There’s been another antibiotics breakthrough, but we missed it!

It was a peaceful Sunday morning, gentle readers. And we should have been scouring the media to bring you more stories of advances in the struggle against microbial antibiotic resistance. We even read the Observer, which is kind of like the Guardian‘s Sunday sister. So how did we miss this one by Robin McKie, their estimable and most learned science supremo?

It’s all about a bacteria called Xanthomonas albinecus, which can cause havoc to the growers of sugar cane. But the little creature carries a secret which could be of incalculable benefit: Albicidin[1] A substance which killes bacteria with deadly force by acting as a DNA gyrase inhibitor. Alright, we know tht last phrase doesn’t trip off everyone’s tongue. But get this from your labroots link: [2]

this plant pathogen inhibits DNA gyrase and prevents bacterial DNA replication, since DNA gyrase enzymes are present in bacteria but not humans.1,3 

Yes, unlike Brexit, this time it really does look as if we can have our cake and eat it. The potential to develop this method as it is, then augment it with genetic engineering, could be enormous.

When we started our original Facebook page back in far off 2015, with the sole aim of promoting antibiotics research, the situation looked bleak indeed. But as avid readers, who had the public-spiritedness to follow us into this blog will have observed, things now look much much better. Thanks to the efforts of people like Professor Colin Garner and his doughty champions at antibiotics research UK[3],journalists like Robin and many others around the world, there has been real progress. We could spend lines on hackneyed metaphors about lights, tunnels, woods, trees, cups and lips. But we’ll spare you that. Provided that you promise to keep donating, pushing your politicos and spreading the word in every conversation in the pub/supermarket/cafe/waiting room and wherever else you can. How’s that for a deal?

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/29/plant-toxin-new-weapon-antibiotic-war-against-bacteria-albicidin?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[2]https://www.labroots.com/trending/drug-discovery-and-development/24547/introducing-plant-toxin-antibiotic-albicidin#:~:text=Albicidin%20is%20a%20peptide%20antibio

[3]https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/

#robin mckie #antibiotics #albicidin #bacteria #antibiotic resistance #medicine

Michel Barnier on how Brexit went wrong

Brexit is over. It’s done. We may not have agreed with it, but there was a democratic vote, and we agree with that. What’s more we think it both inadvisable and impossible for the United Kingdom to join the European Union now. Brexit must be made to work. And the problems of the UK are far more deep rooted and chronic than the sudden irruption of 2016. So much so that EU membership is largely irrelevant to them.

But did it have to be done quite so incompetently? So much so that even many of its erstwhile supporters are beginning to doubt its relevance or wisdom?[1] How did a nation manage its affairs so badly in the crucial years 2016-2020? The reappearance of Michel Barnier on British television prompts memories of that question, and many others. His book My Secret Brexit Diary is excoriating about successive British negotiating teams. He and the EU ran rings around them from the start. [2] In this tiny space we can offer but one extract, but it says it all

When negotiations opened, the media made much of a photo of Barnier sitting with a file full of papers on the table in front of him while David Davis had nothing at all. The reality was far worse. Barnier was astounded by Davis’s “nonchalant” approach: “As is always the case with him we rarely get into the substance of things

How did intelligent, educated men like Davis, Boris Johnson and David Frost play their hand so very badly? They were backed by an superb diplomatic machine, the support of most of the nation, and an overwhelmingly, almost obsessively compliant media. Or is the clue to their downfall in that last?

You see, foreign readers, the British Ruling Class does not need to negotiate. Never had to. Never learned it. Every enemy they come across-miners, europeans, immigrants, teachers- can at once be screamed down, demonised and demolished by a hopelessly partisan, hysterical press and media. So effectively that they are deprived of all legitimate agency. No case they can present is worthy of consideration. To consider their point of view, to empathise(a key skill in negotiation) is to become a Traitor. This works well in Britain, where all opposition has been successfully flattened for decades . But in wider lands, where the writ of the Daily Mail does not run, this attitude causes problems. And so our rulers, so accustomed to getting their way at home, became hopelessly out of their depth when faced with a real world intellectual challenge, which less cossetted statesmen take in their stride.

