McMaster grad student Andrew King with fungal sample. PHOTO: MCMASTER UNIVERSITY/HO.
Published: June 25, 2014
A lowly soil fungus from Nova Scotia has provided scientists with a powerful new weapon against some of the most alarming microbes on the planet.
A molecule, which a team at McMaster University plucked from the fungus, is enabling them to kill “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics.
The molecule, aspergillomarasmine A or AMA, latches on to a protein inside the bacteria and “rips out” zinc rendering the superbugs defenceless against powerful antibiotics it could previously resist, says microbiologist Gerry Wright, who heads the team in Hamilton, Ont.
Once they uncovered AMA, the researchers teamed up with a British microbiologist and showed the fungal extract had the same effect on more than 200 superbugs that have been causing misery around the world.
Then to underscore AMA’s promise, the researchers showed that by using the fungal compound in combination with an antibiotic protected lab mice infected with an otherwise lethal strain of resistant pneumonia.
Scientists says the findings, to be reported Thursday in the Journal Nature, offer hope in the battle against resistant bacteria causing growing international alarm. Continue reading →
Protesters in Vancouver rally against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRESS/DARRYL DYCK
Published: June 25, 2014
VANCOUVER — A Canadian-led group of academics has taken to one of the world’s top science journals to call for a moratorium on new oilsands and pipeline projects.
The group, led by ecologist Wendy Palen at Simon Fraser University, says Canada and the U.S. should halt approvals until oilsands developments are “consistent” with the government’s own commitments to cut carbon pollution.
“Anything less demonstrates flawed policies and failed leadership,” they write in Thursday’s issue of the British journal Nature. Continue reading →
Biosecurity team hunting for pathogens .
PHOTO: STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Published: June 24, 2014
In a bid to prevent potentially deadly microbes like anthrax or SARS from getting loose in Canada, the federal government is proposing sweeping biosecurity regulations to govern pathogens found in about 8,500 laboratories across Canada.
Researchers working with particularly nasty micro-organisms and the toxins they produce will need licences and security clearance under the proposed regulations published in the Canada Gazette on June 21.
The government says the regulations are designed to improve safety and oversight and bring Canada in line with countries like the U.S. to “improve the deterrent for persons with malicious intent.”
Researchers support the move to shore up Canada’s biosecurity but say much will depend on how the regulations are applied. Continue reading →
A sign explaining Dead lawn in front of the California State Capitol in Sacramento.
PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
Published: June 23, 2014.
California may be in the midst of a severe drought, but plump, juicy strawberries and raspberries continue to roll north by the truckload.
And they are still affordable despite predictions of price shocks for Canadian consumers who gobble up California fruits, veggies and nuts worth close to $2.4 billion a year.
The drought is severe — reservoirs are at record lows, wetlands are parched and rivers are so short of water that young salmon are being trucked hundreds of kilometres to help them out to sea.
But water is still flowing on many Californian fields’ thanks in large part to groundwater. Farmers are expected to make up about 75 per cent of this year’s shortfall by drilling ever deeper into the water sitting in aquifers beneath the state’s fertile Central Valley.
But there are ominous signs of overuse. Water levels are dropping. And the water withdrawals are so massive they are moving California’s mountains, according to a recent study that underscores how dependent farmers — and consumers — are on groundwater that is running low in many thirsty regions of the world. Continue reading →
Slow quakes not felt in Vancouver.
PHOTO: RICHARD LAM/PNG
Published: June 18, 2014
VANCOUVER — The “slow” quakes emanate from the deep like clockwork every 14 months on Canada’s west coast.
They typically release the energy of a Magnitude 7 earthquake, but the powerful tectonic events are almost imperceptible because they occur slowly over two weeks, instead of in sudden jolts that last just seconds.
“They would represent a pretty big earthquake if they happened like a regular quake, but because they are so slow you are never able to feel anything,” says Pascal Audet, a seismologist at the University of Ottawa, and co-author of a report released Wednesday on the subtle, silent quakes. Continue reading →
Published June 11, 2014
The tiny fish were swimming about the ancient tropical sea 500 million years ago when they were buried alive on the sea floor.
Their squashed remains, uncovered on a windswept mountainside near the B.C.-Alberta border, were held up internationally Wednesday as a “major fossil discovery.”
Scientists say the primitive little fish, called Metaspriggina, gives an unprecedented glimpse of the origin and development of the earliest vertebrates, which eventually led the way to evolution of dinosaurs and mammals, such as humans. Continue reading →
Drug resistant gonorrhea under a microscope.
PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRES/PUBLIC HEALTH ONTARIO
Published: May 1, 2014
A World Health Organization report on superbugs suggests Canada has one of highest rates of drug resistant gonorrhea in the world.
But Canadian health officials say they have no idea where the international agency got the data indicating 31 per cent of the microbes causing the sexually transmitted disease in Canada show resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, an antibiotic of last resort.
“We just don’t know where they pulled that number from,” says Michael Mulvey, who tracks resistant organisms for the Public Health Agency of Canada. Continue reading →