal budget time goes something like this: “Researchers could strike but no one would care, because no one would know we’ve gone until 10 or 15 years later.”
Most of us working on the coal face of science probably won’t see any outcomes in our lifetime – although with the rapid developments in technology that may be changing.
It takes a large degree of foresight to continue funding research when we know the result is decades away, and it says a lot for Australians that we’ve been so successful on a global stage.
But already this year researchers have battled with threats of funding cuts for critical infrastructure, through a scheme called NCRIS. With an outpouring of public support, from researchers and our supporters, the decision was reversed and 1,700 jobs in Australia were saved, but only for another year.

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Bowel cancers ‘spotted too late’

BBC News 22 April 2015

Thousands of people in England are dying from bowel cancer because their disease is not being spotted early enough, a charity has warned.
Beating Bowel Cancer found wide variation within the NHS in England in diagnosing the disease.
It says 3,200 lives could be saved each year if every NHS region did as well as the best performing areas.
In some regions, less than a third of cases are detected before the cancer has started to spread around the body.
Part of the problem is people not coming forward for checks.
A bowel-cancer screening programme was introduced in England in 2006, but figures show that uptake among the eligible 60- to 74-year-old age group has been around the 60% mark.
Early detection is vital.

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Ice the “drug of choice” for miners

Australian Financial Review Tess Ingram Apr 24 2015

Health professionals and resources executives are growing concerned crystalline methamphetamine, or ice, is becoming a “drug of choice” for miners intent on circumventing on-site testing.
Sources said some miners were using ice on their rostered days off because the drug can be eliminated by the body much faster than other recreational drugs such as cannabis.

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Food additives and chronic disease risk: what role do emulsifiers play?

The Conversation Melinda Coughlan Nicole Kellow 23 April 2015

Have you ever wondered what those food additive numbers in the ingredients list on your food packaging meant and what they were really doing to your body?
A recent study suggests emulsifiers – detergent-like food additives found in a variety of processed foods – have the potential to damage the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation and increasing our risk of chronic disease.
The research was done on mice, so it’s too early to say humans should stop eating emulsifiers, but let’s examine the mechanisms involved.

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Link to Nature abstract

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