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Scientific breakthrough a 'game-changer' for antibiotics
Bacteriophages could work with livestock antibiotics, or replace them altogether.

Finding could safeguard future of some human drugs

Scientists at the University of Leicester have discovered an organism that targets harmful bacteria and leaves ‘good’ bacteria intact in pigs. The discovery could transform the way we treat drug-resistant infections in humans.

In the study, funded by AHDB Pork, researchers isolated 20 bacteriophages - or bacterial viruses - that target 72 strains of drug-resistant bacteria that can cause gut problems in pigs.

The finding suggests that bacteriophages could work with livestock antibiotics, or replace them altogether - helping safeguard the future of some human antibiotics. Researchers say that the discovery could also speed up the progress of similar applications in human medicine.

The breakthrough has been welcomed by agriculture and food industry alliance RUMA, which promotes the responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals.

“The issue of antibiotic resistance is one shared by human and animal medicine, and a number of initiatives across medical and veterinary sciences are attempting to understand and reduce the spread of resistance genes in bacteria,” said RUMA secretary John Fitzgerald.
 
“A discovery such as this could be a real game-changer, not just helping the farming industry to steward antibiotics more effectively but potentially speeding up the development of human medical applications.”

Dr Charlotte Evans, technical senior manager with AHDB Pork, explained that bacteriophages are found everywhere in the environment so they can be regarded as a ‘natural’ defence.

“There’s still a long way to go in terms of trials and licensing but we are very pleased this research, which was started two years ago, has already yielded such promising results,” she said.
 
“Bacteriophage treatment is about using increased volumes of something that is already present to target harmful bacteria. Research suggests they do not harm other organisms because the relevant receptor is not present.”

Dr Evans added that the next move is to determine whether bacteriophages could be applied by spray, injection or vaccination, or by adding to water or feed.

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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.