Researchers recreated a 10th century potion for eye infections from Bald’s Leechbook, an Old English volume in the British Library, to see if it really works as an antibacterial remedy.
Their findings show that Bald’s eye salve kills up to 90 percent of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). bacteria in in vivo wound biopsies from mouse models.
Christina Lee, associate professor in Viking studies and member of University of Nottingham’s Institute for Medieval Research, had the idea to test the ancient remedy. Lee translated the recipe from a transcript of the original Old English manuscript.Following the recipe
The recipe calls for two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine, and oxgall (bile from a cow’s stomach). It describes a very specific method of making the topical solution, including the use of a brass vessel to brew it in, straining to purify it, and an instruction to leave the mixture for nine days before use.
“We thought that Bald’s eye salve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity, because each of the ingredients has been shown by other researchers to have some effect on bacteria in the lab—copper and bile salts can kill bacteria, and the garlic family of plants make chemicals that interfere with the bacteria’s ability to damage infected tissues,” says microbiologist Freya Harrison.
“But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was. We tested it in difficult conditions, too. We let our artificial ‘infections’ grow into dense, mature populations called biofilms, where the individual cells bunch together and make a sticky coating that makes it hard for antibiotics to reach them.
“But unlike many modern antibiotics, Bald’s eye salve has the power to breach these defenses.”Artificial and real wounds
Researchers tested the remedy on cultures of the commonly found and hard to treat bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, in both synthetic wounds and in infected wounds in mice.
The team made artificial wound infections by growing bacteria in plugs of collagen and then exposed them to each of the individual ingredients, or the full recipe.
None of the individual ingredients alone had any measurable effect, but when combined according to the recipe the Staphylococcus populations were almost totally obliterated: about one bacterial cell in a thousand survived.‘Genuinely amazed’
The team then went on to see what happened if they diluted the eye salve—as it is hard to know just how much of the medicine bacteria would be exposed to when applied to a real infection.
They found that when the medicine is too dilute to kill Staphylococcus aureus, it interfered with bacterial cell-cell communication (quorum sensing). This is a key finding, because bacteria have to talk to each other to switch on the genes that allow them to damage infected tissues.
Many microbiologists think that blocking this behavior could be an alternative way of treating infection.
“When we built this recipe in the lab I didn’t really expect it to actually do anything. When we found that it could actually disrupt and kill cells in S. aureus biofilms, I was genuinely amazed,” says collaborator Steve Diggle.
Kendra Rumbaugh carried out in vivo testing of the Bald’s remedy on MRSA infected skin wounds in mice at Texas Tech University.
“We know that MRSA infected wounds are exceptionally difficult to treat in people and in mouse models. We have not tested a single antibiotic or experimental therapeutic that is completely effective; however, this ‘ancient remedy’ performed as good if not better than the conventional antibiotics we used,” says Rumbaugh.
“The rise of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria and the lack of new antimicrobials in the developmental pipeline are key challenges for human health,” adds Harrison. “There is a pressing need to develop new strategies against pathogens because the cost of developing new antibiotics is high and eventual resistance is likely.”
Harrison will present the findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology this week in Birmingham.
The AncientBiotics team at Nottingham is seeking more funding to extend the project.
The University of Nottingham is committed to the principles of the 3Rs of reduction, refinement and replacement. For each project it ensures, as far as is reasonably practicable, that no alternative to the use of animals is possible, that the number of animals used is minimized, and that procedures, care routines, and husbandry are refined to maximize welfare. The University is a signatory member of the UK Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.
Source: University of Nottingham
Miniaturization may be tough, but there's still room to drive down power consumption in modern computers
Until now electric fences and trenches have been the best way to protect farms and villages from nighttime raids by hungry elephants. Now, there may be a better way: the recorded sound of angry predators.
For a new study, researchers set up infrared sensor playback systems where elephants triggered the sound of growling tigers, leopards, and angry shouts of villagers as they approached farmers’ fields.
In 41 attempted raids, tiger sounds stopped the elephants 90 percent of the time, the sound of leopards deterred them 73 percent of the time, and human shouts prevented 57 percent of the attempts.Hungry, hungry elephants
“This technique was tested using static devices. Although the elephants shied away from the specific area they would eventually find another way into the field,” says Vivek Thuppil, assistant professor of psychology at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.
“So static recordings like this would work in locations where there is a narrow path of entry to farmland.
“Now I am interested in investigating how an elephant would respond to threatening sounds if they were not emanating from a stationary source. To accomplish this, there would be a network of speakers and an intruding elephant’s location would be tracked continuously with only the speaker nearest the elephant being activated. This would simulate persistent tracking of an elephant by a predator.”Fool me once—but not twice
Elephants live off roots, grasses, fruit, and bark and the Earth’s largest land mammal needs to consume over 275 pounds of food in a single day to satisfy its huge appetite. As the Asian elephant’s natural habitat is squeezed to make way for agriculture, new roads, and development, conflict between elephants and humans is an increasing problem.
For the study, published in Oryx—the International Journal of Conservation, researchers tested two infrared systems, one that was more complex and realistic, and one that was simple enough for farmers to set up around their fields.
Both were effective in deterring elephants. But it seems an elephant never does forget, and those that encountered the noises more than once were less likely to be fooled.
Thuppil will next collaborate with the Management and Ecology of the Malaysian Elephant, a research project at UNMC led by Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz that is fitting wild elephants with specially designed collars packed with satellite and cell phone technology. The aim is to learn more about the Asian elephant and how to mitigate the growing problem of human-elephant conflict.
Richard G. Coss from the University of California, Davis, is a coauthor of the study.
Source: University of Nottingham
No matter what meal strikes you as comfort food, you likely love the dish based on a good relationship with the person you remember first preparing it.
The findings have implications for better understanding how social factors influence our food preferences and eating behavior.
“Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children. As long we have positive association with the person who made that food then there’s a good chance that you will be drawn to that food during times of rejection or isolation,” says psychologist Shira Gabriel of the University at Buffalo.
“It can be understood as straight-up classical conditioning.”
Previous research has shown that comfort food can reduce feelings of rejection and isolation. This new study, published in the journal Appetite, suggests why certain foods are attractive when we are feeling down.
“Because comfort food has a social function,” she says, “it is especially appealing to us when we are feeling lonely or rejected. The current study helps us understand why we might be eating comfort foods even when we’re dieting or not particularly hungry,” she says.
For some of the study participants, comfort food was a healthy food choice, for others, it was starchy and fatty.
“For a lot of people it is the food they grew up eating,” says Gabriel.
“In a previous study, we gave all of the participants chicken noodle soup,” says Gabriel. “But only those who had a social connection to that soup identified it as a comfort food and felt socially accepted after eating it.”
This research gives insight into a unique method by which people can feel socially connected and safe—through eating comfort foods. Because a threatened sense of belonging is related to mental and physical health risks, the researchers say it’s important to learn how that vulnerability can be managed.
However, this method of filling social needs is not without risks. As Gabriel says, “Although comfort food will never break your heart, it might destroy your diet.”
Source: University at Buffalo
Survey shows that left-leaning scientists are taking more notice of historically minor parties.
Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2015.17238