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New insights into superbug link between humans and animals
By looking at the bacteria’s evolutionary history, researchers found that humans are likely to be the original host for the bacteria. (Stock photo)
Gene study could help to tackle antibiotic resistance 

Scientists have shed new light on how disease-causing strains of Staphylococcus aureus can jump between humans and animals.

A team led by the Roslin Institute studied the genetic make-up of more than 800 strains of the bacteria, which were isolated from people and animals.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, could help to improve the use of antibiotics and limit the spread of disease.

Antibiotic strains of S aureus, such as MRSA, are a major cause of hospital acquired infections. It is also a serious burden for the agricultural industry, causing diseases such as mastitis in cows and skeletal infections in broiler chickens.

By looking at the bacteria’s evolutionary history, researchers found that humans are likely to be the original host for the bacteria. The first strains capable of infecting livestock emerged around the same time that animals were domesticated for farming.

The study also revealed that cows were a source of strains that now cause infections in humans worldwide, which underlines the importance of disease surveillance in humans and animals, in order to spot strains that could cause major epidemics.

Furthermore, each time the bacteria jumps species, it acquires new genes that allow it to survive in the new host. In some cases, these genes can also confer resistance to commonly used antibiotics.

Researchers also found that the genes linked to antibiotic resistance are unevenly distributed among strains that infect humans, compared to those that infect animals. They believe this reflects the different practices linked with antibiotic usage in medicine and agriculture.

Professor Ross Fitzgerald, group leader at the Roslin Institute, commented: “Our findings provide a framework to understand how some bacteria can cause disease in both humans and animals and could ultimately reveal novel therapeutic targets.”

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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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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.