Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Restricted Access Barriers vs. Isolators: An Energy Consumption Comparison

Instead of comparing barrier systems solely in terms of investment costs, energy consumption offers another insightful approach – especially as it is in line with the recent trend towards green pharmaceutical manufacturing.

This is the basis of an article by Dr. Johannes Rauschnabel, Chief Pharma Expert at Bosch Packaging Technology.

Here is an extract:

“Depending on ambient conditions, regulatory- and production-related parameters and the respective air supply systems, the energy consumption of Restricted Access Barrier Systems (RABS) and isolators varies significantly. For instance, isolator systems can save up to 65 percent of energy compared with RABS, while active RABS are up to 30 percent more energy-efficient than passive RABS.”

The article can be accessed here.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Quaternary Ammonium Compound Disinfectants against Mycobacteria

A new article (by Tim Sandle) of interest:

Abstract: This paper discusses the use in dental practices of quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC) and alcohol-based disinfectants in relation to bactericidal efficacy against mycobacteria. QAC disinfectants are commonly used in dental practices, although there are concerns about their efficacy against tuberculosis-causing bacteria. The paper discusses a recent study where two QAC products (ready-to-use and saturated wipe liquor presentations) were tested, using a recognized suspension test, at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration, under simulated ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ conditions. The test data indicated that, after a 10-minute contact time, suitable kill of the test organism was not obtained. These findings raise questions about the suitability of QAC disinfectants for dental practices.

CPD/Clinical Relevance: Tuberculosis, a disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is increasingly becoming a communicable disease of concern. It is important that dental practices ensure that a suitable level of decontamination takes place between patients. QAC disinfectants may not be suitable for this purpose and alternative biocides, like alcohol, may need to be considered.

The article can be accessed here: Dental Update

The reference is:

Sandle, T. (2016) Evaluation of Quaternary Ammonium Compound Disinfectants  against Mycobacteria in Dental Practices, Dental Update, 43, 723-726

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Monday, 5 December 2016

MICs for multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria against common biocides

A new research paper of interest has been published - Determination of minimum inhibitory concentrations of common biocides to multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria

The abstract is:

Background: Until now, very few studies have investigated the susceptibility profile of biocides to nosocomial pathogens and none reported in the Saudi Arabia. Hence, the aim of this study was to detect the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of a range of multidrug resistant (MDR) bacteria: Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae against three common hospital disinfectants: chlorhexidine, benzalkonium chloride and cetrimide.

Methods: The in vitro susceptibility tests of the three biocides were studied against 21 MDR A. baumannii, 11 MDR P. aeruginosa and 3 MDR K. pneumoniae strains, isolated from various clinical specimens in the Qassim region, Saudi Arabia. The susceptibility testing was performed by broth microdilution method following Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute guidelines. Results : Among 35 isolates tested, there was no reduced susceptibility observed in A. baumannii and K. pneumoniae, however, two isolates of P. aeruginosa were showed reduced susceptibility (> 512 µg/mL) against benzalkonium chloride and cetrimide.

Conclusion :Our observations imply that reduced susceptibility was observed with quaternary ammonium compounds against P. aeruginosa and no apparent relationship exists between specific disinfectants and their multidrug resistance character in A. baumannii and K. pneumoniae. Further studies are required to confirm these results in terms of biocides resistance.

The reference is:

Vijayakumar, R., Al- Aboody, M. S., AlFonaisan, M. K., Alturaiki, W., Mickymaray, S., Premanathan, M., Alsagaby, S. A. and Sandle, T. (2016) Determination of minimum inhibitory concentrations of common biocides to multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria, Applied Medical Research, 2 (3): 56-62 (DOI: 10.5455/amr.20161012082036)

For a copy, please contact Tim Sandle

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Sunday, 4 December 2016

20 Common Household Odors and How to Remove Them Fast

Does E. coli’s resistance change in space?

