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Canine-human cancer finding could advance new therapies

Canine-human cancer finding could advance new therapies

Researchers confirm molecular similarities between oral tumours found in dogs and people.

US researchers have discovered a striking resemblance between a non-lethal canine tumour and a devastating tumour in people, paving the way for new treatments in both veterinary and human medicine.

The study by Cornell University found that canine acanthomatous ameloblastoma (CAA) – a common tumour of dogs – is molecularly similar to a rare oral tumour in humans known as ameloblastoma (AM).

Scientists had previously noted a resemblance between CAA and AM, but it is not until now that any molecular similarities have been confirmed. The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“This research was a good example of a full cycle of translational research,” commented lead author Dr Santiago Peralta, a veterinary dentist and oral surgeon at the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We took something we were dealing with in the clinical setting, studied it in the bench setting and are now hoping to use it to help veterinary patients and, potentially, humans.”

Previous research by Peralta and his team revealed both AM and CAA shared mutations in a well-known signalling pathway, known as the RAS-RAF-MAPK pathway.  In this study, the team analysed a large genomic dataset generated by the Cornell Transcriptional Regulation and Expression Facility to better understand the biological consequences of these mutations.

At the same time, the team compared the CAA tumours with another common canine tumour (oral squamous cell carcinoma) and healthy gum tissue, made available through the Cornell Veterinary Biobank. The team also used genomic data from human tissues to run comparisons.

Through analysing these different tissues, Peralta and his team were able to see that the mutations they had identified in their earlier study were largely responsible for the tumours they were seeing.
They also found that CAA and AM are very similar at a molecular level - giving strength to the idea that dogs represent a potentially useful natural model of the human tumour.

“All the dysregulated molecules and pathways in CAA tumour tissues were consistent with the mutations we’d found and remarkably similar to those observed in AM,” said Peralta.

The team is now looking to establish in vitro and in vivo models of different canine oral tumours that can be used to test potential drugs. It is hoped that any drugs that prove effective in treating oral tumours in dogs may also have the potential to help human patients.


Survey highlights vets' AMR concerns

Survey highlights vets' AMR concerns

BVA calls on pet owners to work with their vet to tackle the threat.

More than 90 per cent of vets fear their inability to treat infections in pets in the face of antibiotic resistance, according to new research.

Figures from the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey – released ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November) - also reveal a general lack of understanding about the threat of antibiotic resistance among pet owners. 

Of the 406 companion animal vets that responded to the survey, 76 per cent said they felt clients were not aware of the issue. Almost all said they had seen clients attend appointments expecting to receive antibiotics to treat their pets.

In light of the findings, BVA President Justine Shotton is calling on pet owners to work with their vet to tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance. 

“Worryingly, as in human medicine, some bacteria no longer respond to the antibiotics we use to treat pets,” she said. “We know that owners love their pets and may often think that antibiotics are the best answer to treat their beloved companion, but this is not always the case. 

“We need pet owners to help us keep antibiotics working against serious and potentially life-threatening infections now and in the future. Don’t automatically expect antibiotics when your pet is unwell and always follow your vet’s instructions in giving the recommended dose at the right time and for the duration prescribed.”

To help tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, the BVA has published the following series of tips to help pet owners be antibiotic aware and play an active role in the fight against antibiotic resistance:

  1. Antibiotics are not always the answer: Antibiotics only treat illnesses caused by bacteria, not viruses. Trust your vet if they say antibiotics aren't needed.
  2. Always finish the antibiotic course: Take the recommended dose, at the right time, for the duration prescribed by your vet. Not completing the course can be very risky and may allow resistant bacteria to survive.
  3. Use the right drug for the right bug: Different antibiotics work for different bacteria. Sensitivity tests recommended by your vet can help identify the right drug.
  4. Don’t try to treat your pet yourself: Don’t share antibiotics between animals or re-use tablets that were prescribed for an earlier illness. They may not be appropriate for your pet’s current condition, or they may be toxic for certain animals, out of date or contaminated. Never give human medicines to your pet as they could be dangerous.
  5. Prevention is always better: Avoid the need for antibiotics by taking your pet for regular health checks to a vet. Follow your vet’s advice, give your pet a nutritionally balanced diet, and keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date.