Now Britain sits isolated from any trading bloc of significance, and the consequences mount by the day. Brexit has to be made to work, their is no other option. But before it can, we must learn about why it has started so badly for us.

[1]https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/changing-attitudes-to-brexit-three-years-on/ar-AA16TgQu?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=542f3870a6014399a69cc70d19d9641

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/sep/25/my-secret-brexit-diary-by-michel-barnier-review-a-british-roasting

#brexit uk #eu

New antibiotic offers real signs of hope

We’ve said it before-we started this blog to highlight the dangers of antibiotic resistance. It’ still what we’re really all about, despite the odd excursion into other matters. So when something comes up that really offers hope, we quickly revert to type. And so we think we have something good for you today, or rather Ethan Ennals of the Daily Mail does. [1]

It’s called Gepotidacin. It’s been developed for UTIs, and is still in its early stages. But we’ll let Ethan and Wikipedia[2] riff on that for you. The key learning points for us are more general, and we hope not too discursive, for our busy readership.

Firstly: it’s a new antibiotic, developed in a rigorous programme of research. After all the doom and gloom we throw at you here, that has to be something to cheer about. Secondly, there’s a clever new methodology, carefully targeting the gene sequence of the offending organism. As the researchers point out, this may give the new medicine a longer shelf life. Don’t forget; resistance to he first generation of antibiotics was springing up after only a few years. Thirdly (admittedly a bit speculative): research successes tend to be like buses. There’s nothing for a long time, and suddenly three come along at once. And so we offer congratulations to the researchers who pioneered this success, and to the journalists who are spreading the Good News. Where’s there’s thought, there’s hope.

[1]https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11687755/Relief-1-7million-Britons-suffering-urinary-tract-infections.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gepotidacin#antibiotic resistance #superbugs #medicine #dna

Weekly Round Up: Alzheimer’s, Rivercide, Antibiotics, Wilding,

stories of note from this week

Does Alzheimer’s start in the gut? One of the advantages of being an independent blog is that we can consider all points of view. Recently, we’ve followed the trope of viruses and neurogenerative diseases. But there is another out there. Changes in the gut, and its associated biome, may also be implicated. Here’s the Conversation

https://theconversation.com/possible-link-between-alzheimers-disease-and-gut-microbiome-found-in-mice-new-study-197945?utm_me

Wye did this happen? The UK suffers from a Government addicted to a deranged philosophy of deregulation and growth at all costs. Which is how the once beautiful River Wye was destroyed by uncontrolled farming paractices up in its catchment area. Our main man George Monbiot has been banging on about this for years, but now his message is getting through as this piece from the I shows

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/river-wye-why-the-impending-death-of-one-of-the-uk-s-longest-and-best-loved-rivers-should-worry-us-all/ar-AA16PEuc?oc

Antibiotic resistance: it’s depressing Oh, that pesky Law of Unintended Consequences! Looks like all those antidepressant pills could be fomenting increased antibiotic resistance, as if we didn’t have enough problems along these lines already. Here’s Nature Briefings

Antidepressants might contribute to antibiotic resistance, alongside antibiotics overuse. In a laboratory study, five common antidepressants increased the mutation rate of Escherichia coli and triggered cellular defence mechanisms that make the bacteria better able to survive subsequent antibiotic treatment. Researchers now need to assess whether these mechanisms drive resistance in disease-causing bacteria in a real-world scenario.Nature | 5 min read
Reference: 
PNAS paper

Go wild in the countries There’s nothing better for the soul than a nice long walk in the country of by the sea. Except it gets a bit depressing when someone has gone and built houses all over it. But can this trend be reversed? Can we open up our wild spaces again, and let the planet breathe? The BBC considers:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63955526

