Sewage measures global levels of antimicrobial resistance

❝ A comprehensive analysis of sewage collected in 74 cities in 60 countries has yielded the first, comparable global data, which show the levels and types of antimicrobial resistant bacteria that are present in mainly healthy people in these countries. The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, headed the study, which was conducted by an international team of researchers.

❝ In a metagenomics study, the researchers have mapped out all the DNA material in the sewage samples and found that according to antimicrobial resistance the world’s countries fall within two groups. North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand generally have the lowest levels of antimicrobial resistance, while Asia, Africa and South America have the highest levels.

Brazil, India and Vietnam have the greatest diversity in resistance genes, while Australia and New Zealand have the lowest…

❝ According to the researchers, the use of antimicrobials only explains a minor part of the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in the various countries…Their work shows that most of the variables, which are associated with the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in a country, are related to the sanitary conditions in the country and the population’s general state of health.

Nothing startling. Still, worth keeping your brain – and behavior – up to date on news about a growing problem.

DNA Reveals Intricate Connections Between The First People of The Americas

Comparisons between two extraordinary sets of ancient American remains have added rich detail to the spread of ancient human populations through the New World more than 13,000 years ago. And it shows a surprising and far-reaching connection between native North, South, and Central Americans.

What started as a simple story of migration is quickly turning into an intricate web of movement and cross-pollination, revealing connections that stretch not just deep into South America, but perhaps around the world.

None of these movements replaced existing populations, but rather show a melting pot of migrations that ebbed and flowed.

Interesting stuff. Information growing from DNA studies proceeds in so many directions as different database projects grow and interchange information. Studies on the formation and intermingling of so many ethnicities are fascinating – confirming or denying myth, legend and early science.

Cat genes and culture


Dawntreader Texas Calboy

Controversy started last December when Mistelle Stevenson entered a Maine coon cat by the name of Dawntreader Texas Calboy in The Cat Fanciers’ Association show in Cleburne. As the cat’s name implies, he is a calico—marked with patches of brown, red, and white—and he is male. Those things do not go together. The basics of feline genetics say calicos are supposed to be female. (“Technically almost genetically impossible,” one Dallas veterinarian told NBC 5.) The judges had no idea what to do with him. The CFA’s inches-thick book of rules didn’t list his color for male cats. Confusion ensued.

❝ Some of the judges held Calboy up to the crowd, praised his lovely form, then gawked over his coloring and promptly kicked him out of their show rings. Others awarded him ribbons. Despite the judges’ disagreement, by the end of his Cleburne weekend, Calboy had accumulated four wins. Two more and he’d be a champion.

❝ Stevenson decided to pack up Calboy and head to the January show in Houston. But by then, word had spread about the questionable cat. Most of the judges wouldn’t allow Calboy to compete due to his gender-defying mottled markings. Still, one broke from the crowd to give him a win. With one more, he’d have enough points to become the first male calico champion in CFA history.

You know nothing easy like updating the rules happened. That never would make it into newsprint. Nope. The usual hidebound, ignoranus mentality you would expect from folks whose avocations are dedicated to purity were bound to fight to someone else’s death to preserve and protect their silliness.

RTFA. And thanks to UrsaRodinia for sending me a really interesting, well-written story about a radical cat and a boatload of backwards humans.

America’s oldest dog discovery

❝ Some 10,000 years ago, in what is now Koster, Illinois, a dog died. Its adopted group of hunter gatherers carefully laid the pup to rest in its own grave among their buried human dead, curled on its side as if it were asleep.

Today, this may not seem surprising — after all, modern dogs are often more “fur baby” than pet. But this ancient Illinois dog, and a duo of other canines buried right nearby, are remarkable: They’re the oldest known individually buried canines found anywhere in the world, according to new research on the pre-print server Biorxiv. What’s more, they provide the earliest physical evidence for dogs in the Americas.

❝ The remains of these creatures has also proved key to solving an important canine conundrum: What happened to the dogs of ancient North America? Did they intermix with dogs brought by European settlers? And what breeds today can call them ancestors? A second new study, published in the journal Science, uses a battery of DNA analyses of both modern and ancient canines to search for clues.

Dogs are an important part of my extended family’s life. Lots of reasons. Lots of personal family tales. Many of you probably have similar tales, experiences in your own life.

I can tell you names of dogs living with folks I follow on Twitter – when I can’t recall names of their partners or children. 🙂 Right, Cooper? Right, J.K.Growling?

Discovered: a family of viruses that dominate the oceans

❝ The ocean is crowded. As many as 10 million viruses can be found squirming in a single millilitre of its water, and it turns out they have friends we never even knew about.

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown family of viruses that dominate the ocean and can’t be detected by standard lab tests. Researchers suspect this viral multitude may already exist outside the water — maybe even inside us.

“We don’t think it’s ocean-specific at all,” says environmental microbiologist Martin Polz from MIT…

❝ The team calls their discovery Autolykiviridae, after Autolykos (“the wolf itself”): a character from Greek mythology, who as a trickster and thief proved similarly tricky to catch.

But Autolykiviridae has been caught, and now that we know about it, the discovery is helping scientists to fill in a large missing link in virus evolution.

RTFA. Fascinating stuff. Cue your favorite sci-fi music in the background though I think it unnecessary. Real science is already scary enough to some.

