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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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Sale of microbeads now banned

News Story 1
 The sale of products containing microbeads is now banned across England and Scotland, Defra has confirmed.

As part of government efforts to prevent these plastics ending up in the marine environment, retailers can no longer sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads. These tiny plastics were often added to products including face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels.

Just a single shower is thought to send 100,000 of these beads down the drain and into the ocean, where it can cause serious harm to marine life. A ban on manufacturing products containing microbeads previously came into force in January this year. 

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News Shorts
George Eustice announces funding for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea

Farming minister George Eustice has announced a 5.7million funding package to help farmers tackle Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

The funding will be available in England for three years through the Rural Development Programme and farmers will be able to apply for one-to-one farm advisory visits by a veterinary practitioner.

The project will recruit local vets who will then work with keepers of breeding cattle to tackle BVD on their farms.