Viruses used to tackle antibiotic resistance
Health Watch, by Brian Collett
Enemies now allies
Viruses are being studied as tools to kill bacteria and overcome the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Brighton University scientists say using bacteriophages in this way may be a breakthrough, after evidence that they halt Proteus mirabilis bacteria infections, which lead to catheter blockage, kidney complications and septicaemia.
Dr Brian Jones said: â€œThe challenge of antibiotic resistance makes it importantÂ to look at these promising alternatives to antibiotics.â€ But he warned the research was still early-stage. Specialists at other centres, including the University of Bath, Queenâ€™s University Belfast and the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation, worked with the Brighton team.
The creators of an anti-cholesterol vaccine are seeking commercial partners to develop it while awaiting an American patent. The vaccine, which carries a virus-like particle targeting the protein that dictates cholesterol levels, is claimed to be cheaper and more effective than statins. Researchers at New Mexico University and the governmentâ€™s National Institutes of Health have tested it successfully on mice and monkeys.
A device enabling doctors to interpret wheezing is being developed at North Carolina State University. Sensors worn by patients and powered by body heat register the wheezing, and software pinpointsÂ the source in the lungs and determines its severity, aiding diagnosis and treatment. The researchers hope eventually to combine the sensing electronics and software inÂ one device.
New role for drugs
Some psychiatric drugs are thought likely to combat several emerging viruses. The anti- psychotic haloperidol, the antidepressant fluoxetine, and the anaesthetic bupivacaine were found to block bunyaviruses.
These invaders include the increasingly common and often fatal Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic virus, a tick-borne bug that affects the liver, kidneys and other organs. Researchers at Leeds, Nottingham and Glasgow Universities call their ndings â€œvery promisingâ€. Dr Alain Kohl at Glasgow University said: â€œIf existing drugs are con rmed to be effective against known members of a particular virus family, this opens up the possibility of using these off- the-shelf treatments in a rapid response against dangerous new related strains.â€
ECG in the car
An electrocardiogram incorporating metal plates in a car seat will monitor the driverâ€™s heart and detect problems promptly to prevent accidents, claim its developers.Â It will work through clothing layers and connect with emergency braking and stopping responses, say the scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute in Dresden. The monitoring may eventually be integrated into hospital beds, clothing and blankets.
Pure maple syrup may ward off Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Toronto University specialists noted that the syrup extract could block the misfolding and clumping of two brain cell proteins, a process creating plaques that damage the brain in Alzheimerâ€™s and other neurological diseases. Separate research has found the extract prevented the tangling of beta amyloid proteins and protected microglial cells, which are disabled in Alzheimerâ€™s patients.
Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, said: â€œMaple syrup has more than 100 bioactive compounds,Â some of which have anti-in ammatory properties. Brain healthÂ is the latest topic of exploration, and we look forward to learning more."