The diaspora of modern humans across Eurasia — update and revision


Migration routes — Click to enlarge

❝ Most people are now familiar with the traditional “Out of Africa” model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research, are revising this story. Recent discoveries show that humans left Africa multiple times prior to 60,000 years ago, and that they interbred with other hominins in many locations across Eurasia.

A review of recent research on dispersals by early modern humans from Africa to Asia by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa confirms that the traditional view of a single dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa around 60,000 years ago can no longer be seen as the full story. The analysis, published in the journal Science, reviews the plethora of new discoveries being reported from Asia over the past decade, which were made possible by technological advances and interdisciplinary collaborations, and shows that Homo sapiens reached distant parts of the Asian continent, as well as Near Oceania, much earlier than previously thought. Additionally, evidence that modern humans interbred with other hominins already present in Asia, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, complicates the evolutionary history of our species.

The Max Planck Institute is the gold standard for research into the evolutionary biology of homo sapiens. When original discussions stretched around the world at the turn of the 21st Century, debate and discussion took over a great deal of public and non-institutional dialogue on the latest discussions of evolution. Scuence readers and writers as well as core researchers were all involved.

I spent about 2 years getting my head around the results of the first DNA analysis providing deeper genetic and chronological analysis previously impossible. While spirited debate was often the order of the day – well above the perpetual attempts to educate superstitious folk stuck into biblical fiction – I have rarely so enjoyed the weekly expansion of knowledge rolling out the doors of the Max Planck Institute like tides changing the face of the intellectual Earth after an Ice Age.

Oh, yeah. Between 3 and 4% of my overall DNA is Neanderthal. Never was one of those straight-up white guys. 🙂

Scientists from Australia, US and NZ find signs of unknown life in Antarctic ice caves

❝ Lifeforms could exist in warm caves hollowed out of ice by volcanoes in Antarctica.

While that may sound akin to a science-fiction movie plot, scientists say they found plant, animal and unknown DNA in caves on the frozen continent.

Ceridwen Fraser…is the lead researcher of a team which has investigated caverns at Ross Island….She said forensic analyses of soil samples had revealed traces of DNA from algae, mosses and small animals found elsewhere in Antarctica. But some of the DNA sequences could not be fully identified.

❝ While the surface temperature is about —45C, some caves can reach a comparatively balmy 25C…“You could comfortably wear a T-shirt in there,” Dr Fraser said…

Scientists say the next step is to take a closer look at the caves and search for living organisms.

Keep an eye on this one. We may have to revive the ghost of James Arness.

Babies with three parents OK in UK

❝ Babies made from two women and one man have been approved by the UK’s fertility regulator…The historic and controversial move is to prevent children being born with deadly genetic diseases.

Doctors in Newcastle – who developed the advanced form of IVF – are expected to be the first to offer the procedure and have already appealed for donor eggs.

The first such child could be born, at the earliest, by the end of 2017.

❝ Some families have lost multiple children to incurable mitochondrial diseases, which can leave people with insufficient energy to keep their heart beating.

The diseases are passed down from only the mother so a technique using a donor egg as well as the mother’s egg and father’s sperm has been developed.

The resulting child has a tiny amount of their DNA from the donor, but the procedure is legal and reviews say it is ethical and scientifically ready…

❝ Clinics can now apply to the HFEA for a licence to conduct three-person IVF…

The team at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University is expected to be the first to be granted a licence…

❝ NHS England has agreed to fund the treatment costs of the first trial of three-person IVF for those women who meet the HFEA criteria, as long as they agree to long-term follow up of their children after they are born.

OK for the UK. Anyone think it will be legal anytime soon in OK? Har.

RTFA for details about the procedure. Yes, this can lead to a slippery slope of cures that panic True Believers and the whole brigade of anti-science whiners.

While opposition to scientific progress hasn’t especially grown since, say, the Victorian era, it boggles the mind how spooky, sanctimonius bible-thumping scares the crap out of purportedly modern politicians.

Some Pacific Islanders have DNA of a previously unknown human ancestor

papua-new-guinea

❝ Most everyone knows that the islands of the South Pacific are some of the most remote and unique places on Earth, but a new study reveals just how unique they really are.

…Researchers have found traces of a previously unknown extinct hominid species in the DNA of the Melanesians, a group living in an area northeast of Australia that encompasses Papua New Guinea and the surrounding islands.

❝ A computer analysis suggests that the unidentified ancestral hominid species found in Melanesian DNA is unlikely to be either Neanderthal or Denisovan, the two known predecessors of humankind to this point.

❝ Archaeologists have found many Neanderthal fossils in Europe and Asia, and although the only Denisovan DNA comes from a finger bone and a couple of teeth discovered in a Siberian cave, both species are well represented in the fossil record.

But now genetic modeling of the Melanesians has revealed a third, different human ancestor that may be an extinct, distinct cousin of the Neanderthals.

“We’re missing a population, or we’re misunderstanding something about the relationships,” said researcher Ryan Bohlender…“Human history is a lot more complicated than we thought it was.”

One of the confounding delights of scientific methods becoming more accurate, more capable of revealing features contributing to a much larger system – the analysis can become more complex and expand the search for knowledge at the same time.