Artificial sweeteners shown to shift entire gut ecosystem

Artificial sweeteners are used in a huge variety of products. ~ Mark van Manen

Artificial sweeteners are used in a huge variety of products. ~ Mark van Manen

Artificial sweeteners may be helping feed, rather than slow, the global obesity epidemic, according to a provocative new study on the additives used in everything from soft drinks to diet desserts.

It found that artificial sweeteners can trigger “dramatic” blood sugar disturbances in both people and mice by altering bacterial populations in the gut.

Continue reading →

Ottawa’s new biosecurity rules for potentially deadly microbes

Biosecurity team hunting for pathogens . PHOTO: STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

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 →

Superbugs are on the rise in Canada, but not as fast as WHO suggests

Drug resistant gonorrhea under a microscope. PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRES/PUBLIC HEALTH ONTARIO

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 →

Canada’s chicken farmers ban injections that trigger superbugs

 Canada’s chicken farmers ban injections that trigger superbugs Chicken farmers New chicks in at barn in British Columbia. PHOTO: CHICKEN FARMERS OF CANADA


Canada’s chicken farmers ban injections that trigger superbugs
Chicken farmers
New chicks in at barn in British Columbia.
PHOTO: CHICKEN FARMERS OF CANADA

Published: April 17, 2014

Canadian chicken farmers are putting an end to controversial egg injections, which provided the world with a “textbook” example of the perils of mass medication.

By injecting eggs at hatcheries with ceftiofur, a medically important antibiotic, the farmers triggered the rise of resistant microbes that showed up in both chickens and in Canadians creating a “major” public health concern.

The case  – documented by federal and provincial sleuths who track microbes at farms, slaughterhouses and retail meat counters – is held up as powerful evidence of resistant superbugs moving from farm to fork.

“It is going to be in medical textbooks for as long as there are textbooks around,” says John Prescott, a professor with the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. Continue reading →

Canada phasing out antibiotic use in livestock

Canadian farmers use nearly 1,600 tonnes of antibiotics a year. PHOTO: LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA NEWS/FILE

Canadian farmers use nearly 1,600 tonnes of antibiotics a year.
PHOTO: LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA NEWS/FILE

Published: April 11, 2014

Amid growing international concern over the spread of superbugs on farms, slaughterhouses and supermarket meat counters, Health Canada is moving to phase out use of antibiotic growth promoters in Canadian livestock.

The drugs have been used for decades to spike the feed and water of chickens, pigs and cattle to boost their growth — “mass medication” that Canada’s top doctor, and many others, has said should stop.

In a statement Friday, Canadian drug producers say they have agreed with Health Canada “to phase out uses of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion.” The phase-out is expected to take three years. Continue reading →

As Canada dawdles, Denmark shows the world how to stop mass medicating animals

DSC_3704Published: April 18, 2014

COPENHAGAN, Denmark  — Michael Nielsen unlocks the door to his pig factory. He doffs his jacket, pants and muddy boots and zips on white coveralls. Then he steps into the maze-like complex housing several thousand pigs.

From the birthing room — where one enormous sow has just delivered 22 squirming piglets — to the insemination stalls where the next generation is in the works, Nielsen prides himself on smart, efficient farming.

Here in Denmark that means recording every single dose of antibiotic farmers use.

Unlike Canadian farmers who can import antibiotics by the truckload, Nielsen can only obtain them by prescription at a pharmacy. Use too many antibiotics and Nielsen would get a dreaded “yellow card” from the Danish government that has the world’s most comprehensive surveillance system for tracking and targeting overuse of antibiotics. Continue reading →

Superbugs slipping through ‘gaps’ and ‘loopholes’ in Canadian regulations

Electron microscope image of a C. difficile producing a spore.  PHOTO: DAVID GOUDLING

Electron microscope image of a C. difficile producing a spore.
PHOTO: DAVID GOUDLING

Published: February 20, 2014

Canada needs to better control and contain resistant microbes — or superbugs — that are killing and sickening thousands of Canadian each year, say leading doctors.

A good place to start, they say, is to close “loopholes” that permit Canadian farmers to import antibiotics by the truckload to feed to their animals – a practice that helps breed resistant microbes.

The doctors say the Harper government also needs to file gaps in oversight and provide much more “timely” surveillance reports on the resistant microbes found not only in Canadian health-care facilities but farmyards and meat counters.

The lack of a Canadian action plan is “an international embarrassment,” Dr. John Conly, medical director of infection prevention and control at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, told a Senate committee in Ottawa last week. Continue reading →