Who’s writing this blog? Can you tell whether it’s us or Chat GPT? There’s a distinct queasiness going on here, as it seems inevitable that computers may replace every useful human activity. Writing and journalism are just one more victim. Try this from the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jan/26/science-journals-ban-listing-of-chatgpt-as-co-author-on-papers

Fry and Laurie Before they were famous for many other things, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie used to put out a droll series of sketches mocking those shows and about hard talking, hard talking business folk. We thought you might want to see one for old times. Yes, overseas readers-Doctor House is really English

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=fry+and+laurie+businessmen+sketch&&view=detail&mid=9CBEBE2A445713F1CD549CBEBE

#ecocide #george monbiot #alzheimer’s #gut microbiome #antibiotic resistance #depression #rewilding #ai #chat gpt

Friday Night Cocktails: three gin classics

The word “gin” can be found in one form or another in many languages. All are referencing the humble, exceedingly abundant Juniper plant Juniperus communis, whose berries give this drink its distinctive quality, setting it apart from competitors such as vodka, whiskey and brandy, to name but a few. [1] Since the age of Hogarth, via the teetotal antics of Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, down to the louche pleasures of the jazz age, it has always retained that naughty glamour beloved of true epicureans in all lands and cultures.

The most cursory glance at a cocktail users manual reveals a bewildering variety of gin based numbers, as this gregarious spirit will mix with vermouths, fruits, blenders, and other spirits of all classes. An immense read! And a worse morning after, if you tried them all in one sitting! Forcing us thereby to make a simple choice on these grounds: we like ’em. Nevertheless we have tried to include at least a “tall” and a “short”; and if these please you, we can always return to theme at a later date.

Classic Short: The Dry Martini The pre-dinner aperitif for sophisticates from the Bronx to old Bombay, the secret is to stir, not to shake. Thank you, Mr Bond! Put five ice cubes in a mixing glass and add a half measure of dry vermouth. Then three measures of dry London gin. (none of yer poncey modern ones here, squire) Stir firmly but slowly and pour into a chilled cocktail glass, losing the ice on the way. Add one Andalucian olive on a stick, and decorate with a a perfectly-cut strip pf lemon peel. We won’t tell you how to dress, gentle readers; but somehow full evening dress, black tie, white shirt, etc, really enhances the flavour of this one.

Fruity Mix :The Luigi Like a Bach fugue, we will now expand a little on our basic themes. Again put your cubes into a mixing glass. add three measures of gin, one of Cointreau, one of dry vermouth and one of grenadine. Finally, one of best fresh orange juice. Stir and pour, sin hielo, into a different clean cocktail glass. Decorate with a slice of blood orange. Again, best drunk in evening attire, but with your light summer jacket.

Cool and Languid: The Singapore Sling For us, this still beats all the other long summer cocktails, even Pimms. You’ll need your best mixer. Into which add 8 ice cubes, three measures of gin, 1 measure of cherry brandy, and the juices of both half a lemon and half an orange. For the piece de resistance, add a dash of angostura bitters, just to pull the whole thing back to a more grown up taste, and shake vigorously. Pour with the ice into a long glass and add a little ice cold sparkling water to top up. Decoration: give it a tropical theme: slices of lemon or orange help, or even a discrete cherry on a stick. Who said something about your five-a day? Dress notes Best taken in a Hawaiian shirt after a long day on the beach.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gin

#gin #cocktails #katherine hepburn #william hogath

When does Democracy become Plutocracy? When there’s a SLAPP

Freedom of speech is touted a lot on social media, usually in regard to disputes over personal identity and who gets to use the bathroom. But if these keyboard tribunes are serious, why do they never mention SLAPPS and their use by the agents of foreign powers to silence the efforts of journalists and other investigators?

