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Ocean Creatures May Hold Key for New Infectious Disease Drugs

Posted Feb 21 2013 10:10pm
Posted on Feb. 18, 2013, 6 a.m. in Infection Protection

Ocean animal species have existed in harmony with their bacteria for millions of years, these benign bacteria have devised molecules that can affect body function without side effects and therefore better fight disease. Oregon Health & Science University (Oregon, USA) researchers, in collaboration with scientists from several other institutions, have established a research partnership called the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Cooperative Biodiversity Group was formed. As the name suggests, the group specifically focuses on mollusks, a large phylum of invertebrate animals, many of which live under the sea. Margo Haygood and colleagues have investigated a unique ocean-dwelling animal, known as the shipworm – which is a mollusk that uses its shell as a drill and feeds on wood by burrowing into the wood fibers.  The researchers initially focused on shipworms because the animals' creative use of bacteria to convert wood a poor food source lacking proteins or nitrogen into a suitable food source where the animal can both live and feed. This research revealed that one form of bacteria utilized by shipworms secretes a powerful antibiotic, which may hold promise for combatting human diseases. Observing the organisms against which antibiotics were designed to protect us have adapted to widespread use, the researchers are hopeful that a new class of antibiotics may be developed that is not compromised by resistance, in an effort to address this otherwise serious threat to human health.

Sherif I. Elshahawi, Amaro E. Trindade-Silva, Amro Hanora, Andrew W. Han, Malem S. Flores, Margo G. Haygood, et al.  “Boronated tartrolon antibiotic produced by symbiotic cellulose-degrading bacteria in shipworm gills.”  PNAS 2013 110 (4) E295–E304; January 3, 2013.

  
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Tip #127 - Delay Death with Vitamin D
The therapeutic role of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," for bone health, has become well established. A number of recent studies now link vitamin D deficiency to adverse health consequences such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some infectious diseases.

Johns Hopkins University (Maryland, USA) researchers reported that low blood levels of Vitamin D are associated with a 26% increased risk of death from any cause. The team analyzed data collected on 13,331 adults during a 6-year period after which the subjects were followed for 9 years. People with Vitamin D levels of less than 17.8 ng/mL had a 26% increased rate of death from any cause, compared to people with the highest Vitamin D levels (more than 32.1 ng/mL).

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA) reported that those individuals taking vitamin D supplements are at a 7% lower risk of death, as compared to those who did not supplement.

As well, Vitamin D inhibits the body’s inflammatory response and thus reduces the turnover of leukocytes (a type of white blood cell). The length of the leukocyte telomere (the endcap of the chromosome) is a predictor of aging-related disease, whereby it shortens as a result of increased inflammation. A team from King's College, London School of Medicine (United Kingdom) found that people with longer telomeres have higher levels of Vitamin D stored in their bodies. The team reports that: “The difference … was … equivalent to five years of telomeric aging,” suggesting that people who have higher levels of vitamin D may age more slowly than people with lower levels.
 
 
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