BVA is also encouraging pet owners to look at the ‘Are you antibiotic aware?’ poster, developed by human and animal health organisations, to see what steps they can take to use antibiotics responsibly. The resource is available for download at

Cat bacteria treats skin infection, study finds

Cat bacteria treats skin infection, study finds

Researchers discovered a strand of cat bacteria that is resistant to eczema. 

Healthy cats have a bacteria that produces antibiotics against severe skin infections, a study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has found.

Published in eLife, the study, entitled 'Antimicrobials from a feline commensal bacterium inhibit skin infection by drug-resistant S. pseudintermedius' founds that bacteria on healthy cats could be used to treat a skin infection on mice. 

The infection, a bacterium known as Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP) is commonly found on domesticated animals, and becomes infectious when the animals are sick or injured. 

It is an emerging pathogen, can cause sever atopic dermatitis, and can jump between species. 

Researchers screened a library of bacteria which normally live on dogs and cats and grew them in the presence of MRSP, from this identifying a strain of cat bacteria called Staphylococcus felis (S. felis) that was particularly strong at inhibiting MRSP growth. 

It was discovered that this particular strain of S. felis produces multiple antibiotics naturally, which kill MRSP by disrupting its cell wall and increasing the production of toxic free radicals. 

As bacteria can develop resistance to a single antibiotic very easily, S. felis has four genes which code for four distinct antimicrobial peptides, each of which can kill MRSP on their own, but together, make it particularly difficult for the bacteria to fight back. 

After establishing how S. felis kills the MRSP, the researchers tested it out on mice who had been exposed to the most common form of the pathogen. S. felis bacteria was then added to the same site, and the skin showed a reduction in scaling and redness, and there were fewer viable MRSP bacteria left on the skin of those who has been treated with S. felis.

The study is part of a line of work by Professor Richard L. Gallo and his team, working to develop bacteriotherapies for inflammatory skin diseases and skin cancers, and has potential to lead to new bacteriotherapies for both humans and pets. 

Engaging clients in One Welfare

Engaging clients in One Welfare

Dr Anne McBride speaks on encouraging clients in conservation and One Welfare through their own small pets.

Clinical animal behaviourist Dr Anne McBride led a lecture on small pets, sustainability and One Welfare on the first day of BVNA Congress (2 October), with a whistle-stop presentation on the role of small animals in One Welfare, and how the psychology field of human behaviour can be used to elicit greater concern for small pets and their wild relatives.

Anne posed ethical questions to delegates, including 'should we keep small pets?' and 'is the way we treat small wild animals okay?' - all for the purpose of reaching the lecture's take home message – that veterinary professionals should be engaging clients in One Welfare. 

Beginning by outlining the benefits of small animals, including owner benefits such as self identity and social capital, medical and surgical advancements through lab animals, and ecological and economic benefits, Anne discussed the myriad types of importance that small animals hold, and why we should care about them from a One Welfare perspective.

Anne discussed the negative perception of wild small animals, particularly mice and rats – explaining how this allows us to abuse them, owing to human's disgust and 'othering' of small animals not in a cage. 

She stressed the unethical nature of mice and rat traps that use poison or glue, and that even 'humane' capture and release traps cause suffering for the animal, and suggested that fast-killing traps are the most humane kind.

Anne explained that one in four British mammals are currently threatened with extinction, and then firmly situated this issue within the veterinary world, posing the question: “How can we use our love of our pets to help move things forward?

“Because if we're talking about sustainability, the welfare of the animals we keep, and those outside are intrinsically and inextricably, irrefutably interconnected with our human wellbeing, and the environment's wellbeing. If one fails, they all fail.” 

According to Anne, the interconnected nature of human wellbeing, pet wellbeing and wild animal wellbeing should be a concern of veterinary professionals – if veterinary professionals can encourage clients to look beyond their individual pet, they can encourage and educate clients to use their own pets to understand One Welfare and conservation.

Anne explained that the COM-B model of behaviour change could be a useful tool for veterinary nurses to help implement a One Welfare approach in clients. The COM-B model stands for capability, opportunity, motivation and behaviour. 

