Millions of people around the world have at least one pet at home.
Studies have shown that there are many health benefits to having a companion animal.
Pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners.
Health benefits may include:
• Decreased blood pressure
• Decreased feelings of loneliness
• Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
• Increased opportunities for socialisation
But did you know that handling your pet’s food could make you sick?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says dry and canned pet food can be contaminated with germs that can make you and your family sick.
Here are tips to stay safe while feeding your pet:
• Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling pet food or treats.
• Store pet food and treats away from where human food it stored and prepared.
• Keep pet food and treats away from small children.
• Don’t use your pets’ feeding bowls to scoop food. Use a dedicated cup or scoop.
The CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets.
Salmonella and listeria bacteria have been found in raw diet pet food, including packaged ones found in pet stores. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service
Dogs can be trained to sniff out certain cancers, people at risk of a diabetic coma, and now, children with malaria just by smelling their socks, researchers said.
According to the findings presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting in New Orleans, dogs were trained to sniff out malaria parasites in African children who tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease but did not have a fever or other outward symptoms.
Malaria kills some 445,000 people worldwide each year, and is caused by parasites that are transmitted by infected mosquitoes.
Cases of malaria are on the rise, globally. The World Health Organization said there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, up five million over a year earlier.
“Worryingly, our progress on the control of malaria has stalled in recent years, so we desperately need innovative new tools to help in the fight against malaria,” said co-author James Logan, head of the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“Our results show that sniffer dogs could be a serious way of making diagnosis of people who don’t show any symptoms, but are still infectious, quicker and easier.”
A total of 175 sock samples were tested, including 30 malaria-positive children in The Gambia and 145 from uninfected children.
Dogs were able to correctly identify 70% of the malaria-infected samples. The canines were also able to identify 90% of the samples without malaria parasites.
Principal investigator Steve Lindsay, a professor in the department of biosciences at Durham University, said this showed a “credible degree of accuracy”.
More research is needed, but experts are hopeful that the findings could lead to a “non-invasive way of screening for the disease at ports of entry in a similar way to how sniffer dogs are routinely used to detect fruit and vegetables or drugs at airports”, he added.
“This could help prevent the spread of malaria to countries that have been declared malaria free and also ensure that people, many of whom might be unaware that they are infected with the malaria parasite, receive antimalarial drug treatment for the disease.” – AFP Relaxnews
- Flickr/Tambako The Jaguar
- Fauna Bio, a new biopharmaceutical startup backed by venture capitalist Laura Deming, is researching hibernating animals to unveil clues about how the human body can protect itself in emergency medical conditions like trauma, heart attack, and stroke.
- Hibernating animals have the ability to manipulate their metabolic rates, control blood flow levels, protect tissues against damage, and put on and lose a large amount of weight safely.
- The company is working to re-create a hibernation-like state in patients by using a combination of repurposed drugs that are used now for other indications, and natural compounds like melatonin.
Hibernation allows bears to sleep through entire winters – now a new startup wants to replicate this state in humans to help protect the body against severe injuries.
Ashley Zehnder, Katie Grabek, and Linda Goodman started Fauna Bio in June after they met studying different, but very complementary projects at a post-doctoral lab in Stanford.
Their company is backed by 24-year-old venture capitalist Laura Deming, who runs The Longevity Fund, which principally invests in aging-related research and discoveries.
Hibernating animals are excellent at healing themselves after suffering the equivalent of a heart attack or a stroke. The reason is because these animals are adept at manipulating their metabolism.
Hibernation as a trait can be a spectrum. True hibernators, like bears, drop their body temperature by 2-6°C for 6-9 months.
Smaller animals, like pet hamsters, go into something called torpor, which is a light form of hibernation that can occur daily. Their small size forces them to lower their body temperature more drastically in order to achieve the same metabolic processes. By proxy, they have to re-warm their bodies more periodically.
This dynamic physiology allows them to control blood flow to their heart, function in low oxygen settings (hypoxia), and protect tissues against damage and deterioration.
The Fauna team is mapping and analyzing hibernators’ RNA and DNA, and linking important genes into a network that can be activated pharmacologically. These genes span across networks in charge of energy metabolism, circadian rhythm, and insulin management.
These also overlap with the mTOR, one of the pivotal pathways implicated in aging, and AMP Kinase, a cellular metabolic pathway that’s activated by diabetes drug Metformin.
How hibernation can improve medical outcomes in emergency rooms
Emergency rooms use therapeutic hypothermia to lower patient metabolic rates and improve their survival rates in cases of traumatic brain injury, strokes, and heart attacks. This cools the body artificially from outside inwards.