Have you ever wondered about what happens to Escherichia coli’s resistance to antibiotics in space? A partnership between NASA’s Ames Research Center and Stanford University, both USA, has led to the creation of the E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat). This project will be investigating the effects of space microgravity – the weightlessness of being in space – on the bacterium’s resistance levels, important because astronauts’ immune systems are often weakened when on missions. The study will see various strains of E. coli sent into space, with their resistance to different concentrations of antibiotics tracked using a special kind of dye. The results  from this project could be useful in the future for prescribing the right dose of antibiotics for future astronauts.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Extreme microorganisms living in fracking wells

Microbes have a remarkable ability to adapt to the extreme conditions in fracking wells. Scientists led by researchers at Ohio State University found that microbes consume some of the chemical ingredients commonly used in the fracking process, creating new compounds which in turn support microbial communities below ground. The process allows the microbes to survive in very harsh environments that include very high temperatures, pressures, and salinity.

The work, based on samples from hydraulically fractured wells in Pennsylvania and Ohio, helps scientists understand the complex interactions among microbes -- important for understanding the planet's environment and subsurface. The findings also help scientists understand what is happening in fracking wells and could offer insight into processes such as corrosion.
The team studied microbes in fracking fluid from more than a mile and a half below the ground surface. Researchers measured the metabolic by-products excreted by the microbes, which can tell scientists what compounds the microbes are producing, where they are drawing energy from, and what they need to stay alive.

Using multiple samples drawn from the two wells over a 10-month period, the team identified 31 different microbes in fluids produced from hydraulically fractured shales. The team found that fractured shales contained similar microbial communities even though they came from wells hundreds of miles apart in different kinds of shale formations.

The complex mix -- with some microbes producing compounds that others use or feed upon -- produces some interesting outcomes. One particularly interesting compound, glycine betaine, is what allows the microbes to thrive by protecting them against the high salinity found in the wells. Other microbes can subsequently degrade the compound to generate more food for the bacteria that produce methane. Yet another process may produce substances that contribute to the corrosion of the steel infrastructure in wells.

The scientists even discovered a new strain of bacteria inside the wells which it dubbed "Frackibacter."

For further details see:

Rebecca A. Daly, Mikayla A. Borton, Michael J. Wilkins, David W. Hoyt, Duncan J. Kountz, Richard A. Wolfe, Susan A. Welch, Daniel N. Marcus, Ryan V. Trexler, Jean D. MacRae, Joseph A. Krzycki, David R. Cole, Paula J. Mouser, Kelly C. Wrighton. Microbial metabolisms in a 2.5-km-deep ecosystem created by hydraulic fracturing in shales.Nature Microbiology, 2016; 1 (10): 16146 DOI:10.1038/NMICROBIOL.2016.146

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Friday, 2 December 2016

Predatory bacteria and antibiotics

Predatory bacteria secrete enzymes that target specific cellular features of prey bacteria, such as peptidoglycan on the cell wall, which ultimately kills the cells. Yet considering that there are often structural similarities between predatory and prey bacteria, how are predatory bacteria not killed by their own weapons? This phenomenon has recently been elucidated in a Nature Communications report: Bdellovibrio bacteriovirus bacteria express a protein, Bd3460, which neutralizes the toxic enzyme until it has been secreted from the cell. How can these findings help us combat antimicrobial resistance?

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Engineering against antibiotic resistance with antimicrobial copper

In the WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), backed by the UN, the prevention of infection is one of five strategies to tackle the global rise of AMR.

Pathogenic bacteria can survive on standard environmental surfaces in healthcare facilities, leading to the risk of patients acquiring an infection. Bacteria deposited and surviving on a surface can exchange genes, including those for antibiotic resistance, which can result in new, resistant strains.

Hand hygiene, and surface cleaning and disinfection are standard measures to prevent and control HCAIs, but more needs to be done to prevent the spread of pathogens by staff, visitors and patients touching contaminated surfaces.

Professor Bill Keevil, Chair in Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton, is a leading expert on the hygienic properties of copper, and believes replacing frequently-touched surfaces with antimicrobial copper equivalents, teamed with good hygiene practices, could help address both the environmental spread of contamination and the rise of antibiotic resistance.

Copper is a powerful antimicrobial with rapid, broad-spectrum efficacy against bacteria and viruses, and has been shown to kill disease-causing pathogens, including influenza A, E.coli and norovirus, and resistant bacteria including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). It shares this benefit with a range of copper alloys, such as brasses and bronzes, forming a family of materials collectively called ‘antimicrobial copper’.

