NYC subway cultures drug resistant bacteria, DNA from Anthrax, Plague


Click to enlargeHeatmap of the Pseudomonas genus

The study, published in Cell Systems, demonstrates that it is possible and useful to develop a “pathogen map” — dubbed a “PathoMap” — of a city, with the heavily traveled subway a proxy for New York’s population. It is a baseline assessment, and repeated sampling could be used for long-term, accurate disease surveillance, bioterrorism threat mitigation, and large scale health management for New York, says the study’s senior investigator, Dr. Christopher E. Mason…

The PathoMap findings are generally reassuring, indicating no need to avoid the subway system or use protective gloves, Dr. Mason says. The majority of the 637 known bacterial, viral, fungal and animal species he and his co-authors detected were non-pathogenic and represent normal bacteria present on human skin and human body. Culture experiments revealed that all subway sites tested possess live bacteria.

Strikingly, about half of the sequences of DNA they collected could not be identified — they did not match any organism known to the National Center for Biotechnology Information or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These represent organisms that New Yorkers touch every day, but were uncharacterized and undiscovered until this study. The findings underscore the vast potential for scientific exploration that is still largely untapped and yet right under scientists’ fingertips.

WTF? They’re under everyone’s fingertips.

“Our data show evidence that most bacteria in these densely populated, highly trafficked transit areas are neutral to human health, and much of it is commonly found on the skin or in the gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Mason says. “These bacteria may even be helpful, since they can out-compete any dangerous bacteria.”

But the researchers also say that 12 percent of the bacteria species they sampled showed some association with disease. For example, live, antibiotic-resistant bacteria were present in 27 percent of the samples they collected. And they detected two samples with DNA fragments of Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), and three samples with a plasmid associated with Yersinia pestis (Bubonic plague) — both at very low levels. Notably, the presence of these DNA fragments do not indicate that they are alive, and culture experiments showed no evidence of them being alive.

RTFA to see why the researcher say we shouldn’t worry. Certainly, the diversity of microorganisms is a positive activator for our immune systems.

Interesting how they went about the research – and what this presents as a baseline for future evaluations. And an added plus is the unique – and still closed – station shuttered since Superstorm Sandy. Marine species still alive and stable in what should be an abnormal environment for them.

Thanks, Helen

Hopis connect to Reggae — keep on rocking

Some Hopi people lovingly refer to their remote reservation as “the doughnut hole” because it’s surrounded by the Navajo Nation and so far from a major city.

But three decades ago tribal members convinced Jamaican artists from the SunSplash reggae festival to make a major detour off the Interstate and venture all the way out to Hopi land.

Since then the Hopi have organized dozens of reggae concerts.

Jennifer Joseph, who goes by Jonnie Jay on KUYI Hopi Radio, recalls when reggae was first introduced to Hopi.

“The artists that came, they didn’t play to crowds that were 10,000,” Joseph said. “They played to crowds of less than a hundred. But they came and they came and they came because they felt the roots. They felt the connection.”

For three decades many Hopi have adopted reggae as their music of choice. It’s difficult to travel the three mesas that make up the reservation without seeing several gold, red and green bumper stickers, not to mention someone in a Bob Marley T-shirt.

Joseph said the Hopi can connect with a lot of reggae music’s themes, but oppression really hits home.

“Although they sing about their strife and issues where they live, we can really relate to it,” Joseph said. “Those are the same issues we face everyday up to today. And it’s always Babylon coming down on us…”

…KUYI Hopi Radio general manager Richard Davis said reggae has been a powerful yet peaceful expression.

“The message of peaceful resistance, conscious resistance is definitely something that is a direct link between Hopi culture and reggae music,” Davis said…

“Ziggy Marley he says love is his religion,” Joseph said. “Love is our religion. We were once the same people. When we came to this world we were all one people.”

Glad to hear the Reggae continues. I was at the Sunsplash concerts on Hopi Tribal land, early days. Great fun. Audiences tended to be Hopi, Anglos and Apaches. Navajos rarely attended – no surprise. I don’t know if that ever changed.

The music was a gas and, yes, it fit right. RTFA for context.

Why do Republicans want a Free Market for disease?

image

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, spent Tuesday being the butt of several jokes after his comments on hand washing went public. During an appearance at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Monday, Tillis argued that restaurants should be able to opt-out of the requirement that employees wash their hands after using the restroom, as long as they let customers know.

…“I said: ‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,”’” he recalled, as the audience chuckled. “The market will take care of that.’”

The senator’s comments have inspired a dozen jokes about hand washing (Salon: “If you ever see Sen. @ThomTillis out campaigning, don’t let him shake your hand or kiss your baby.” MSNBC: “Sen. Thom Tillis’ constituents might want to think twice before shaking his hand.”) But Tillis isn’t arguing that employees shouldn’t wash their hands after using the restroom. He’s arguing that the government shouldn’t be the reason your employees wash their hands—the fear of going out of business because people think your restaurant serves feces-covered food should be the reason employees wash their hands.

The problem with Tillis’s comment isn’t that he thinks employees should be allowed to opt out of post-poop hand washings, but that he’d rather make things easier for businesses than safe for consumers. Tillis’s example takes pressure off businesses to provide safe food, and forces consumers to judge every meal’s likelihood of making them violently ill…

The reasons for regulations are premised in standards. Knowledge, science, reason are all involved in the process. One quality is eliminating all the foolishness from ignorance. We don’t need to rediscover salmonella and the illnesses caused – every time we go to a restaurant for a meal. No different from standards for tire safety and recommended air pressures. One reason, for example, why I prefer Asian tires made to meet Japan’s standards. They are the most demanding in the world.

Free market idealogues, strict libertarians – have a unique and egregious personality disorder. At a minimum, you simply needn’t waste time reinventing the wheel every time you step out the door to participate in ordinary commerce. In fact, a great many processes are simplified. Responsible governance has no problem establishing standards and enforcing them.

Children of the Night — from Reuters Wider Image

Seris Bros
Click to enlarge

Twenty-one-year-old French twins Vincent and Thomas Seris lead an ordinary life no different to others their age – as long as it takes place after sunset.

During the day, the men only venture out in attire resembling astronauts to protect themselves from the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays, or risk developing fatal types of cancer.

Colloquially referred to as the “Children of the Night” — or Les Enfants de la Lune in French — the Seris twins are among 70 to 80 people in France who suffer from Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), a rare genetic disorder.

The two men have been testing out a new protective mask which is transparent and ventilated and developed by several hospitals in the country.

There are up to 10,000 XP sufferers in the world, according to the French association “Les Enfants de la Lune.”

Surviving in circumstances comfortable in comparison to poorer folks in a poorer country, you still can’t count the Seris brothers as lucky – being able to live a long and fulfilling life. Still, they are treated by most ignorant strangers as if they were lepers passing through a market in the 18th Century.

RTFA. A worthwhile read. The Wider Image is one of the best things about Reuters.