In using this approach, Anne believes that veterinary professionals can change client's behaviour, improve the welfare of their animals, consider appropriate species to keep in future, and motivate change and consideration for small animals in the wild. 

Some ways of implementing this include: 

• Extending knowledge through information of the client's pet and relating it to conservation.
• Encouraging clients to care for their small pet properly, including enrichment and engagement with their pets.
• Holding a practice 'competition' with pet enclosure and accommodation photos, and rewarding those with welfare-friendly setups.
• Encouraging humane pest control and education on pest control, particularly regarding cats and wildlife.

Summarising her lecture, Anne explained that small mammals play a significant role in the sustainability of humans, as pets, in human health, in the health of other pets, and the environment – and encouraged delegates to consider a One Welfare approach in practice to encourage clients to: “think beyond their individual animal.” 

Llama antibodies show

Llama antibodies show "significant potential" as COVID-19 treatment

Nanobodies "are among the most effective SARS-CoV-2 neutralising agents we have ever tested" - PHE.  

Scientists at the Rosalind Franklin Institute have discovered a unique type of antibody produced by llamas that could have “significant potential” as a treatment for COVID-19.

Their study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that nanobodies – small, simple types of antibodies generated by llamas and camels – can effectively target the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19.

The team identified short chains of the molecules – which can be produced in the laboratory in large quantities – that can significantly reduce signs of COVID-19 when given to infected animals.

Following clinical studies in humans, scientists say the antibodies could be administered via a simple nasal spray.

Public Health England said the findings have “significant potential for both the prevention and treatment of COVID-19”, adding that the nanobodies “are among the most effective SARS-CoV-2 neutralising agents we have ever tested.” 

It is hoped the discovery could provide a cheaper and more simple alternative to human antibodies taken from patients who have recovered from he disease.

“Nanobodies have a number of advantages over human antibodies," commented lead author Professor Ray Owens, head of protein production at the Rosalind Franklin Institute. "They are cheaper to produce and can be delivered directly to the airways through a nebuliser or nasal spray, so can be self-administered at home rather than needing an injection. 

“This could have benefits in terms of ease of use by patients but it also gets the treatment directly to the site of infection in the respiratory tract,” he said.

In the study, researchers grew the nanobodies by injecting a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into a llama called Fifi, who is part of the antibody production facility at the University of Reading. 

Fifi did not become sick as a result of the injection, but it did trigger her immune system to fight off the virus protein by generating nanobodies against it. The team were able to purify four nanobodies capable of binding to the COVID-19 virus from a small blood sample. 

They then combined the nanobodies together into chains of three to increase their ability to bind to the virus, which is then produced in cells in the laboratory.

One of the chains was administered to hamsters infected with SARS-CoV-2, which showed “a marked reduction in disease” with the animals losing far less weight after seven days than untreated hamsters, and having a lower viral load.

“Because we can see every atom of the nanobody bound to the spike, we understand what makes these agents so special," said Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, who helped lead the research.

“While vaccines have proven extraordinarily successful, not everyone responds to vaccination and immunity can wane in individuals at different times. Having medications that can treat the virus is still going to be very important, particularly as not all of the world is being vaccinated at the same speed and there remains a risk of new variants capable of bypassing vaccine immunity emerging.”

Amphibian foam could aid drug delivery in humans, study finds

Amphibian foam could aid drug delivery in humans, study finds

Foam from wild túngara frogs could reduce infection risk and antimicrobial resistance.

Foam found in frogs’ nests could aid the effective administration of drugs and combat the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), according to new research.

The study published in Royal Society Open Science found that amphibian foam has the potential to offer benefits to topical, vaginal and rectal drug delivery in humans.

Researchers say the foam provides a controlled-release delivery, which reduces infection risk, AMR, and the risk of allergy. The study was conducted by Queen's University Belfast, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow.

“In testing the foam in our labs, we analysed the properties of the foam and were impressed that not only was it strong and durable, but when we administered drugs, they were released over a long period of time,” commented study co-author Dr Dimitrios Lamprou from Queen’s University Belfast.

“This controlled release and stable compounds has huge implications for drug delivery”.

Industrial foams are widely used in the delivery of medications and cosmetics, but there is high variability in the foamability and long-term stability of synthetic foams.

