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Oct 11

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  • 1,000-year-old eye infection potion found to tackle antibiotic-resistant infections | Science & Tech News | Sky News Tuesday July 28th, 2020

    The potion was found in Bald’s Leechbook, one of the earliest known medical textbooks, written in Old English

    A 1,000-year-old treatment for eye infections can be used to tackle antibiotic-resistant infections, scientists say.

    Antibiotic resistance is an increasing challenge for modern medicine as more naturally occurring antimicrobials are needed to tackle infections capable of resisting treatments currently in use.

    New research from the University of Warwick has investigated natural remedies to fill the gap in the antibiotic market, taking their cue from a 1,000-year-old text known as Bald’s Leechbook.

    Building on previous research from the University of Nottingham on using medieval remedies to treat MRSA, the scientists reconstructed a potion known as “Bald’s Eyesalve”.

    The ingredients for the eyesalve – which was used to treat eye sty infections – include onion, garlic, wine, and bile salts.

    When the team experimented with it they found it showed promising antibacterial activity.

    Bacteria can survive in two ways – either as an individual cell or as part of a multicellular biofilm. Biofilm-associated infections are much harder to treat.

    More from Science & Tech

    The eyesalve the researchers tested appeared to cause only low levels of damage to human cells, while also being effective against a range of pathogens both by themselves (planktonically) and as part of a biofilm.

    In particular they found it tackled five bacteria particularly well when they were in their multicellular and hard-to-treat form.

    The researchers explained that those bacteria were commonly found in the biofilms that infect diabetic foot ulcer patients.

    Diabetic foot ulcers are very difficult to treat, and sometimes lead to amputations as doctors seek to avoid the risk of the bacteria fatally spreading into the patient’s blood system.

    According to the researchers, the Bald’s eyesalve mixture’s use of garlic, which contains allicin, could explain how it is able to tackle single bacteria – however garlic alone isn’t able to treat biofilm infections.

    They suggest that therefore the anti-biofilm activity of Bald’s eyesalve cannot be attributed to a single active ingredient and actually requires the combination of all the listed ingredients to achieve full activity.

    Dr Freya Harrison, from the University of Warwick, said: “We have shown that a medieval remedy made from onion, garlic, wine, and bile can kill a range of problematic bacteria grown both planktonically and as biofilms.

    “Because the mixture did not cause much damage to human cells in the lab, or to mice, we could potentially develop a safe and effective antibacterial treatment from the remedy.

    “Most antibiotics that we use today are derived from natural compounds, but our work highlights the need to explore not only single compounds but mixtures of natural products for treating biofilm infections.

    “We think that future discovery of antibiotics from natural products could be enhanced by studying combinations of ingredients, rather than single plants or compounds,” Dr Harrison added.

    “In this first instance, we think this combination could suggest new treatments for infected wounds, such as diabetic foot and leg ulcers.”

    Her colleague and co-author, Dr Jessica Furner-Pardoe, said: “Our work demonstrates just how important it is to use realistic models in the lab when looking for new antibiotics from plants.

    “Although a single component is enough to kill planktonic cultures, it fails against more realistic infection models, where the full remedy succeeds,” Dr Furner-Purdoe added.

    They were assisted in their work not by additional research performed by a medical scientists, but by Dr Christina Lee, an associate professor in Viking Studies from the University of Nottingham’s school of English.

    Dr Lee had examined the Bald’s Leechbook, an Old English leather-bound text, the only manuscript of which is kept in the British Library, to see if it really worked as an antibacterial remedy.

    The Leechbook is one of the earliest known medical textbooks, written in Old English – spoken in England before the Norman invasion of 1066. It contains Anglo-Saxon medical advice and recipes for medicines, salves and treatments.

    Dr Christina added: “Bald’s eyesalve underlines the significance of medical treatment throughout the ages. It shows that people in Early Medieval England had at least some effective remedies.

