Amusing News Aliquots
Aug30

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Two Tesla coils perform “Sweet Home Alabama.” Rock on, electrical engineering students. [Improbable Research] Squid cells dance to “Insane in the Membrane.” Rock on, neurobiology students. [Discoblog] And you thought Nintendo’s Power Glove was rad back in the day. Now there’s Stanford’s cooling glove. It’s better than steroids. [Stanford News] Soft lighting and mood music in a fast-food restaurant make patrons eat 175 calories less than usual, study shows. Newscripts wonders whether it might just be easier NOT to eat the fast food in the first place and … who funds this stuff? [ScienceDaily] Really old bugs trapped in amber. Just because they’ve been dead for 230 million years doesn’t mean they can’t still give us the creepy crawlies. [CBC News] MRSA vs. Marmite? [Daily Mail] Improbable Research would like to know: Which is better, the Heck Reaction or the Hell Reaction? We’re sure that you’ve got opinions, dear readers. [Improbable Research]...

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TEDMED: Andrew Read’s Five Tips For Keeping Superbugs At Bay
Apr13

TEDMED: Andrew Read’s Five Tips For Keeping Superbugs At Bay

Researchers may like to think they're pretty smart, but you could argue that bacteria have also got some bragging rights. Every day, microbes develop resistance to even the most powerful antibiotics scientists have developed. Andrew Read thinks evolution is the best lens for staring down the superbugs. He took the stage Thursday at TEDMED, where he warned, "we're picking a fight with natural selection." "Picking a fight without Darwin is like going to the moon without Newton," Read added. "We are in the dark ages when it comes to evolutionary management." Read, director of Penn State University's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, sat down with me on Thursday and shared a few principles he thinks the scientific community should keep in mind in order to keep antibiotic resistance in check. Here are his five tips for would-be superbug slayers. Get smart with the drugs you've already got. "We can't rely on a continual supply of new drugs," Read said. Many firms have already exited antibiotic research, he notes. "You can see that the markets aren't good enough right now to drive innovation," since new antibiotics are precious and used only for patients' most severe infections rather than being prescribed widely. Read says firms should continually evaluate dosing and combination strategies with established drugs in order to stave off resistance. "I'm not saying we shouldn't discover new antimicrobials," Read stressed. "In some situations, like malaria, it's really critical. But we don't want to put all our eggs in that basket." Learn from what works. "I think magic bullets are the exception rather than the rule," Read says. But researchers should focus on why wildly successful therapies were so. "Why was that pathogen unable to get around the smallpox vaccine? Why is chloroquine still working against some malarias in some parts of the world when it's has failed miserably in others?" Read asked. Make the right matches for combination therapies. Read notes that some antimalarial drug combinations have consisted of drugs with markedly different half-lives. In effect, once the first drug has left the human body, all that's left is the other drug, a monotherapy. "And that's dangerous," a breeding ground for resistance, Read cautions. "You want to be combining drugs that have similar half-lives." Researchers should also think about whether their antibiotics become more lethal to microbes when used in combination, or less lethal, Read says. Evidence suggests that less lethal is better, he says. According to work from Roy Kishony's lab at Harvard Medical School, if an antibiotic combo is less lethal, once resistance develops to one drug (call it drug A) in the pair, then drug B can...

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