In the study, researchers collected foam from the nests of wild túngara frogs in their native Trinidad, which protects the species from extreme temperatures and harmful bacteria.

To see if the foam could offer a more durable system for drug delivery, the team carried out laboratory tests to assess its structure and composition.
They also made nanoparticles to deliver drugs through the foam and found that the foam released the compounds slowly while the structure held together.  

Dr Lamprou believes this controlled release and stable compounds could have significant implications for drug delivery.

“One practical example could be with burn treatment whereby the foam would enable the drugs to be delivered under the bandage over a longer period, without needed to remove the bandages frequently, which would reduce the chance of infection,” he said. 

“Organic structures are also less irritable and less likely to cause allergies to human skin. Further testing is needed, but we are excited about the prospect of this novel drug delivery which could be used for proteins or siRNA.”

While the team has successfully produced the foam’s proteins in a laboratory using bacteria, they acknowledge that the frogs will be unable to produce enough foam to meet manufacturing demand.

The researchers are now concentrating on reproducing the exact foam and are analysing more drugs to see which ones lend themselves to this form of drug delivery.

“This is the first time an amphibian foam has been used for drug delivery,” commented Professor Paul Hoskisson of the University of Strathclyde and researcher on the study. “It should give us a nice, safe delivery vehicle that can be administered to patients without any fear of making them sick, unlike many of the other synthetic delivery vehicles.”

Dog vaccination for rabies essential for preventing spread to humans

Dog vaccination for rabies essential for preventing spread to humans

A coordinated and sustain programme of dog vaccination is the key to prevention, study suggests. 

A study led by the University of Glasgow, published today (1 September) in Applied Ecology, has found that rabies frequency in both domestic dogs and humans decreased during a period of sustained dog vaccination in southeast Tanzania, despite ongoing wildlife rabies infections.

The researchers found that after mass dog vaccination ended in Tanzania in 2017, the area saw a rise in rabies cases once again. 

Working in collaboration with Ifkara Health Institute and Imperial College London, the researchers at the University of Glasgow investigated the dynamics of transmission of rabies in Tanzania, in an area where jackals made up more than 40 per cent of reported animal rabies cases. 

Studying across a nine-year period, hospital records were used to identify people potentially exposed to rabies, and then these people were interviewed to determine if the biting animal was rabid. 

During the nine-year study period, it was found that throughout the period of dog vaccinations, cases dropped from a high of 218 in 2011, to just 15 in 2017. 

Senior author of the study, Professor Katie Hampson, commented: “Our findings confirm that, even in areas where wildlife rabies cases are high, focusing on domestic dog vaccination will have major public health benefits. 

“Moreover, if sustained and coordinated a dog vaccination programme has the potential to eliminate rabies from circulating even in these areas despite the presence of wildlife transmission.”

Sarah Hayes, co-author from Imperial College London added: “It is critical that there is continued investment in domestic dog vaccination and this work suggests that the presence of rabies within wildlife populations should not be a barrier to implementing these programmes."


Lemurs acquire drug-resistant bacteria by sharing environment with humans

Lemurs acquire drug-resistant bacteria by sharing environment with humans

The closer they live to people, the higher the proporation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Scientists have found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the guts of lemurs living near humans.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution, suggests that the more human interaction they have, the more antibiotic-resistant bacteria they harbour.

Researchers hope their findings will have a positive impact on conservation and wildlife management practices.

Study co-author and graduate student Sally Bornbusch, from Duke University, North Carolina, said: “Humans came along, developed antibiotics, spread them all around us, and propagated these resistance genes into natural environments and into the microbiomes of wildlife. Even if these results are slightly scary, they help us use microbiome science to hone veterinary practices and conservation activities.

In the study, researchers sampled dung from ring-tailed lemurs, and sequenced the genes of all microbes found in the dung to find genetic markers for antibiotic resistance.
The project included 10 lemur populations from across Madagascar,  including seven from the wild, two from research facilities, and one kept as pets.

They found that the average proportion of antibiotic-resistant genes was 25 times higher in the guts of animals from research facilities than in wild animals, where the average amount was near zero. Interestingly, the figure was almost 35 times greater in lemurs kept as pets.

