Friday, April 22, 2011

0 The Friday Four

In this week's Friday Four, we'll look at antimalarial trees that are threatened with extinction but may yet be saved to make natural medicine, how our own bacteria use immune cells to help save us from bad infections, a six-fold risk of death from C. diff in patients with IBD, and genetically engineering mosquitoes so that they have less ability to spread disease.


1) Antimalarial trees in East Africa threatened with extinction

Source link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420211758.htm

Olea europaea Africana -
African wild olive - antimalarial tree
ScienceDaily (2011-04-21) -- Research released in anticipation of World Malaria Day finds that plants in East Africa with promising antimalarial qualities -- ones that have treated malaria symptoms in the region's communities for hundreds of years -- are at risk of extinction. Scientists fear that these natural remedial qualities, and thus their potential to become a widespread treatment for malaria, could be lost forever.

Comments:

According to this article, researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Common Antimalarial Trees and Shrubs of East Africa, are documenting and studying 22 of the region's malaria-fighting trees and shrubs which have been found to be antimalarial by both traditional medicinal practitioners and scientists.

Time is running out for these trees, though, because of deforestation and overexploitation for medical use without replacing the trees and cultivating new ones, but scientists are preserving them in a genebank as well as a nursery.

Here is one thing I want all alternative medicine lovers to be aware of, and it saddens me, too. The article states:
"Today, the world's newest, most-effective therapeutic treatment for malaria also comes from a plant, the Artemisia annua shrub. However, access to malaria therapies based on artemisinin compounds remains low -- around 15 percent in most parts of Africa and well below the World Health Organizations' 80 percent target. Additionally, the malaria parasite's ability to resist artemisinin is already beginning to emerge in Southeast Asia."
Here is our note of humility, humanity...

Mother Nature is in charge. She always was, and we will be one step behind her. Get a bacterial infection, then take an antibiotic, then the bacteria grows resistant to the antibiotic. Get an infection, then take an herb, then the bacteria grows resistant to the herb, too.

It's evolution in action, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. All we can hope to do is keep up, and try to maintain balance. But Mother Nature is crafty. Beautiful, mysterious, and creative, and has many tricks up her sleeve.

So just because it's an herb doesn't mean a parasite or bacteria won't develop resistance to it.

This aside: I really hope these scientists can protect and save as many of these trees as they can from destruction. It sounds like they are working hard on this problem. If they do, they may have in their hands future treatments for not only malaria but babesia, too.

Additional Sources:
http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/
http://www.kemri.org/

2) Learning to tolerate our microbial self: Bacteria co-opt human immune cells for mutual benefit

Source link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110421141632.htm

B. fragilis
ScienceDaily (2011-04-22) -- The human gut is filled with 100 trillion symbiotic bacteria which we blissfully live with, although they have many features similar to infectious bacteria we react against. What decides whether we ignore -- or fight? In the case of a common "friendly" gut bacterium, Bacteroides fragilis, researchers have discovered the surprising answer: The decision is not made by us, but by the bacteria, which co-opt cells of the immune system for our benefit ... and theirs.

Comments:

So these scientists discovered that these friendly bacteria in mice, B. fragilis, can control regulatory T-cells in their immune system. These T-cells, by the way, are what protects our immune systems from attacking our own cells - they are basically anti-autoimmune cells.

B. fragilis can "trick" the immune system into activating these regulatory T-cells so they themselves will not get attacked.

How does this happen? The bacteria produces a molecule that receptors (called Toll-like receptors) on the regulatory T-cells pick up. When these regulatory T-cells get this "message", they suppress T helper 17 cells. By shutting those cells down, the bacteria is able to colonize the intestines.

This is not usually how Toll-like receptors are thought of - they are thought of as being part of a chain of communication in the immune system that works to get rid of bacteria - not keep it alive.

Question to my readers: What is the relationship between Toll-like receptors and Borrelia burgdorferi in people?

I'll give you time to research it if you don't know the answer, and will tell you next week.

Original Reference:
June L. Round, S. Melanie Lee, Jennifer Li, Gloria Tran, Bana Jabri, Talal A. Chatila, and Sarkis K. Mazmanian.The Toll-Like Receptor 2 Pathway Establishes Colonization by a Commensal of the Human MicrobiotaScience, 21 April 2011 DOI:10.1126/science.1206095

3) C. difficile increases risk of death 6-fold in patients with inflammatory bowel disease

Source link: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/icl-cdi041911.php

Patients admitted to hospital with inflammatory bowel disease face a sixfold greater risk of death if they become infected with Clostridium difficile, a new study has found.

Comments:

The It-Could-Be-Worse News: A review published in 2010 estimated the overall mortality rate for patients with C. difficile to be 6 per cent.

Okay, 6%. I rather it'd be 0%, but 6% is a relatively small number compared to the rate of fatalities for other conditions.

The Bad News: Those most severely ill and the elderly are in a high risk for fatality from a nasty C. diff infection.

That's not good.

The Worst News: The mortality rate for IBD patients with C. difficile at 30 days was 25 per cent, compared with 3 per cent for patients with IBD alone.

25%. That's really not good.

I really don't know what to say to this other than it's scary. I hope research finds a way to prevent and cure IBD, and that we can prevent and more effectively treat C. difficile infections.

My advice:

1) Take your probiotics if you are using antibiotics. Eat yogurt  and/or take probiotics 3 hours after and before taking antibiotics daily.

2) Take Saccharomyces boulardii. There is some evidence it stops C. diff infections.

3) Avoid taking antibiotics unless it's absolutely necessary.

4) Get evaluated for Inflammatory Bowel Disease if you suspect you have it.

This not something to mess around with.

Original Reference:
 J.A. Karas et al. A review of mortality due to Clostridium difficile infection. Journal of Infection (2010) 61, 1-8.

4) 'Disease-Proof Mosquito' Could Spread Like Wildfire

Source link: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/04/disease-proof-mosquito-could-spr.html

Scientists have identified several mosquito genes that, when tinkered with, decrease the mosquitoes' ability to transmit a virus or a parasite; they have also given the insects new genes that do the same.

My only comment for this is: Will we ever see a tick that is bred to not spread Lyme disease bacteria and coinfections? 

Is there anything beneficial in having any of these hosts carry these infections for anyone but the pathogenic agents? Any whatsoever at all?

No?

Then stop these pathogens in their tracks, please.

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