A little background. A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is a device used by very rich men who can afford very expensive lawyers against rather poor journalists who can’t afford anything much at all. We’ve got an article from the Guardian as your first link. It’ slightly old because it mentions someone called Liz Truss (who she?-ed),but it gives a nice grounding [1] But we want to zoom in on a particular case today. It involves a man called Yevganny Prigozhin and his attempts to silence Bellingcat and its journalists. In view of Prigozhin’s current activities in Ukraine, we think the matter is especially relevant. [2]

And at the risk of being Anglocentric, why London? Well, since about 2010 that city has developed an elaborate ecosystem of lawyers, fund managers, estate agents, car dealers, escort agencies and many other service industries all designed to serve the whims and needs of iterant oligarchs and their entourages. The upper layers of London society are a network of relationships, linked by common attendance at certain schools and universities, with tentacles reaching deep into government, legal system and the think tanks and media outlets that provide cover for the whole system. All that Putin and his cronies did was to seize this opportunity to make war on the west long before 2014.[3]

So let the bores on both sides of the identity debate sound off, and shout, and decry and posture, and all the other things people do in schools and universities. And long may they continue. While their freedom lasts, that is.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/law/2022/mar/04/what-are-slapps-and-how-are-they-connected-to-russian-oligarchs

[2] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/prigozhin-government-russia-ukraine-hack-libel-slapp/

[3]https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/yevgeny-prigozhin-putin-sanctions-oliver-bullough-eliot-higgins-bellingcat/

#putin #prigozhin #SLAPP #freedom of speech #bellingcat #opendemocracy

If you want to know more about Bellingcat, click here

ttps://www.bellingcat.com

and Open Democracy are here:

ttps://www.opendemocracy.net/en/uk/

Big data suggests link between viruses and neurodegenerative disease

Veteran readers of this blog will recall our interest in a possible link between viral infections and terrible neurodegenerative diseases such as MS and MNR.(LSS 17 1 22 et al) Now a rather exciting new study, reported in Nature Briefings, has used some big data studies to push the conjecture along just a little further. We think there’s a couple of things to be learned today, but first one of their excellent summaries, if only because it links to the main paper And it’s a good one, folks.

Researchers have found a link between common viral infections and an elevated risk of having a neurodegenerative condition, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, later in life. Such links have been found between single viruses and diseases before — for example, between Epstein–Barr virus and multiple sclerosis. The new study looked more broadly, analysing about 450,000 electronic health records from Finland and the United Kingdom. Researchers caution that the data show only a possible connection, and that it’s still unclear how or whether the infections trigger disease onset.Nature | 5 min read

It’s a thorough study, because the database comprises 450 000 medical records. And those are spread over two countries. The researchers found 22 significant linkages, which constitutes 22 grounds for 22 research projects. So that’s someone off the streets. The whole thing is written up very judiciously, with plenty of criticisms and questions fairly acknowledged. Like; this is only a European study, so what about the rest of the world, where they have things such as Zika? And: what happens if you included reports from people who only had mild cases of flu, and so never went to the doctor? Does the virus cause the disease, or just trigger it? All of which proves that its early days, too early to jump to vast conclusions. But it is intriguing.

There’s a more general point as well. This research could not have happened without the use of advanced computer systems, originally developed for things like banking, mobile phones or even the military. Which only goes to show how research in one area can turn out to be ten times as useful somewhere else. Remember that the next time some slippery think tank tries to sell tax cuts as the panacea for all our woes.

#multiple sclerosis #motor neuron disease #epstein-barr virus #medicine #research

No more Antibiotics? That’ll be the last of us

Confession: we on the Editorial Board of LSS don’t do a lot of TV. But when our researchers drew our our attention to popular series called The Last of Us,[1] we sat up sharp and paid attention. Apparently the show depicts a world which has been devastated by a killer fungus. Which cannibalises its human victims from within, turning them into plague-spreading zombies. Far fetched? Improbable? Actually, such organisms already exist, as this chilling article by Fiona Jackson of the Daily Mail makes all to fearsomely clear[2]

We won’t spoil your enjoyment of Fiona’s excellent writing. But read as she riffs on one particularly macabre organism called Entomophthora moscae, which specialises in eating houseflies. Alive.