Researchers believe the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in research lemurs is likely due to the good veterinary care they receive, giving them greater exposure to antibiotics than their wild cousins.

However, pet lemurs that likely never receive veterinary attention harboured the highest number of antibiotic-resistant genes. It is illegal to keep a lemur as a pet in Madagascar, so those that own them are unlikely to take them to a vet.

'These pet lemurs are therefore acquiring the antibiotic-resistant microbes simply by sharing their environment with humans and domestic animals,' researchers said.

Among the wild lemurs, antibiotic resistance varied depending on nearby human activity. Lemurs impacted by farming or tourism harboured more antibiotic-resistant microbes than those from more pristine environments, but still much less than lemurs living close to humans.

Bornbusch said that more research is needed to better understand the impact of these resistance genes on wildlife:

“Right now, we know that these resistance genes are out there, but we don’t know whether they are truly harmful to lemurs. These results give us a stepping-stone for research on the impact of these resistant microbes on wildlife and their environment.”

Cat study provides insight into dementia progress

Cat study provides insight into dementia progress

The study found parallels in the development of cognitive disease in both cats and humans. 

The University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, alongside the University of California, has found that key proteins linked to cognitive disease are found in similar ways in both cats and humans.
This new research demonstrates that the development of feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) functions similarly to dementia in several ways. 

It is hoped that these findings will support fast diagnosis and treatment of cognitive disease in cats and humans, as they assist in understanding the indicators of the disease. 

In the study, researchers aimed to understand how beta-amyloid and tau, two key proteins, develop in cats of all ages, and how they relate to the development of CDS. 

The research ultimately found that the accumulation of tau proteins, and the region in the brain in which this occurs, are key indicators of the progress of dementia in cats, and that the clinical signs developed in feline CDS are similar to that of human Alzheimers disease. 

Published in Frontiers in Aging, the study is available to read here

Vet-led alliance awarded funding to tackle AMR

Vet-led alliance awarded funding to tackle AMR

The Bloomsbury SET is a partnership between RVC, LSHTM, SOAS and iiCON.

An RVC-led knowledge exchange programme has received £1.9 million in funding from Research England to tackle infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The London-Liverpool based alliance ‘The Bloomsbury SET’, aims to accelerate solutions to One Health problems by bringing together the academic and commercial sectors. Starting this July, the year-long project will help commercialise academic research and develop new treatments and products to reduce the global burdens of AMR and infectious diseases. 

Among the institutions involved include the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), SOAS University of London, and the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. 

Professor Richard Bomphrey, interim vice-principal for research at the RVC, said: "There has never been a better time to bring together an outstanding interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial consortium to take on the globally important and pressing issues of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. The Bloomsbury SET Impact Connector programme will support innovators as they take promising therapeutics from the laboratory to communities worldwide.”

As part of the project, The Bloomsbury SET’s Impact Connector programme will work with businesses to deliver products vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics that will benefit both animals and humans. 

Among the planned activities include bespoke workshops, peer-to-peer learning, and business mentoring to support product development. There will also be a skills programme for academics to develop their understanding of the concepts required to commercialise academic research. 

Dr Hannah Whiteman, head of strategic research at the LSHTM, said: “The Bloomsbury SET Impact Connector programme represents an excellent opportunity to build further links with our regional KE partners at RVC and SOAS, and strengthen our national network through a new partnership with the Infection Innovation Consortium.

"The programme will empower our innovators across career stages with training, funding, and opportunities to forge new external industrial networks and advance their technologies closer to delivering societal and economic impact.”

Leopard gecko skin tumours linked to human melanoma gene

Leopard gecko skin tumours linked to human melanoma gene

UCLA scientists have discovered a link between lemon frost geckos and a gene linked to human melanoma.

Scientists at the University of California have traced an unusual colouring and a tendency to form tumours in a rare leopard gecko to a gene linked to human melanoma.

A reptile shop in California began breeding lemon frost geckos in 2016, and produced several of the distinctly yellow-coloured lizards.

Lemon frost geckos are rare, and can fetch prices of over $2,000. However, there is a problem with this breed – roughly 80 per cent of lemon geckos develop bulbous white skin tumours within the first five years of their life. In some individuals, these tumours have the potential to grow exceedingly large, uncomfortable and dangerous for the geckos.

