Posts filed under ‘food’

Translation: Environmental exposure impacts antibiotic resistance in children:

Exposure to antibiotics at home and in the broader environment influences the risk of children carrying antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria, according to a study published in the The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The study was based in four areas of Peru with poor health systems, where antibiotics are used indiscriminately and without prescription. It covered coastal, mountain and jungle environments and focused on children between the ages of three months and three years.

The study suggests that environmental exposure to antibiotic-resistant E. coli can be as important as the consumption of antibiotics, according to the paper’s principal author, Henry Kalter, from the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

A risk factor at home was the use of antibiotics by other family members. The study demonstrated that children who hadn’t taken particular antibiotics themselves still carried bacteria resistant to them.

At the community level, living in a place where many families raised chickens themselves was a protective factor against the transport of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to Kalter, high consumption of home-raised chickens probably protects a community against exposure to antibiotics. He contrasted home-raised chickens with market-bought chickens, which may be given high doses of antibiotics and therefore have high levels of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.

“An important aspect of our conclusions is that the protective effect was not due to the fact that the children were eating certain types of chicken; rather that their communities were,” he said.

Kalter suggested that communities consuming more chickens raised at home presumably had less resistant bacteria in the environment, such as in open sewers and uncovered wells.

“This study reinforces the message that exposure to antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic resistance, by studying the role of different types of exposure on small children carrying of antibiotic-resistant E. coli,” he continued.

According to Kalter, examining these factors provides a better understanding of how antibiotic resistance spreads in the developing world.

“These findings suggest that unnecessary use of antibiotics in humans and animals should be minimised as much as possible,” he added.

“Many tons of the antibiotics consumed each year on the planet are given to stock animals. This study demonstrates that this use has a very real cost to human health,” Edward T. Ryan, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said in a press release from Johns Hopkins University.

The study was run by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, the Peruvian charity PRISMA and the infectious disease laboratory of the Cayetano Heredia University in Peru.

The original paper in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is here.

This is my translation of a story written by Zoraida Portillo on the Science and Development Network, “Antibióticos propician resistencia infantil a E. coli”, published on June 14, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 16, 2010 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment

Translation: Internet and mobile phones to improve agricultural management in Chile

An internet portal called “YoAgricultor”, driven by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, will allow small to medium-size country farmers to join virtual communities where they can access strategic farming information.

Four virtual communities have been launched on the portal this week (June 2nd), for producers of maize, honey, wine and berries. The initiative is a pilot project financed by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) and the Inter-American Development Bank, which could reach an estimated 2000 farmers.

In each virtual community farmers can find free information about plant health, productivity, agricultural techniques and weather and market alerts, among other things. There are also forums in which farmers can communicate with each other.

The portal’s contents have been developed in conjunction with farmers and organised following stages of production. Agronomists and members of agricultural organisations developed the contents including short videos, podcasts, text and photographs.

“This project is purely knowledge management: we’re taking the knowledge of producers and putting it into a system in which they can participate and enhance their activity,” Alain Hermosilla, the coordinator of YoAgricultor, said.

“A site like this hasn’t existed in Latin America until now, but it’s completely replicable and exportable, plus it’s developed with free software,” he added.

The portal also includes a service called DatAgro that allows maize farmers to receive a text message with guidance on market prices, weather alerts and crop improvement data. This mobile service will soon be introduced for berry farmers, beekeepers, winemakers and organisations for stock breeders in the south of Chile, according to John Zoltner, head of Zoltner Consulting Group, the Chilean company running the service.

In the near future, strategic information delivered via mobile phones might extend to other Latin American countries, where Zoltner said they are already talking with farmers of potato, coffee and other agricultural products.

This technology, he added, “will also be implemented in a pilot project with the Ministry of Health in Peru and the Pan American Health Organization, to build the capacity of health professionals and community workers who care for pregnant women and small children, with the objective of reducing rates of infant mortality in the Peruvian highlands”.

This is my translation of a story written by Paula Leighton on the Science and Development Network, “Internet y celulares mejoran gestión agrícola en Chile”, published on June 4 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; this translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 12, 2010 at 11:11 am 2 comments

Scientists closer to developing salt-tolerant crops

An international team of scientists has developed salt-tolerant plants using a new type of genetic modification (GM), bringing salt-tolerant cereal crops a step closer to reality.

The research team – based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus – has used a new GM technique to contain salt in parts of the plant where it does less damage.

Salinity affects agriculture worldwide, which means the results of this research could impact on world food production and security.

The work has been led by researchers from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK.