. Muscae first penetrates through the skin of the housefly before growing its way through the body, infecting its nervous system.After about a week of digesting its guts, the fungus forces the fly to ascend to a high point and spread out its wings before it dies .Next, the fungi grows an array of micro-sized stalks on the corpse, each one a pressurised cannon of liquid with a spore that can be ejected outwards. It also releases a chemical signature that acts as pheromones to lure unsuspecting males to come and mate with the infected female corpse.The males trigger the cannons, and end up coated in a spray of infectious spores which will, eventually, also turn it into a zombie housefly.

But could it happen to us? The frightening possibility is-yes, at least if we carry on the way we live now. Because human abuse of the golden treasury of antibiotics has led to the rise of series of resistant fungi. All are strongly adapted to infect Homo sapiens. And theoretically, each and any could mutate into the kind of pandemic superkiller depicted in the TV series.[3] And what is being done? Research experts are starved of funds, their efforts denigrated by politicians like Michael Gove (LSS passim) Existing antibiotics are poured into farms, to produce food no one needs. Truly we squander our inheritance like degenerate heirs, while fate creeps up, its slimy fungal fingers already closing round our throats……..(ok, that’s enough doom-ed)

But you can do something about this , gentle readers. You could pressure your local politicos to put a bit more money into research and a bit less into pointless new roads. You could even donate to organisations like Antibiotics Research UK, [4] whose volunteers are gallantly attempting to stave off the apocalyptic scenario of a world without antibiotics. But you’d better be quick. Because time is running out

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_Us_(TV_series)

[2] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-11645471/The-zombie-infection-REAL-infect-humans-experts-warn.html

[3]https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/antifungal-resistance.html

[4] https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/support-us/

#the last of us #fungi #antibiotic resistance #pandemic

Weekly Round Up: Is China the next Japan, integrity, blood pressure-and more antibiotic resistance

Interesting stories from the week

Japan on the wane Remember 1985, when Japan was going to take over the world? And the whole tribe of western commentators, journalists and bien-pensants in general were wringing their hands. and gnashing their teeeth and telling us the West was On the Wane? Even Milton Keynes got in the act, advertising itself by implying they were more Japanese than anywhere else. Not anymore, as this piece from Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of the BBC makes clear.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-63830490

China on the wane Remember 2020 when China was going to take over the world, and western commentators, journalists and………..here we go again. At least Milton Keynes hasn’t got in on the act yet. It seems that this once unstoppable Asian giant has its woes too, and maybe world conquest may have to be equally deferred for a bit. Worrying thought: what if everybody, everywhere is in decline…….who’s actually flying this thing? Two for you on this

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/view-chinas-q4-growth-slows-29-yy-beats-expectations-2023-01-17

https://theconversation.com/why-chinas-shrinking-population-is-a-big-deal-counting-the-social-economic-and-political-costs-of-an-aging-smaller-society-198056?ut

thanks to P Seymour

Scientific Integrity on the wane Imagine if you could have approached Watson and Crick and bought yourself an author’s credit on their groundbreaking DNA paper. You could have dined out for life. Nature is worried that something like this might be starting to happen. Imagine if the same practice were extended to celebrity mags, fashion, and the sports press! Then we really would be in decline. Authorship Sale has become big Business

Research-integrity sleuths have discovered hundreds of online adverts selling authorship on papers that are about to be published in reputable journals. This trade is big business: a preprint analysis of more than 1,000 author-position offers from one website valued them at an estimated US$6.5 million. Journals have begun investigating and retracting papers that seem to be linked to adverts. The problem will grow, says economist Anna Abalkina. The market for authorships has developed because, in many countries, researchers are still promoted on the basis of the number of papers they publish.Nature | 5 min read
Reference: arXiv preprint (not peer-reviewed)

Blood Pressure-are you on the wane? Getting your blood pressure wrong is a sure way of doing yourself no good. Now some ingenious doctors have come up with a way of not only measuring, but may be even curing, it. Good news. Is the Mail trying to make up for its performance on MMR?