‘We’ve shown that antimicrobial copper touch surfaces produce a rapid kill of bacteria, viruses and fungi, usually within minutes,’ says Professor Keevil. ‘EPIC 3 - the national, evidence-based guidelines for preventing HCAIs in NHS Hospitals in England - recognise high-touch surfaces made from antimicrobial copper harbour 80-90% fewer bacteria than equivalent, non-copper surfaces. A multicentre trial in the US further showed a concurrent 58% reduction in HCAIs in ICU rooms equipped with antimicrobial copper touch surfaces.’

Professor Keevil also observes that gene transfer between bacteria does not occur on copper because bacteria are destroyed rapidly and completely. This means the genes for antibiotic resistance can’t be exchanged, contributing to a reduced likelihood of new resistant strains emerging.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

LAL roundtable

Tim Sandle has participated in an endotoxin / LAL discussion, published in American Pharmaceutical Review. The discussion addresses key issues like low endotoxin recovery, together with future developments in LAL testing.

Here is an extract: “Dr. Tim Sandle: I think the difference between purified LPS and natural endotoxin complexes is established, and they will behave differently under conditions of the test.

The issue of low endotoxin one is important, although the subject is causing some confusion for LAL users. It would be good to get a consensus between the providers of LAL regents together with a clear signal from the regulators.”

The roundtable discussion appears in:

LAL Roundtable, American Pharmaceutical Review, 19(6): 47-51

The feature can be accessed here: APR

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Design and Construction Standards to Build a Cleanroom

To maintain and assure quality, there are specific standards that apply to these spaces and guide the process of constructing and operating the rooms. While adhering to these requirements makes designing and constructing a cleanroom more complex than conventional construction projects, the standards serve as a blueprint for the successful completion of a cleanroom that will meet the exacting demands of the end-user.

Matt Strong has written an interesting article for Controlled Environments titled “Applying Design and Construction Standards to Successfully Build a Cleanroom.”

Here is an extract: “The first step in the cleanroom design process involves creating the Utility Matrix (UM), which outlines detailed specifications on each piece of equipment used in the cleanroom. This document, which is crucial to the cleanroom design, must be created and approved with the participation of the cleanroom operator/user. The UM can be developed directly by the operator, if the expertise exists in-house, or an outside consultant can be brought in to assist in development of the cleanroom layout and process flow. Once it’s completed, designers will use the UM to design the specific support systems required for the cleanroom. The UM remains an important document even after facility construction and should be continually updated throughout the life of the cleanroom.”

The article can be accessed here.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Monday, 28 November 2016

In silico molecular typing methods for Staphylococcus aureus

Currently, many different methods have been developed for subspecies typing of Staphylococcus aureus. However, there is no “ideal” one because of its disadvantages and thus there is no commonly accepted guidelines for the selection of the optimal typing method for epidemiological investigations. The aim of the study was an in silico comparison of widely used typing methods, including Multilocus sequence typing (MLST), Staphylococcus aureus Protein A (spa) typing, Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), Multiple Locus Variable-number Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA) and whole genome multilocus sequence typing (wgMLST), in terms of discriminatory power and coefficients congruence. Quantitative assessment of discriminatory power and correlation of five typing methods: wgMLST, PFGE, MLST, MLVA and spa typing was performed, by targeting the different sites of the Staphylococcus aureus genome (which had evolved at different rates).

This is the basis of a new article of interest. The reference is:

Babenko, A., Turmuhambetova, A., Sandle, T. and Chesca, A. (2016) In silico comparison of molecular typing methods for characterization of Staphylococcus aureus, Acta Medica Mediterranea, 32: 1021-1027

The article can be accessed here.