“We’re forcing the body to cool when it doesn’t really want to, and that causes problems. It causes deficiencies in immune function so people get really bad pneumonia, they have issues with blood clotting,” Zehnder told Business Insider. “Part of what we’re doing is trying to figure out what are the exact initiating factors to be able to allow you to lower metabolic rate, without having to be cooled from the outside. That’s something a lot of the model hibernators do.”
Mimicking short term hibernation or creating a synthetic torpor – accounting for caveats like maintaining immune function, preventing blood clots, and stopping muscle deterioration – can help patients safely cool, heal, and re-warm. Heart attack patients can recover without suffering heart damage, and stroke therapy can be enhanced.
It can also be given long-term to patients with diabetes or silent ischemic heart attacks to resist damage from severe cardiac or metabolic events.
Further research can aid obese patients in losing weight safely, since hibernators have mastered the craft.
“We have a couple of avenues for advancing the work that we’re doing for human trials,” Zehnder said. “Each of those have different development paths and different levels of capital efficiency.” These include repurposing drugs that are already on the market, using natural compounds, and inventing new drugs.
In a recent experiment, combining the natural compounds beta-hydroxybutyrate and melatonin improved survival in animals suffering from a 60% blood loss. This combination will enter human trials sometime this year as a form of trauma therapy.
Currently, the company’s 12-18 month timeline involves a mix of experiments that they’re kicking off in the following weeks. One or two of the products will advance to pre-approval stages by late 2019.
“It’s a great time to be doing this type of work,” Zehnder said. “We’re really sitting on the precipice of being able to take advantage of new genetic drug discovery tools.”
( The second article of this two-part series focuses on snake bites, their characteristics and types of toxins, and how they affect your body. Previously, our columnist covered the topic of what to do when a snake bites you (Read that article here.)
You mentioned that the three commonest types of venomous snakes in Malaysia are the cobra, the viper and the sea snake, right? What happens when a cobra bites me? It is the snake I am most frightened of!
Okay, we talked about some local (at the site of the bite) effects once a venomous snake bites you. These include:
• Two puncture marks at the wound from the fangs of the snake.
• Redness and swelling around the bite (denoting inflammation).
• Severe pain at the area of the bite.
• Nausea and vomiting.
• Heavy and difficult breathing. In some cases, you may stop breathing altogether.
• Difficulty in seeing.
• Increased salivation and sweating.
• Numbness or tingling around the face and/or limbs.
These symptoms may vary from person to person, depending on toxin type and amount absorbed.
Cobra bites tend to be very painful and very quick in disseminating toxin, however.
In general, small children are more likely to be affected faster and more severely than adults or teens because of their smaller body size, which allows the toxin to spread faster. Cobras’ toxin contains neurotoxins and cardiotoxins.
What does that mean? Does it mean that a cobra’s bite is doubly dangerous?
A cobra’s bite with envenomation is definitely dangerous. Envenomation means that the venom is injected inside the flesh and bloodstream of the victim.
In addition to all the things that can happen at the site of the bite, as detailed above, the neurotoxins in a cobra’s venom can lead to neurological and neuromuscular symptoms and signs. These are all due to your nerves and muscles being paralysed, including those of your face and brainstem, and ultimately, the nerves and muscles that help you breathe.
Unfortunately, these symptoms will usually present the earliest. It is also important to note that not all symptoms will present.
Your brain can also be severely affected, leading to:
• Drooping of your eyelids (called ptosis).
• Shortness of breath when the muscles of your diaphragm and chest are affected.
• Inability to move your eyes when your eye nerves and muscles are affected.
• Inability to swallow or speak.
• Paralysis of your limbs.
• Inability to lift your head when your neck muscles become paralysed.
• Inability to walk in a straight line. This happens when the part of the brain that controls balance is affected.
• Sudden loss of consciousness.
This sounds awful. That can result in death, right?
If you can’t breathe, ultimately, it will result in death. However, it is the cardiotoxins that are even more dangerous. Cardiotoxins from a cobra’s venom can wreak havoc on your body’s circulation and the heart’s pumping action. They can lead to increased blood pressure.
Your heart can also pump very fast – too fast, in fact. Ultimately, this can result in your whole heart being “overstressed”, and finally not being able to pump. If cardiotoxic complications occur, you can almost be 100% certain that you will die.
Okay, my friend was bitten while we were hiking in the jungle. I have now brought him to the hospital’s A&E department. What will happen to him?
