Sunday 31 January 2021

Feces and algorithms: Artificial Intelligence to map our intestinal bacteria

The intestines and their bacteria are sometimes called our 'second brain', but studying these bacteria in their natural environment is difficult. Now researchers have developed a method that uses artificial intelligence to map intestinal bacteria using feces. The researchers thus hope to gain more knowledge of the role played by these bacteria in various diseases. 

University of Copenhagen researchers have developed a ground-breaking technique that can help us unravel some of the mysteries of the human intestinal bacteria. Aside from working together with the immune system in a vital cooperation, imbalance in the intestinal bacteria composition is the cause of chronic disease of the alimentary tract of which 50,000 Danes suffer.

Faeces contain remains of the bacteria that have helped metabolise the food in the stomach and intestines and thus offer unique insight into an otherwise inaccessible environment. So far technology has only allowed researchers to read fragments of the bacteria's' DNA -- which is equivalent to doing a puzzle with only a fraction of the pieces.

For example, if you want to know how polluted soil has affected the microorganisms, you could use the new method to analyse a soil sample from the area in question. The same applies to lakes and watercourses located close to a factory or similar. Or, as Simon Rasmussen points out, if there are bacteria present, they can be now be identified.

See: Jakob Nybo Nissen, Joachim Johansen, Rosa Lundbye Allesøe, Casper Kaae Sønderby, Jose Juan Almagro Armenteros, Christopher Heje Grønbech, Lars Juhl Jensen, Henrik Bjørn Nielsen, Thomas Nordahl Petersen, Ole Winther, Simon Rasmussen. Improved metagenome binning and assembly using deep variational autoencoders. Nature Biotechnology, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41587-020-00777-4

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

Saturday 30 January 2021

Compatibility (chemical and biological) of disinfection agents and processes with Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical products


When selecting cleaning agents and disinfectants, a User Requirement Specification (URS) should be drawn up. One of the important points is compatibility. This refers to three key areas[i]:

a) Compatibility between the selected disinfectant(s) and the in-use detergents,

b) Compatibility with the selected disinfectant(s) and the different surface materials to which they are applied,

c) Disinfectant residues which might contain trace toxic compounds.



With detergents, it is important that any detergent used should be compatible with the disinfectants used, for some detergents can leave residues which can neutralise the active ingredient in certain disinfectants thereby reducing the microcidal properties of the disinfectant. Non-ionic detergents are the most commonly used in healthcare and pharmaceuticals because such detergents are compatible with most commercial disinfectants.


With surfaces, it is important to specify the range of surfaces that the disinfectant is intended to be used on, such as stainless steel, glass, vinyl, terrazzo and so on. This is important as some disinfectants corrode or discolour particular materials. Furthermore, some disinfectants may be less effective with certain materials or may cause excessive damage to certain materials, such as the reaction of chlorine dioxide against stainless steel.


With disinfectant residues, as well as theoretically leading to a risk of resistant strains, toxic compounds could be left behind at the end of the disinfection process which might contaminate the drug product. Where this risk exists, surfaces should be cleaned with a pharmaceutical grade water to remove residue traces.


When selecting a new disinfectant it may be important that compatibility trials are undertaken as part of the qualification.

[i] Sandle, T. (2012). The CDC Handbook: A Guide to Cleaning and Disinfecting Cleanrooms, Grosvenor House Publishing: Surrey, UK

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

Friday 29 January 2021

How to take care of the elderly if they are suffering from dementia

Dementia is a condition that results in cognitive and behavioral changes. One of the most common types of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Dementia is a progressive condition, i.e., it worsens over time. The National Institutes on Aging divides Alzheimer's related dementia into three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. 

A guest post by Ashley Rosa.

-          Helping dementia patients with everyday tasks

Most dementia patients are able to enjoy life in the same way as before in the early stages of the ailment. However, as symptoms worsen with time, patients may feel stressed, anxious, and scared of losing their memory, concentrating, and following conversations.

Therefore, it is essential to provide dementia patients with help to tackle everyday tasks, maintain skills, and retain an active social life. A caregiver can provide a dementia patient with routine tasks such as laying the table, shopping for groceries, or simply taking the dog for a walk.

Use memory aids around the house to help the patient recognize and remember things. Labels and signs on drawers, cupboards, and doors are excellent for the job. Over time, dementia patients struggle with communication as well. Therefore, as a caregiver, you must change your way of conversing with them as well.

-          Helping dementia patients with eating and drinking

A well-balanced diet to maintain good health is essential for everyone, not just dementia patients. Dementia patients tend not to drink enough water because they often fail to realize that they are thirsty. Reduced water intake puts them at risk of acquiring UTIs and experiencing constipation as well as headaches, all of which may result in increased confusion, worsening their symptoms.