For details, please contact Tim Sandle

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Sunday, 27 November 2016

New pathogen causes anthrax like disease

A new report has detected a species of Bacillus, genetically distinct to the bacterium that causes anthrax, which causes a similar disease in chimpanzees, gorillas and other animals in Africa.
The newly described bacterium is of significance in terms of environment, ecology and animal health. There is also the possibility that the organism could cause harm to people. The scientists behind the discovery are calling for increased surveillance.
Anthrax is a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, specifically by the spores of the organism. The areas most commonly affected are Africa and southern Asia. The disease is can occur via one of four ways: skin, inhalation, intestinal and injection. The effect of the disease can appear as quickly as one day or up to two months following infection. Many scientists regard anthrax as among the world's major neglected zoonotic diseases.
The main symptoms are blisters forming on the skin that ulcerate and form black centers. This is accompanied by fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath, together with nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The disease is confirmed through antibody testing. Treatment is by antibiotics and sometimes antitoxin.
Detection of the bacterium is difficult because of its similarity with two other species of Bacillus: Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus cereus (they each are members of the B. cereus group). These are also spore-formers (a means for some bacteria to remain dormant under extreme or unfavorable environmental conditions), found in soil.
The ability of Bacillus species to cause disease relates to virulence factors. Some of these factors are encoded on fragments of genetic material that are exchanged between bacteria called plasmids. With the anthrax causing bacterium - B. anthracis – this organism has two plasmids that are responsible for virulence. These are called pXO1 and pXO2.
The newly characterized organism in Africa that causes ‘anthrax-like’ symptoms is a type of B. cereus. This has been examined at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. The organism was isolated from a diseased chimpanzee in Ivory Coast. Typically most B. cereus isolates are non pathogenic. However, some strains can cause food poisoning, due to production of toxins.
Interestingly, the B. cereus bacterium was found to contain the pXO1 and pXO2 'anthrax' plasmids. However it was genetically close to other types of B. cereus and not to B. anthracis. The researchers, led by Dr. Fabian Leendertz,, think the bacterium ‘acquired’ its particular disease causing properties. Moreover, due to its genetic difference the scientists have described the organism as a new species: 'B. cereus biovar (bv) anthracis'.
Further research has tracked down four other isolates of the bacterium, taken from a goat, gorillas, a chimpanzee and an elephant in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively. Each animal was diseased and died from the disease.
These additional isolates also shared the virulence plasmids pXO1 and pXO2. The evidence points to these organisms sharing a common ancestor, and one different to B. anthracis. The organisms each possessed a mutation in a specific gene; however, the four bacteria possessed different physiological properties.
The implications are potentially significant and could cause significant harm for wildlife. The researchers are calling for increased surveillance and testing. A risk to humans cannot be ruled out. With this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is proposing the addition of Bacillus cereus Biovar anthracis to the list of select agents and toxins as a Tier 1 select agent. This means it would be regarded as a potential bio-terrorism threat. According to Outbreak News Today, the CDC has said: "We are taking this action to regulate this agent that is similar to B. anthracis to prevent its misuse, which could cause a biological threat to public health and/or national security."
The new organism is described in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The research paper is headed “Bacillus cereus Biovar Anthracis Causing Anthrax in Sub-Saharan Africa—Chromosomal Monophyly and Broad Geographic Distribution.”

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Saturday, 26 November 2016

New bacteria groups discovered underground

One of the most detailed genomic studies of any ecosystem has revealed an underground world of microbial diversity. The research has added dozens of new branches to the tree of life. The bacterial find comes from scientists who reconstructed the genomes of more than 2,500 microbes from sediment and groundwater samples collected at an aquifer in Colorado.

The scientists netted genomes from 80 percent of all known bacterial phyla, a remarkable degree of biological diversity at one location. They also discovered 47 new phylum-level bacterial groups, naming many of them after influential microbiologists and other scientists. And they learned new insights about how microbial communities work together to drive processes that are critical to the planet's climate and life everywhere, such as the carbon and nitrogen cycles.

Between the 47 new bacterial groups reported in this work, and 35 new groups published last year has led to a doubling of the number of known bacterial groups.

For further details see:

Karthik Anantharaman, Christopher T. Brown, Laura A. Hug, Itai Sharon, Cindy J. Castelle, Alexander J. Probst, Brian C. Thomas, Andrea Singh, Michael J. Wilkins, Ulas Karaoz, Eoin L. Brodie, Kenneth H. Williams, Susan S. Hubbard, Jillian F. Banfield. Thousands of microbial genomes shed light on interconnected biogeochemical processes in an aquifer system. Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 13219 DOI:10.1038/ncomms13219

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

Friday, 25 November 2016

Reshaping our ideas of bacterial evolution

The shape of bacteria does not influence how well they can move -- this is the surprising finding of new research which could have major implications for the future of the scientific and medical industries.