Your friend will immediately be put on a drip (intravenous infusion). Blood will be taken and sent for tests, including blood counts and coagulation profiles.
This is in case the snake was a viper – vipers have haemotoxins in their venom that can cause bleeding and prolonged clotting times. His blood will also be cross-matched just in case he needs blood transfusion. Again, this is because of possible bleeding (internal or otherwise) caused by a viper’s toxin.
They will run a continuous ECG on him to monitor his heart rhythm in case of cardiotoxins from a cobra or snakes that have such in their venom. If no signs and symptoms of envenomation are noted after two hours, then it’s possible the bite was a dry one. Your friend will be observed for 24 hours, then discharged if alright.
If any signs of envenomation occur, then antivenom therapy will be injected. This therapy is the cure. You may need as many as 15 vials for moderate to severe bites.
The rest will be supportive therapy depending on the symptoms.
Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail email@example.com. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
To save more chinook salmon for starving orcas, Seattle chef Renee Erickson has taken it off the menu.
Erickson, chef and co-owner of Sea Creatures, which includes Seattle restaurants The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Whale Wins, announced her decision recently to her newsletter subscribers and chefs.
It’s something she has been thinking about for a while. But it was the sight of Tahlequah, the mother orca whale carrying her dead calf for 17 days for more than 1,000 miles (1,609km) that pushed Erickson to no longer serve chinook to her customers.
“It’s sad; I love eating it, and I grew up catching it,” Erickson said. But with so many other local fish possibilities, it just felt wrong to take chinook out of orcas’ mouths, she said.
“The biggest gut wrench is that we have starving orcas. We are eating the salmon they need to eat.”
Southern resident killer whales, the orcas of the trans-boundary waters of the Salish Sea and West Coast, rely on chinook for more than 90% of their diet in the summer. The big, fatty fish are in decline in Puget Sound and the Fraser and Columbia Rivers. That depletes the food supply for orcas in their primary foraging areas.
Seeing the impact on the whales, declined to only 75 members in the J, K and L pods, just became too much, Erickson said.
She said hers was a decision borne of personal reflection. “It’s nothing heroic,” she said, adding she is not launching a campaign for others to follow suit.
Though as a leading, James Beard-award-winning chef, Erickson’s influence has been felt before, including her refusal to serve farmed Atlantic salmon at her restaurants.
The southern residents face at least three struggles to survive: Too much noise in their home waters makes it harder for them to find food; toxins in their food; and lack of sufficient food add to their trouble.
“To see the effect we are having on these animals, it is too much,” said Erickson. To her, laying off chinook made sense, to leave more for the whales.
Other salmon choices
With so many other good choices, from sockeye in season to local shellfish and coho, “we live so well”, Erickson said.
In an October scientific paper, Rob Williams, a marine-conservation biologist based at Oceans Initiative in Seattle, a nonprofit research firm, found with his co-authors that lack of food was the biggest threat to the southern resident’s survival. The whales have to have more food and less racket underwater to be able to hunt, the scientists concluded.
Williams, who works with northern and southern resident populations of orca whales, was the lead author on a paper published in PlosOne in November 2011 that found British Columbia salmon stocks in general are estimated to be at 36% of historical (1800s) run size, and Puget Sound stocks at 8%.
Because southern resident killer whales specialise in eating chinook, lack of it is linked to increased mortality and reduced reproduction.
Prey intake for a lactating female can also be more than 40% higher than when not lactating – so for successful reproduction, the southern residents need even more chinook.
Instead, runs continue to decline and the southern residents have not successfully reproduced in three years. The southern resident orcas’ annual need could be from 211,000 to 364,000 chinook, depending on the body size of the fish, Williams and other authors on the paper determined in their analysis.
Renee Erickson, on her boat on a crabbing excursion near Shilshole Bay in Seattle, in August 2015. Photo: TNS
That’s enough to consider managing fish stocks with the whales’ consumption in mind, under an ecologically based management scheme – with more fish needed to boost the population to recovery, the scientists found.
One clear loser in whale recovery are the chinook themselves – and to recover populations of the fish that are also threatened with extinction, managers need to consider the needs of a recovering orca population – not just human fishermen, according to the scientists.
Williams said he thinks Erickson made a good decision.
“Chefs across America should think about this,” he said.
“If everyone was moved by the sight of J35 and her calf,” he said of Tahlequah, this is one thing you can do: Stop eating chinook.
“Don’t buy it, don’t eat it, don’t serve it,” Williams said of chinook.
“The whales need it more than we do.” – The Seattle Times/Tribune News Service/Lynda V. Mapes