Posts filed under ‘research’

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.

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

Words and pictures

I leave for Chile this Saturday! So forgive me for being brief, but I still have much packing and organising to do. Over the next month you can expect updates on my travel blog about the big move and my first experiences in South America.

This post is mostly to share the slides from my presentation at the Royal Institute of Australia on Monday night. It was great to discuss some issues from my thesis with other members of Australian Science Communicators (ASC) and some members of the public. The slides can accompany the RiAus audio recording of the event, but beware the recording is of more than just my presentation, there’s 25 minutes of preamble first.

This talk was more focused on how my work relates to Federal Government policy, rather than democracy in general, which was the focus of my session at the national ASC conference in February. Kristin Alford from Bridge8 blogged about the session in Canberra; it’s interesting to see what people take away from my talks! I always try and get my audience to participate somehow, given I’m presenting about public engagement. The bits people actively participate in are the bits that stand out most in people’s minds. This is reflected in the impromptu poll I ran at the very start of my presentation in Canberra, which was the focus of half of Kristin’s writeup of it. More evidence to suggest participatory, two-way engagement is most fruitful!

This might mean that people will remember my presentation last night more for the trivia question about a quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than the main messages from my thesis, but I guess that’s my own fault for pitting my work against that of Douglas Adams.

Me voy a preparar para viajar a Chile ahora. Deséame suerte!

April 21, 2010 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

Being seen, not published…

I continue to lament the lack of the ‘published high’ I get from journalism while I work on my MPhil. However I’m emerging from this academic fugue for two conferences next month.

Firstly I’m heading to Canberra to present at the Australian Science Communicators conference, among other things. One of those other things is an interview – in Spanish – at the Chilean consulate, to get a working holiday visa for my move there at the end of April. You can keep up to date with that on my travel blog.

After Canberra I’ll return to Adelaide to volunteer at the Australian International Documentary Conference, following my fantastic adventure at WCSFP (the subject of my previous post). I wrote a roundup of my highlights from the WCSFP on my Nature blog, which has been woefully neglected since.

In Canberra I’ll be talking about how to avoid preaching to the converted in science engagement, as well as being part of a panel discussion on “Tools for Democracy and Dialogue”. This is the summary of my presentation:

Events aimed at public engagement with science often attract the same crowd.

They’re sometimes planned with little consideration for who will participate, beyond sheer numbers. So rather than representing a broad public, outcomes may represent people with above average interest in science and, studies suggest, socioeconomic status and education to match.

This raises issues of equality, and can limit the value of feedback from such events. As part of my research, I’ve looked at different ways participants have been recruited and what implications this has for outcomes of public engagement with science.

January 20, 2010 at 4:23 am Leave a comment

In press

As a journalist-turned-academic, I find the hardest change is waiting for things to be published. When I was a radio journalist I had deadlines every hour. Now I have deadlines every couple of months, and after the deadline  I have to wait months more for what I’ve written to be published.

There’s a lot to be said for the satisfying feeling of having your work broadcast within a few hours (or minutes sometimes) of completing it. Though there’s also a lot to be said for not starting work at 6am and not having the pressure of deadlines every hour, which was partly why I changed to specialist writing, which is more lifestyle-friendly.

In the past, when I edited academic documents that had publications “in press”, I used to roll my eyes, because I thought that people were reaching a bit. But now I understand! I probably won’t have anything published in 2009, though there are several things “in press”, not to mention various draft papers that are floating around, waiting for input from busy people.

Such is academia. Welcome to the slow lane.

I got an email the other day approving my articles for the Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Communication, which is being published by Sage. It’s due to be published in July 2010. I wrote about science circuses around the world, a biography of J. Craig Venter, and the theory of deliberative democracy.

I hope at least some of my journal articles are published before then! Watch this space… or grass grow. That might be quicker.

September 9, 2009 at 8:49 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

Mental health

Research suggests that mental disorders affect one in four people, yet stigma around mental disorders continues. Mental Health gives an overview of some chronic mental illnesses and looks at the difficulties we have in dealing with them – especially when friends or relatives are affected. This book also covers common psychological challenges and how to cope with them.

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: Cobi Smith and Sophie Crewdson
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
Price: £6.95
Cover: Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 86168 407 3
Published: September 2007

November 21, 2007 at 6:50 pm 1 comment

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