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Bacteria develop resistance from rivals - study
The overuse of antibiotics may not be exclusively responsible for antibiotic resistance.

Research works to tackle antibiotic resistance

The overuse of antibiotics may not be exclusively responsible for antibiotic resistance, according to new research.

The study by the University of Basel found that bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics from their competitors.
Writing in Cell Reports, researchers show that some bacteria inject a toxic cocktail into their rivals leading to cell lysis and death.

Researchers also found that if the released material contains certain drug-resistant genes, the specific resistance can be bestowed upon the new owner. As such, the antibiotic is no longer effective and the bacteria can reproduce.

“Some of these toxic proteins kill the bacterial competition very effectively, but do not destroy the cells,” explained Professor Marek Basler, who led the research. “Others severely damage the cell envelope, which leads to less of the attacked bacteria and hence the release of its genetic material.”

In the study, the researchers analysed the drug-resistant bacterium Acinetobacter baumanni - a typical hospital germ that originated during the Iraq war. The bacteria is also known as the ‘Iraq bug’ because it was spread by American soldiers returning home from combat.

The team found that the emergence and spread of multidrug resistance could be attributed - amongst other things - to the skills of certain bacteria. First, the bacteria combat their rivals by injecting them with toxic proteins - or effectors - using the type VI secretion system (T6SS), a poison syringe. Second, they are able to uptake and reuse the released genetic material.

In the model Acinetobacter baylyi, a close relative of the Iraq bug, Professor Basler’s team identified five differently acting toxic effectors.

“For the bacteria it makes absolute sense to produce not only a single toxin, but a cocktail of various toxins with different effects,” Basler explains. “This increases the likelihood that the rival can be successful and in some cases also lysed to release their DNA.”

Professor Basler added that the T6SS 'can also be found in other pathogens such as those which cause pneumonia or cholera'.

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New app to improve street dog welfare

News Story 1
 A new free app will support vital work in clinics caring for stray dogs around the world, experts say. Created by the University of Edinburgh, the tool allows vets to track the wellbeing of dogs going through catch-neuter-return schemes, which are common in countries with large numbers of strays.

Vets say the welfare of individual dogs can be overlooked during the process of capture, transport or surgery. The app, piloted across Asia and Africa, helps staff to monitor welfare, spot signs of distress and develop strategies to improve care. It was launched at BSAVA Congress on Friday 6 April.  

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Farm to fork traceability championed in new service

Defra has created a new information service to offer farm to fork traceability when the UK leaves the EU. The Livestock Information Service, which is set to be operational from 2019, will identify and track animal movements via electronic IDs, meaning the industry and government are better placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food. NFU President Minette Batters, among others, has helped lead the way on this, showing how it will drive a progressive and vibrant livestock industry once we leave the EU.”