Achilles’ heel in defensive barrier of antibiotic-resistant bacteria discovered

New research published today in the journal Nature reveals an Achilles’ heel in the defensive barrier which surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells.

The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself. It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.

The discovery doesn’t come a moment too soon. The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria is spreading globally, causing severe consequences. And even common infections which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.

Researchers investigated a class of bacteria called ‘Gram-negative bacteria’ which is particularly resistant to antibiotics because of its cells’ impermeable lipid-based outer membrane…

Until now little has been known about exactly how the defensive barrier is built. The new findings reveal how bacterial cells transport the barrier building blocks (called lipopolysaccharides) to the outer surface.

Group leader Prof Changjiang Dong, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked…”

Lead author PhD student Haohao Dong said: “The really exciting thing about this research is that new drugs will specifically target the protective barrier around the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself.

“Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future.”

Bravo! I look forward to seeing how this new information will be introduced to the mainstream of disease treatments.

Finding a key mechanism in antibiotic resistance, using that information to destroy that defense mechanism, working backwards to restore efficacy and working forwards to include that capability in next-gen medications is a boon.

LEDs to revolutionize hi-tech greenhouse farming

It won’t come as a surprise to discover that consumers all over the developed world are increasingly demanding seasonal vegetables all year round, even when the local climate simply doesn’t allow that kind of growth. Particularly sought-after are tomatoes, cucumbers, and leaf vegetables. Which is why greenhouse farming has become a major factor in the food supply of the developed world.

Consequently, the number of commercial greenhouses and the area they occupy is rocketing. In the Netherlands, for example, greenhouses occupy around 0.25 percent of the land area of the entire country. And the Netherlands isn’t even the largest producer of greenhouse vegetables in Europe. That position is held by Spain. And the largest producer of greenhouse vegetables in the world is now China…

So an important question is how to minimize the energy it takes to grow these crops. One obvious answer is to convert greenhouses from the traditional incandescent lighting, usually high pressure sodium lamps, to more energy-efficient LEDs.

That might seem like an economic no-brainer but the industry has been slow to make this change because of the high initial cost of LEDs. The question that farmers have pondered over is whether they will ever recoup the upfront cost of a brand-new system of lighting.

Today, they get an answer thanks to the work of Devesh Singh and pals at the Hannover Centre for Optical Technologies at the University of Hannover in Germany. These guys have compared the life-cycle costs of traditional high pressure sodium lamps against those of LEDs for greenhouse lighting.

And they say the advantages are clear. They calculate that the cumulative cost of high pressure sodium lamps surpasses that of LEDs after just seven years and that after 16 years the cumulative cost of high pressure sodium lamps is more than double the equivalent cost of LEDs.

It’s not hard to see where this saving comes from. Although high pressure sodium lamps are individually cheaper than LEDs, they have to be changed every year compared to every 19 years for LEDs. And, of course, LEDs use considerably less electricity, wasting little as heat.

But the most interesting part of Singh and co’s analysis is in the potential of LEDs to change the way that vegetables are grown. High pressure sodium lamps emit light across the entire visible part of the spectrum and well into the infrared where much energy is lost as heat. By contrast, LEDs can be adjusted to emit light in very specific parts of the spectrum.

Plant physiologists have long known that chlorophyll absorbs mainly in the blue, green and red parts of the spectrum but absorbs a little in the orange and yellow. So it makes sense to produce light only in these parts of the spectrum. That’s easy with LEDs, of course, but impossible with sodium lamps.

The strategy seems clear: convert to LED lighting as quickly as possible. Conversion will pay for itself in a few years and the advantages influencing yields and the quality of output start with flipping a light switch – and taking the resulting veggies to market.

RTFA for a few more ways in which crop quality is improved – while saving on the cost of production.

California traffic stop leads to meth lab at retirement community

Fresno police say they made a routine traffic stop on Robert Short, 64, at Olive and Rowell on Saturday night and found he had meth in his car. Investigators then went to Short’s apartment near Willow and Butler, where they say he was cooking and distributing drugs.

Neighbors who live in the California League-Fresno Village say their retirement community is quiet and safe. So naturally neighbors were appalled to hear one of the tenants is in the Fresno County Jail for dealing and cooking meth in this complex.

“It’s shocking, I would never guess that anything like that would go on at a senior citizen village,” said Robin Schramek.

When Action News knocked on Short’s door, no one answered. But there were signs all over the door that demand privacy and no visitors. Neighbors say despite the tight-knit community there they didn’t know Short, who kept to himself…

When officers pulled Short over it was for a routine traffic stop. Since he’s on supervised release for previous meth sales they searched his car.

“When the officers searched the car they located four ounces of methamphetamine in the car, which is a lot of methamphetamine, so that’s consistent with somebody who’s selling,” said Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez.

After searching his apartment, they found a half pound of meth, heroin and materials for a meth lab.

“Just shocking someone that age would do that, but actually a perfect place to do it, right? Retirement village, who would suspect it going on there?” said Gomez.

Well, what kind of community do you want to have? I’ll wager it took the coppers who stopped Short only a minute or two to check his priors, to find out he’s on supervised release for previous meth sales.

Don’t want to be surprised about drug dealers in your tight-knit community? Collectively set standards – legal standards – and check folks out before they move in. It’s not uncommon in the best of low-income projects to have rules established about evicting folks convicted of dangerous crimes.

Just don’t get silly and purist about your standards. Folks trying to go straight need all the help they can get.