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Horse study offers new insights on human disease
AHT scientists were working on Streptococcus equi, which causes strangles in horses.
Scientists ID genes linked with Streptococcus pyogenes

Research in horses has managed to identify new genes that are associated with Streptococcus pyogenes, an important cause of human disease.

Streptococcus pyogenes are responsible for 600 million cases of pharyngitis in humans every year, and infections caused by the bug have seen a dramatic rise around the world over the past 20 years.

The bacteria is also to blame for a further 100 million cases of invasive disease, such as scarlet fever, acute rheumatic fever and necrotising fasciitis.

Despite the cost to human health, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) said little is known about which of the 1,800 genes are required for it to infect people and persist in the throat.

AHT scientists were working on Streptococcus equi, which causes strangles in horses and is closely related to Streptococcus pyogenes. They developed a new technique that allows the importance of every gene in the bug to be tested at once, rather than one at a time.

The technique was transferred to the lab at Houston Methodist Research Institute, where it was also proved effective in the study of Streptococcus pyogenes. The team were able to identify 92 genes that were required for the bacteria to grow in human saliva.

Dr James Musser, a professor at the institute, said this has the potential to accelerate research into this important human pathogen.

In follow-on tests, the team were able to immediately confirm that six of these new genes did affect growth in human saliva, meaning there is potential for novel therapeutics and vaccines.

Dr Andrew Waller, head of bacteriology at AHT, added: “We are delighted that a technique developed at the AHT to learn more about Streptococcus equi and strangles in horses has provided new results that could benefit people too.

“We have learnt a huge amount about our bug through following the work being done on human diseases, and it is great to be able to give something back in return. This study highlights the similarities of animal and human pathogens.

“We hope that our technique will also prove useful for the study and prevention of other diseases, regardless of the animal they affect.”

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Report: A third of Welsh birds are in decline

News Story 1
 A report by RSPB Cymru and partnering ornithology organisations has revealed that a third of bird species in Wales are in significant decline.

90 per cent of Wales is farmed and there is now pressure to implement new land management policies that will aid in nature restoration.

Patrick Lindley, Maritime Ornithologist for Natural Resources Wales, commented: “The problems that confront UK birds, whether they are breeding or non-breeding, are pressure and threats that confront entire ecosystems.

“Birds are a great indicator to the health of our environment. The continued population declines of birds of farmed, woodland and upland habitats suggest there are large geographic themes that are having a detrimental impact.”  

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News Shorts
BSAVA announces winner of 2019 Bourgelat Award

One of the world’s leading small animal medicine specialists is set to receive the prestigious Bourgelat Award at BSAVA Congress 2019.

Professor Mike Herrtage will be recognised for his major research into metabolic and endocrine diseases, including diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease.

During his career, Prof Herrtage has co-authored more than 100 scientific papers and written more than 200 other publications such as abstracts, books and chapters. He also continues to be a source of inspiration for thousands of undergraduate and postgraduate veterinary surgeons.