Kruglyak and Guo, geneticists at UCLA, suspected a genetic root to these tumours, considering that it could potentially be a single mutation in a single gene. Using a variety of genetic analyses, they traced the tumours and colouring in this species to a gene implicated in skin cutaneous melanoma, which is a deadly cancer in humans. Their findings are reported in the journal, PLOS Genetics.

The leopard geckos' colouring comes from cells called iridophores. Unlike human skin cells, which get their colour from the melanin pigment, iridophores produce colours via crystals.

Guo collected DNA from 500 lizards, and read the genetic letters of the animals genomes. The team hunted for DNA regions that could link to certain colour varieties, specifically, the genetic signposts that occurred only in lemon frost animals. 

Researchers mapped the lemon frost trait to a region that contained a single gene, SPINT1, which has already been linked to cancer in humans and other animals. Scientists have also implicated the gene in human skin cutaneous melanoma.

Given this uncommon discovery, it is possible that the leopard gecko could serve as a model for scientists researching melanoma, and in the future, Guo wishes to explore the genetic basis of even more lizard colours, including the blizzard and patternless varieties.


Genetics insights in chickens could tackle food poisoning

Genetics insights in chickens could tackle food poisoning

Scientists identify genes that may influence resistance to Campylobacter.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have identified key genes in chickens that may provide resistance to harmful bacteria responsible for food poisoning in humans.

The study published in BMC Genomics found a large number of genes in the guts of chickens that may determine whether birds are resistant to Campylobacter. 

Scientists say the findings could inform future research into breeding chickens that are at reduced risk of carrying Campylobacter, and could therefore mitigate the risk to consumers. 

“Campylobacter is present in more than half of chicken sold, representing a significant risk to consumers, and breeding poultry resistant to the bacteria is one potential way to tackle this,” commented study author Professor Mark Stevens. 

“Our research is shedding light on how the genetic make-up of chickens influences their response to the bacteria, which could inform ways to breed poultry resistant to Campylobacter and thereby improve food safety.”

Building on previous research, this study tested the effects of Campylobacter infection on chickens bred to be resistant or susceptible to the bacteria. Analysis of the chickens’ gut tissue revealed variations in a large number of the genes, including one involved in immunity.

Scientists say the difference between these genes in susceptible and resistant chickens could in part explain their response to Campylobacter.

Boehringer collaborates with Lifebit to detect global disease outbreaks

Boehringer collaborates with Lifebit to detect global disease outbreaks

Project will combine real-world evidence with AI to track transboundary infections.

Boehringer Ingelheim has announced a multi-year partnership with biotech firm Lifebit to detect and report global disease outbreaks. 

Through the partnership, scientists will work collaboratively to combine real-world evidence and the latest AI algorithms to identify diseases, particularly those that cross borders, and respond accordingly. 

Lifebit's REAL platform analyses data harvested from millions of tweets, news articles and scientific publications to notify users of relevant disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19. 

As well as speeding up the detection of the latest outbreaks, researchers hope the insights will enable Boehringer’s research and development efforts to be prioritised accordingly.

“External innovation is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our R&D playbook. Therefore, we are strategically partnering with Lifebit to leverage AI to monitor and interpret scientific and other sources in real-time, enabling us to track data related to animal diseases,” commented Dr Eric Haaksma, head of animal health global innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim.

“This, in turn, will accelerate the detection process as the vast amounts of scientific relevant information being produced at many levels cannot be feasibly collected and analysed manually.”

Lifebit CEO Dr Maria Chatzou-Dunford added: “At Lifebit, we thrive at connecting both, locked-up sensitive biomedical data from around the world and AI-driven automated RWE data insights – so that companies at the cutting edge of science, like Boehringer Ingelheim, can make faster and smarter decisions – delivering insights that change lives.”

Zebrafish insights could help humans reach Mars

Zebrafish insights could help humans reach Mars

Researchers assess whether induced torpor could protect astronauts against radiation.

New insights into the zebrafish could help humans get to Mars by understanding how a type of hibernation, known as induced torpor, may protect against radiation.

Torpor is a reduced state of physical or mental activity in animals that protects them against harsh conditions, such as low temperatures and food shortages.