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-11640999/10-minute-scan-detect-cure-common-cause-high-blood-pressure.html

At last! One about not being on the wane! We’re still worried in these offices about the hoary old problem of microbial resistance to antibiotics. Now a technique has come along using genetically modified bacteria which may offer some hope. Hannah Devlin for the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/19/gm-bacteria-could-combat-antibiotic-resistance-study-suggests

Marrakesh Memories Younger readers will recall their grandparent’s tales of the 1960s and what it was like to be a hippy. So in the week David Crosby died, we’ll pick out the old anthem Marrakesh Express, with this question. Was he related to Bill? Or Bing? Or Crosby in Lancashire. We’d like to know

#blood pressure #antibiotics #china #japan

Friday Night Cocktails: South of the Border….

…….down Mexico way, /that’s where I fell in love, when stars above came out to play/And now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray/South of the Border, Down Mexico way………………

So ran the 1939 Gene Autry hit which older readers will still remember with nostalgia (we’ll come to that infamous puzzling last verse later) Because tonight’s cocktail choice is Tequila. We chose this to celebrate a bottle of it which we bought in Islington twenty years ago and which still remains unfinished (LSS is not an alcoholic website). Tequila is the national drink of the sunny land of Mexico. Its provenance its strictly protected by all kinds of laws, as you might expect. And it has kicked off many a fine start in those cheerfully themed restaurants which are guarantee a wild Friday night out across many of the great cities of the world. And a huge hangover on Saturday morning. We link to Wikipedia for those interested in the history of this famous beverage.[1] But to close down one question: no, that funny little worm is not de riguer, it’s just a marketing ploy introduced by certain brands and suppliers to beef up their street cool. Meanwhile we’ve got three of our favourite recipes for all you, all adapted from our old Favourite , Hamlyn’s The Ultimate Cocktail Book, which oddly enough dates back to the same age as the aforementioned bottle.

Tequila Sunrise Let’s start with the big one, made even more famous by the Eagles in their evocation of the sybaritic Californian lifestyle. Take 6 ice cubes and pop them into your shaker. Add 2 measures of tequila, 3 measures of fresh orange juice (try not to use Spanish, in case the Mexicans are still sensitive about their former colonial status) Shake ’em, but don’t break ’em. Add to a tall glass which already contains ice. Now add 2 teaspoons of grenadine (you can nearly always find it in Waitrose) stir gently, and serve it up.

Margarita Our Spanish is a little shaky, but we think this means “Margaret” which sounds decidedly less exotic. Anyway add mucho hielo (plenty ice) to your shaker, followed swiftly by 1.5 measures of fresh lime juice, 2 measures of Cointreau and 2.5 measures of tequila. Shake and put to one side, briefly Now take one of those funny margarita glasses and spread salt around the rim before adding the contents of your shaker, Serve with a straw and decorate with a slice of lime. Well, that’s better than stuffing it into the neck of a corona bottle. Why do people do that?

Tequila Cocktail Put 4 ice cubes in a shaker. Add 2 measures of tequila, 1 of port, 0.5 measures of fresh lime juice and flick in two dashes of Angostura. Shake and serve over the ice, decorating again with a slice of lime.

Okay, so now back to Gene and his song. 1939 was still a pretty straight-laced, buttoned up sort of time when certain things were just never mentioned. So what did he mean by:

For it was Fiesta, and we were so gay/south of the border, down Mexico way

?

We leave it for you to speculate

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tequila

#mexico #tequila #cocktail