An arresting but widely criticized study that stoked fears about genetically modified foods (GMOs) was retracted Thursday.
The move was met with relief by scientists who heaped scorn on the French study after it was published last year. The study claimed a steady diet of genetically modified corn caused tumours in rats.
But observers say the damage will be hard to undo.
Published November 19, 2013
More than 200,000 Canadians a year who seek medical care end up infected by the pathogens haunting the country’s health-care system. And at least 8,000 Canadians a year die from the infections, which are increasingly caused by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, says a report from Canada’s chief public health officer.
“Although definitive numbers are not available, it appears that these numbers are rising,” Dr. David Butler-Jones says in his 2013 Report on the State of Public Health in Canada issued recently. It suggests much could be done to reduce the grim toll.
The federal government is hobbling efforts to control antibiotic-resistant microbes by sitting on reports about bacteria that sicken and kill thousands of Canadians each year, several doctors say.
Infectious disease experts say Ottawa is treating national microbial surveillance reports like “sensitive government documents.” And the doctors are so frustrated, they are releasing the data they can obtain on their own website.
An Alberta woman, who had been in a rickshaw accident in India, had carried the microbe home and it got loose in the Royal Alex. Hale became infected and died when he could not fight off the microbe, which has acquired the biochemical machinery to evade nearly all antibiotics on the shelf.
While still rare in Canada, Britain and the U.S. are both struggling to contain these alarming microbes, which could spell the end of the antibiotic miracle.
Leading health officials are warning of a “catastrophic” threat, and Canadian doctors are calling for action to prevent the organisms from taking hold here.
Published November 12, 2013
Trevor Lawley keeps hundreds of samples of C. difficile in his freezer, each identified by the country in which the bacterium unleashed its unique brand of misery and death.
He tracked down Aus001 in Melbourne, Australia; collected Gla010 in Glasgow, Scotland; and picked up Lei017 in the Netherlands as part of an international hunt for the origin of “epidemic” C. difficile – a global menace that pumps toxins into the guts of its victims. It has spread around the world’s hospitals in the last decade, killing thousands.
Lawley, a Canadian with a flair for microbial forensics who now works at a leading British research centre, spent two years travelling the globe collecting hundreds of samples of C. difficile.
Then, in his lab at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, near Cambridge, Lawley and his colleagues extracted the bacteria’s secrets.
Two strains of antibiotic resistant C. difficile that emerged in North America caused the global epidemic, the sleuths report.
One emerged in the northeast U.S. a decade ago; the second, which they call FQR2, surfaced in Quebec.
Published November, 12, 2013
GUELPH, Ont. – Emma Allen-Vercoe and her graduate students have come to appreciate the unmistakable odour that hits when you enter their laboratory.
“When we walk in and don’t smell anything, that’s when we begin to worry,” says Allen-Vercoe, a microbial ecologist who has spent almost a decade at the University of Guelph studying what most people can’t wait to flush down the toilet.
Feces provide a window on the vast community of bacteria, fungi and viruses living in the human gut, an ecosystem Allen-Vercoe finds more intriguing than anything in the tropical rain forests or world’s oceans. “It’s the most diverse and densely populated ecosystem on Earth,“ she says.
The human “microbiota” or “microbiome,” as the trillions of organisms are collectively known, is critical to good health. And the microbes do a lot more than help digest food. Mounting evidence indicates they also offer protection against asthma, pathogens, allergies, diabetes and perhaps even certain forms of autism and cancer.