Scientists believe that reproducing torpor in humans could protect astronauts against the harsh conditions of space exploration, such as radiation exposure, bone and muscle wastage, vascular problems and advanced ageing.

“Recent technological advancements have made space travel more accessible, however, long-term space travel is incredibly detrimental to human health,” explained Professor Gary Hardiman, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast and senior author of the paper. 

“We set out to determine if induced torpor is a viable countermeasure to the harmful effects of spaceflight. If humans could replicate a similar model of hibernation we have observed in the zebrafish, it could increase our chances of making humans a spacefaring species.”

In the study, researchers exposed zebrafish to radiation similar to what would be experienced on a six-month mission to Mars. They noted that the radiation caused signs of oxidative stress, stress hormone signalling and halted the zebrafish cell cycle. 

Next, the team induced torpor in a second group of zebrafish exposed to the same amount of radiation. The researchers analysed the gene expression patterns to examine the protective effects of this state on both physical and mental activity. 

They found that torpor reduced the metabolic rate in zebrafiish and created a radioprotective effect, thereby protecting against the harmful effects of radiation. The findings are published in the journal MDPI Cells.

“Our results reveal that whilst in induced torpor, the zebrafish showed that a reduction in metabolism and oxygen concentration in cells promotes less oxidative stress and greater resistance to radiation,” said study co-first author Thomas Cahill. 

"These insights into how a reduction in metabolic rate can offer protection from radiation exposure and could help humans achieve a similar kind of hibernation, counter measuring the damage they currently face during spaceflight.”

Salmonella study reveals how genetic changes alter disease risk

Salmonella study reveals how genetic changes alter disease risk

Variants found in pigs pose different threats to human and animal health.

A new study from the Roslin Institute and the Quadram Institute has found that two closely related variants of salmonella typhimurium have significantly different effects on pig health compared to other animals and humans.

The study, published in the journal Communications Biology, analysed the genetic makeup of salmonella strains found in pigs and people over a number of years, with the aim of identifying variants and understanding how they evolved and behave.

The two variants, named U288 and ST34, were predominantly found in pigs and differences were found in both variants' colonisation of the intestine and surrounding tissues as well as the severity of disease they created.

According to the researchers, the ST34 variant accounts for more than half of all salmonella typhimurium infections in people, while the U288 variant is rarely associated with human infection.

The U288 variant was found to have undergone a unique set of genetic changes, most likely between 1980 and 2000. It evolved to obtain genes associated with antimicrobial resistance, as well as variations in molecules connected to virulence.

The researchers suggest that these changes could hold the key to understanding how this variant interacts differently with pigs during infections and in the food chain.

Professor Mark Stevens from the Roslin Institute said: “Understanding how variants of Salmonella emerge and pinpointing the genetic signatures responsible for adaptation to different hosts and the ability to produce disease will provide opportunities to improve diagnostics and surveillance. In turn this will help to predict the risk that Salmonella variants pose to animal health and food safety.”

Russia registers first COVID-19 vaccine for animals

Russia registers first COVID-19 vaccine for animals

Vaccine provides immunity from infection for up to six months.

Russia has announced that it has registered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine for animals, with mass production starting in April 2021.

The vaccine, named Karnivak-Kov, was developed by Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s Veterinary Surveillance Service. Use of the vaccine, according to the agency, ‘can prevent the development of virus mutations, which most often occur during inter-species transmission of the pathogen’.

Konstantin Savenkov, deputy head of Rosselkhoznadzor, said: “The clinical trials of Karnivak-Kov, which started in October last year, involved dogs, cats, arctic foxes, minks, foxes and other animals. 

“The results of the research allow us to conclude that the vaccine is harmless and its high immunogenic activity, since all tested vaccinated animals in 100 per cent of cases developed antibodies to coronavirus.”

Rosselkhoznadzor found that Karnivak-Kov provides immunity from COVID-19 infection for up to six months. 

Savenkov added that mass production could start in April based on Russia's 'largest platform for the production of drugs for animals of the Federal Center for Animal Health.'

“The vaccine is of particular importance because, as noted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), some animal species are susceptible to COVID-19,” he said. “Cases of detection of this disease have been registered in many countries of the world.”