    “The collaboration which has informed this project shows the importance of the arts in interdisciplinary research,” Dr Lee added.

    Source: Sky News

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  • Eating oily fish may protect the brain against the toxic damage of air pollution, study suggests Wednesday July 15th, 2020

    • US experts studied the diet and air pollution exposure of 1,315 senior women
    • They also performed MRI scans to measure each participant’s brain volumes
    • Women who consumed fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids had more white matter
    • Furthermore, more omega-3 was associated with less shrinkage due to pollution

    Eating oily fish — such as salmon, sardines and mackerel — may help to protect the brain against the toxic damage of air pollution, a study has suggested.

    Experts from the US studied the diet, pollution exposure and brain volumes of 1,315 senior women to see if omega-3 fatty acids might shield against air pollution.

    The team found that the women who ate more than one or two servings of omega-3 rich fish a week had a larger hippocampus and white matter volume.

    Furthermore, higher levels of omega-3 were found to be associated with smaller reductions in white matter volume when exposed to higher levels of air pollution.

    ‘Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and easy to add to the diet,’ said paper author and epidemiologist Ka Kahe of New York’s Columbia University.

    ‘Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation and maintain brain structure in ageing brains.’

    ‘They have also been found to reduce brain damage caused by neurotoxins like lead and mercury.’

    ‘So, we explored if omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect against another neurotoxin — the fine particulate matter found in air pollution.’

    Dr Kahe and colleagues found that people who lived on busy roads and had the lowest levels of omega-3 in their blood typically had fewer neurons than those who consumed more of the fatty acids.

    Once controversial, the notion that dirty air damages the brain has gained popularity — along with mounting evidence in support of the theory.

    It has been known since the 1970s that air pollution can increases the risk of heart and lung diseases.

    More recently, high levels of air pollution have been linked to both poor cognitive abilities in children and an increased risk of cognitive decline — and possibly also depression — among adults.

    In their study, the team polled 1,315 women — whose average age was 70 and who did not have dementia — about their diet, physical activity and medical history.

    The researchers calculated how much fish each woman typically consumed per week — including broiled or baked fish, canned tuna, tuna salad, tuna casserole and non-fried shellfish.

    Fried fish was not included in these calculations, as past research has shown that deep frying damages omega-3 fatty acids.

    The team then performed blood tests on each participant to measure the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the women’s red blood cells.

    Dr Kahe and colleagues also used each participant’s home address to work out their three-year average exposure to air pollution.

    Finally, the participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging — or MRI — scans to measure various areas of their brains.

    These included the white matter, composed of nerve fibres that send signals throughout the brain, and the hippocampus — the part associated with memory.

    The researchers found that those with the most omega-3 fatty acids had more white matter than those with the least — specifically, 410 cubic centimetres compared to just 403 (or 25, rather than 24.6, cubic inches).

    Furthermore, the team noted that for each 25 per cent increase in air pollution the women experienced, their average volume of white matter was 11.52 cubic centimetres (0.7 cubic inches) smaller if they had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

    This was compared with a decrease of just 0.12 cubic centimetres (0.007 cubic centimetres) among those with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood.

    The participants who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids were also seen to typically have a larger hippocampus.

    This was so even after taking into account other factors that could affect brain shrinkage — including age, education and history of smoking.

    Source: Daily Mail

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  • An extra portion of fruit or veg can cut your risk of developing diabetes Thursday July 09th, 2020

    • Cambridge University found eating fruit and veg cut risk of developing diabetes
    • They found every 66g increase in consumption cut diabetes risk by quarter
    • A second study by Harvard found eating wholegrains wards off diabetes risk

    Eating your fruit and veg dramatically cuts the risk of developing diabetes, a major study has found.

    And even small increases in intake can make a significant difference.

    A study by Cambridge University found boosting consumption of fruit and veg by one small daily portion cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes by 25 per cent.