The results of their work were published recently in the top international plant science journal, The Plant Cell.

“Salinity affects the growth of plants worldwide, particularly in irrigated land where one third of the world’s food is produced. And it is a problem that is only going to get worse, as pressure to use less water increases and quality of water decreases,” said the team’s leader, Professor Mark Tester, from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG).

“Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught will have a significant impact on world food production.”

Professor Tester said his team used the technique to keep salt – as sodium ions (Na+) – out of the leaves of a model plant species. The researchers modified genes specifically around the plant’s water conducting pipes (xylem) so that salt is removed from the transpiration stream before it gets to the shoot.

“This reduces the amount of toxic Na+ building up in the shoot and so increases the plant’s tolerance to salinity,” Professor Tester said.

“In doing this, we’ve enhanced a process used naturally by plants to minimise the movement of Na+ to the shoot. We’ve used genetic modification to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do – but to do it much better.”

The team is now in the process of transferring this technology to crops such as rice, wheat and barley.

“Our results in rice already look very promising,” Professor Tester said.

This story was written with David Ellis and published in Adelaidean magazine.

August 10, 2009 at 4:43 am Leave a comment

Public involvement in science policy?

National Science Week in August brought the usual onslaught of work for ACPFG’s communication and education team, including a mammoth effort from Education Manager Monica Ogierman and some invalu­able ACPFG volunteers at Science Alive at the Adelaide showgrounds.

This year we also ran some experimental public participation events for my research through Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS). I’m investigating whether public in­volvement in research funding decisions would impact public ownership and approval of research outcomes.

Three ACPFG scientists courageously vol­unteered their time and energy to pitch their research to the public, and be judged ac­cordingly. All three are exceptional science communicators and we went through their presentations together before the events; the order of the presenting scientists was changed for each of the three events to eliminate some potential problems with the voting process. Nonetheless, recent PhD graduate Darren Plett was the clear winner, much to the horror of established doctors Rachel Burton and Trevor Garnett.

The model for my research came from an event I was involved with while working in the UK in 2007. Based in Cambridge as a science journalist, I was asked to write a magazine story about an event hosted by the Institute for Food Research in the nearby city of Norwich. The results from that event are the subject of an upcoming paper in the journal Public Understanding of Science. It was a resounding success and I thought the method could be adapted well to Australia.

Running the 70-participant event at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide, including distributing and collecting two lots of surveys, was a massive effort. So I enlisted the help of several volunteers, including ACPFG’s Melissa Pickering and visitor Sandra Schmoeckel, who sacrificed the start of dinner to take care of latecomers.

The two smaller events in Canberra were at The Front Cafe and Gallery, in Lyneham, supported by CPAS and part of the Australian Science Festival. The audience was a mix of federal public servants and sceptical students, who had some curly questions for the present­ing scientists.

I have yet to analyse the quantitative and qualitative survey data collected at the events, but the voting patterns at events in both coun­tries have been consistent. In all cases the least experienced male researchers took first prize, with the most established female researchers coming last. It appears the idea that the public would make fair decisions about science fund­ing needs to be met with some scepticism!

This article appears in Vector magazine – you can also read articles by two of the scientists who presented at these events in it.

October 6, 2008 at 7:44 am Leave a comment

Science: You Decide

I’m currently doing a research degree through Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

I’m looking at how deliberative democracy could play a role in science policy in Australia.

I’m holding some events to gather data for my research. If you’re in Adelaide or Canberra you might like to attend.

August 1, 2008 at 10:20 pm 1 comment

Sustainability and Environment

In many ways, ‘sustainability’ is the buzz word for a new millennium. As finite resources run low, levels of production and consumption increase. And while trends show that we are making the effort to live greener lives, the problem of pollution has not gone away, with the UK dumping more household waste into landfill than any other EU country. This books defines sustainability, outlines sustainability challenges and explores some possible solutions.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources and includes government reports and statistics, newspaper reports, features, magazine articles and surveys, literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editor: Cobi Smith and Lisa Firth
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 419 6
Published: January 2008

March 12, 2008 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

The Cloning Debate

What is cloning? Is it ethical? What impact could it have on society? Recent advances in science have provoked debate about where cloning will take us. This book considers the social and ethical considerations of cloning, including whether cloning humans is acceptable, whether people are willing to eat cloned food and whether we should take advantage of medical therapies associated with cloning.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources including government reports and statistics, newspaper features, magazine articles, surveys and literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editors: Lisa Firth and Cobi Smith
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 410 3
Published: September 2007

January 10, 2008 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

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