When it comes to food, dementia patients may struggle to recognize foods and forget their taste preferences as well. Moreover, they may refuse to ingest food or, worse, spit it out even. These behaviors result due to various reasons, including confusion, deteriorating cognition, impaired swallowing, and oral pain.

As a caregiver, you can employ certain tips to ease the process for patients. For starters, assign enough time for meals to make the experience relaxing and accommodating for the patient. Offer them food that they like in small portions. Finger foods are a good option, especially because most dementia patients struggle with cutlery. Be prepared to encounter any changes in taste preferences. As for fluids, make sure you provide them with a glass or cup that is easy to hold and lightweight.

Moreover, arrange regular dental check-ups to ensure optimum dental health. Most elderly dementia patients with dentures experience pain, discomfort, and mouth sores. Unfortunately, they are unable to communicate the issue, and the problem can go unnoticed. In case there is an issue, you can seek treatment immediately.

-          Helping dementia patients with going to the toilet

Elderly dementia patients may often experience issues such as urinary and bowel incontinence. These may result as a side effect of medication or due to UTIs or constipation. Moreover, patients may also forget the need to use the toilet or locate it even, owing to progressive memory loss and confusion.

Caregivers must be patient and remember that the patient is helpless in this regard. Try putting up a sign on the door with a matching picture to enable easier understanding. There is an increased risk of falls in dementia patients. Thus, it is best to keep the toilet door open or get rid of the locks as patients can lock themselves in and forget how to unlock the door. Keep a light on at night or install sensor lights that make movement detection easier. Be sure to keep the bathroom floors dry at all times to prevent slippage.

Try to keep the patient active all day to help bowel movements. Make sure they are consuming enough water to stay hydrated. Look for signs that may signal the need to use the toilet, such as restlessness, fidgeting, etc. It also helps to question patients about wanting to use the bathroom as well. Use waterproof bedding just to be safe in the case of mid-sleep leakage.

-          Helping dementia patients with bathing and washing

Washing and bathing are essential everyday tasks that most dementia patients struggle with, making personal hygiene maintenance a rather challenging endeavor. Aside from forgetting the need to wash up, they may feel overwhelmed by random things such as the water rush from the showerhead, the water in the tub being too deep, or falling. Additionally, they may also feel embarrassed to undress in front of anyone else.

Washing and bathing is a very private activity, which makes hesitation on the patient's part understandable. As a caregiver, it is essential to instill trust between you and the patient. Stay calm and be patient with them. Question them about how they wish to be helped. Reassure your support and help to them, ensuring that you will not let them get hurt or violate their trust.

Once the patient feels comfortable with you, try to be understanding of their needs. Use a soap or shower gel that the patient likes. Use a bath seat for ease or a handheld shower. Be prepared to stay with the patient for a more extended period of time if they wish to do so.

-          Helping dementia patients with sleep problems

Sleep problems are a commonly reported concern among dementia patients as dementia has been proven to mess with the body’s circadian rhythm. Most patients experience symptoms such as insomnia or interrupted sleep. The lack of sleep may result in disorientation during the day. Sleep problems do not necessarily persist for a prolonged period of time. Most sleep-related symptoms present in phases and settle over time. You can look into more dementia-related issues and concerns on forums such as to get an insight on how to deal with all such cases.

As a caregiver, it helps to put a dementia-friendly clock in the room that shows whether it is day or night. Cut out caffeine and alcohol with the patient's diet as they can mess sleep schedules. Limit nap times during the day as well. A long nap only makes insomnia worse. Make sure the patient gets enough exercise during daylight hours. Exercise results in exhaustion, thus promoting better sleep. Moreover, ensure that the patient's bed is comfortable, they have reduced screen time before bedtime, and the lights are off at bedtime.

-          Looking after yourself as a caregiver

Caring for an elderly dementia patient is not an easy feat and can be quite stressful. Therefore, it is critical to look after yourself in addition to taking care of the patient as well. Give yourself time. Seek support from a friend, family member, or a support group. Share your emotions and experiences with other caregivers to feel understood and heard. If you are struggling by any chance, seek counseling or therapy.

If it gets too overwhelming for you, consider taking a break from caregiving. If it is a family member you are caring for, ask someone else to help you out and give you a time out. If you do not have firsthand help at your disposal, find help at respite care or day centers.

-          Parting thoughts

Caring for the elderly combatting dementia is an arduous endeavor, but it promises excellent outcomes. A caregiver enables patients to deal with their illness comfortably. Moreover, it allows them to maintain their independence and feel more stable.

The role of a caregiver is gaining increasing recognition because it involves physical and emotional labor. As dementia progresses, so will the patient’s needs. Be sure to set aside time for yourself in the process as well.

About Ashley Rosa: Ashley Rosa is a freelance writer and blogger. As writing is her passion that why she loves to write articles related to the latest trends in technology and sometimes on health-tech as well.  She is crazy about chocolates. You can find her at twitter: @ashrosa2.

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