    The research team found every 66g increase in consumption cut diabetes risk by a quarter.

    In Britain a portion of vegetables or fruit is defined as 80g – equivalent to three tablespoons of cooked carrots, two spears of broccoli or a small apple.

    The team, writing in the British Medical Journal, said: ‘Fruit and vegetable intake, rather than vitamin supplements, is potentially beneficial for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.’

    A second study, also published in the BMJ, found eating wholegrains also wards off diabetes risk.

    Harvard Medical School estimated that one serving a day of wholegrain breakfast cereal – such as porridge or a cereal biscuit – would cut the risk by 19 per cent.

    In the first study, researchers examined blood levels of vitamin C and carotenoids – plant pigments which give some fruit and vegetables their bright colour – as an indicator of fruit and vegetable intake.

    Some 9,754 people with Type 2 diabetes were compared with a group of 13,662 people without the condition, all of whom were part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-InterAct study in eight European countries.

    The results showed that those with the highest intakes of fruit and veg had up to a 50 per cent reduced risk of diabetes compared to those with the lowest intakes.

    A score based on how much fruit and veg people ate was used to determine the risk between five separate groups.

    Those in the lowest group typically ate 274g of fruit and veg per day, while those in the highest group ate almost twice this amount (508g per day), and had the most benefit – a 50 per cent reduction in Type 2 diabetes risk.

    Eating 274g is about the weight of one medium banana, half a head of broccoli and a small handful of cherry tomatoes.

    Eating 508g is around the equivalent of a large banana, half a head of broccoli, a large handful of cherry tomatoes and a large handful of straw berries

    However, the researchers found that even those who ate less than 508g per day could lower their risk of diabetes by eating modest amounts more than what they were already doing.

    The researchers calculated that every 66g per day increase in total fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 25 per cent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to what they were eating before.

    The authors, who took factors such as lifestyle into account, concluded: ‘These biomarkers are objective indicators of fruit and vegetable consumption, and suggest that diets rich in even modestly higher fruit and vegetable consumption could help to prevent development of Type 2 diabetes.’

    In the second study, researchers in the US, including from the Harvard school of public health, looked at whole grain intake and the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

    Their findings were based on data from 158,259 women and 36,525 men.

    After adjusting for lifestyle and dietary risk factors for diabetes, those with the highest intake of whole grains had a 29% lower rate of Type 2 diabetes compared with those who ate the least.

    For individual whole grain foods, the researchers found that consuming one or more servings a day of whole grain cold breakfast cereal or dark bread was associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes (19% and 21% respectively) compared with consuming less than one serving a month.

    Eating two or more servings a week – when compared with less than one serving a month – was associated with a 21 per cent lower risk for oatmeal, a 15 per cent lower risk for added bran, and a 12 per cent lower risk for brown rice and wheat germ.

    The researchers said the association between higher total whole grain intake and lower risk of Type 2 diabetes ‘was stronger in individuals who were lean than in those who were overweight or obese.’

    They said the reduced risk held true even when other factors such as how much exercise people did was taken into account, alongside their family history of diabetes.

    Emma Elvin, senior clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, said: ‘While there are some risk factors for Type 2 diabetes you can’t change such as your age, ethnic background and family history, we know that around three in five cases can be prevented or delayed by making lifestyle changes such as adopting healthier eating habits, increasing activity levels and getting support to manage a healthy weight.

    ‘These new research findings provide yet more evidence that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and choosing wholegrain foods, such as wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats, brown rice and wholemeal bread, is associated with a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

    ‘Even more encouraging, these studies show that it can take fairly small increases in consumption of such foods for them to be beneficial and to help reduce the risk.

    ‘The 12.3 million people at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the UK should absolutely be supported to manage a healthy weight, get regular physical activity and eat healthy foods to help them reduce their risk of developing a condition that can sometimes have devastating consequences for those living with it.’

    Source: Daily Mail

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