Published in Nature's new Ecology & Evolution journal, the results refute long-held theories that there should be a strong link between the evolution of shape in bacteria and their ability to move.

Setting them apart from larger living organisms such as fish, seals and whales -- for which shape is very important to their ability to swim efficiently -- this new discovery highlights the unusual nature of the environment in which bacteria live.

The extensive study was conducted by Dr Fouad El Baidouri and Professor Stuart Humphries from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, UK, together with Dr Chris Venditti from the University of Reading and was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award. The team drew together information on 325 different species of Firmicutes bacteria to help address a gap in global scientific knowledge about how the shape of single-cell organisms like bacteria affects their mobility, lifestyle and pathogenicity (ability to cause disease).

Professor Humphries explained: "Many evolutionary biologists have asked why animals are shaped the way they are, but until now the scientific community has relied on mathematical models to predict the relationship between shape and movement in bacteria. We expected swimming bacteria to be rod-shaped in order to reduce their energy costs, but experimental tests are rare and, surprisingly, analyses of this relationship in an evolutionary context are lacking entirely.

"Our research has produced evidence that these theoretical predictions don't match reality, at least in this group of bacteria, and it therefore makes a major contribution to our understanding of the evolution of bacteria."

The researchers employed new ways of exploring the evolution of bacteria to more accurately assess the form and function of the cells.

Dr El Baidouri said: "The main focus of our research is to understand why bacteria come in so many different forms, but in order to understand this we needed to find out which bacteria have which shape. With no datasets available, we saw a clear need to collect morphological and ecological data on bacteria -- a task which took several months, and is still ongoing.

"We fully expected to confirm a widely-held belief, backed by strong theoretical predictions, that rod-shaped cells would move more effectively than coccoid (spherical) cells, and that shape and motility had co-evolved. We used a number of approaches to confirm our findings, and to our great surprise we didn't find any association between the two traits."

Contrary to recent evidence, the study also found that neither the ability to cause disease nor the lifestyle of these bacteria (whether it is free-living or host-associated) are affected by shape. These results suggest that, for this group of bacteria at least, they have an even greater evolutionary flexibility than previously thought.

Mass starvation looming for Siberian reindeer

One of the world’s largest concentration of reindeer is to be found in the Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia. A new report presents worrying evidence that the reindeer are threatened with starvation.

In the region of Russia, hundreds of thousands of reindeer are to be found. Many are herded by the indigenous Nenets people. For 2016-2017 a new report suggests that many of the reindeer are threatened due to a scarcity of food.

The report comes from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and it has declared the reindeer to be vulnerable. Since 1990 there has been a steady decline in the population, with a 20 percent decline (around 80,000 animals) over the past twenty-five years.  This is due to scarcity of food and the root cause is climate change.

The largest decline occurred in 2013, when 61,000 reindeer starved to death on the peninsula. This occurred due to atypically thickly layers of snow and ice blocking and obscuring access to food - lichen and other vegetation.

The cause of the unusual ice and snow was attributed to retreating sea ice in the adjoining Barents and Kara Seas, which adjoin the peninsula. The researchers put the sequence of events into a flow diagram, which has been summarized by Laboratory Roots as:

Warming → Sea ice decline → Increased precipitation and winter temperatures → [Rain-on-snow] events → Reindeer mortality.

Essentially, warming temperature causes the melting of ice, which leads to high levels of evaporation and humidity. These temperature effects cause increased rainfall. The rain soaks the snowy ground, and when this is followed by a fall in temperature, the snow freezes leading to a thick layer of ice forming. The layer can prove too thick for the reindeer to smash through.

According to the lead researcher, Dr. Bruce Forbes: “Reindeer are used to sporadic ice cover, and adult males can normally smash through ice around 2 centimeters thick. But in 2006 and 2013, the ice was several tens of centimeters thick”

The concern is that a similar event will occur this coming winter, based on climate predictions. This is based on reducing ice in both the Arctic Sea and the Kara Sea, as collated by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is linked to the University of Lapland in Finland.

The findings are published in journal Biology Letters. The paper is titled “Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia.”

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle