News Article | May 12, 2017
"Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria pose a complex challenge. This is why Germany, with its German Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy DART2020, is making sustained efforts to protect the health of humans and animals", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "In the spirit of the One Health strategy, this calls for interdisciplinary research by veterinarians and experts in human medicine as well as molecular biologists and epidemiologists, as successfully demonstrated by the RESET and MedVet-Staph network projects." Since 2010, these research networks have been investigating the development, spread and mechanisms of resistance to certain antibiotics in cases of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus in humans and animals. Alongside the BfR, numerous universities and scientific institutions in Germany are involved in the network projects. The RESET network investigates resistance to the particularly important antibiotic classes of cephalosporins and (fluoro)quinolones in intestinal bacteria such as Escherichia (E.) coli. Some strains of these bacteria can destroy cephalosporins. In this process, they use enzymes known as "extended-spectrum beta-lactamases" (ESBLs) and AmpC beta-lactamases (AmpCs). The strains can pass on this destructive capability to other bacteria. Analyses conducted in the RESET network have shown that ESBL- or AmpC-producing E. coli are widespread in livestock. These bacteria were detected in all investigated poultry-rearing businesses. They were also found in 85% of investigated pig production and dairy cattle businesses as well as in 70% of cattle production businesses. Moreover, E. coli and Salmonella that can additionally destroy carbapenems were found in livestock in Germany for the first time. These antibiotics are used in hospitals to treat infections with multi-resistant bacteria. The administration of antibiotics is not always responsible for the occurrence of resistant bacteria. E. coli that produce ESBLs or AmpCs also occur in groups of animals (in particular in broilers) that have had no contact with antibiotics. The bacteria and resistance genes can be transferred along the production chain and be transmitted to other foods in the kitchen. In studies, ESBL-E. coli were found in 6.3% of the healthy general population and with similar frequency among pig farmers. In German hospitals, the share of ESBL-positive E. coli and Klebsiellae among all hospital acquired infections with these enterobacteria increased from 11.9% to 15.4% between 2007 and 2012. Overall, the molecular biology analyses showed that various ESBL-forming bacteria possess the ability to be exchanged between humans, animals and their environment. Direct transmission of the bacteria with their resistance genes is evidently relatively seldom. Nevertheless, the resistance genes can be exchanged between different bacteria, and this makes it more difficult to trace them. It is therefore currently not possible to exactly assess the significance of livestock for the colonisation and infection of humans with ESBL- or AmpC-forming enterobacteria. RESET coordinator Professor Dr. Lothar Kreienbrock at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover says: "Our newly created joint database enables us to perform overarching analyses of both the data on the origin of samples from humans, animals, food and the environment as well as the data on the properties of the bacteria strains. Based on this joint strain and data collection, for example, we have succeeded for the first time in detecting the transmissible colistin resistance gene (mcr - 1) in E. coli from German livestock." He adds that the task now is therefore to further extend and consolidate these options developed together with the German Research Platform for Zoonoses and the TMF (technology and methodology platform for interconnected medical research) in the spirit of the One Health strategy. The MedVet-Staph network focuses on the importance of the transmission of antimicrobial-resistant staphylococci including the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains (MRSA) between animals and humans. MRSA colonises around 0.8% of healthy people in the general German population (mostly in the nasal or throat area). By comparing the genetic fingerprint, it is possible to distinguish livestock-associated MRSA types from MRSA typically found in hospital acquired infections. Network coordinator PD Dr. med. Robin Köck from the University of Münster says: "The findings of the MedVet-Staph network have underlined that the transmission path between animals and humans is something that it is essential to bear in mind if we want to understand the spread of MRSA. We have shown that in particular direct contact with MRSA-carrying livestock, as occurs with farmers or vets, constitutes a high risk for transmission. More than 80% of farmers involved in pig production carry the bacterium." MRSA is found with increasing frequency as a wound infection pathogen not only in livestock but increasingly also in horses, cats and dogs. The MRSA detected in these animals differs from the MRSA in livestock, however. During the course of the project, it was not only MRSA but also other bacteria that were detected in livestock and farmers - bacteria such as enterococci and coagulase-negative staphylococci, which are resistant to substances such as linezolid or daptomycin - which are used in human medicine as reserve antibiotics. Further research is therefore necessary on the occurrence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in livestock and food as well as in pets and the environment. The MedVet-Staph research network also investigated the extent to which livestock-associated MRSA can lead to disease in humans. The frequency of livestock-associated MRSA clones has increased overall in Germany, although there are marked regional differences: in individual regions with intensive livestock farming (in the northern region of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example), these bacteria are responsible for over 10% of severe MRSA infections in humans. However, not all cases of detection in humans can be attributed to direct contact with positive animals. The MedVet-Staph network proved that 38% of the people in rural regions colonised with livestock-associated MRSA types had no direct contact with livestock. It must therefore be assumed that the bacteria are also passed on via other routes (e.g. human to human). According to research findings of the BfR and from Denmark, there are similarities between MRSA from poultry meat, in particular turkey meat, and bacteria isolates from humans. This suggests that, in individual cases, livestock-associated MRSA can also be transmitted to humans via food. Experimental studies with broiler meat were conducted at the BfR in this regard. It was shown that the processing and preparation of contaminated food in domestic kitchens can result in the migration of MRSA and ESBL-forming E. coli to other foods which are then consumed by people without further heating. At the same time, however, the significance of this transmission path appears to be relatively minor. The RESET and MedVet-Staph research networks are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and are each made up of scientists from the fields of human and veterinary medicine, basic research and applied research. You can find more information (in German) about RESET and MedVet-Staph at
News Article | April 26, 2017
The body's immune system performs essential functions, such as defending against bacteria and cancer cells. However, the human brain is separated from immune cells in the bloodstream by the so-called blood-brain barrier. This barrier protects the brain from pathogens and toxins circulating in the blood, while also dividing the immune cells of the human body into those that fulfill their function in the blood and those that work specifically in the brain. Until recently, it was thought that brain function was largely unaffected by the peripheral immune system. However, in the past few years, evidence has accumulated to indicate that the blood's immune system could in fact have an impact on the brain. Scientists from the University of Basel's Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences (MCN) have now carried out two independent studies that demonstrate that this link between the immune system and brain is more significant than previously believed. In the first study, the researchers searched for epigenetic profiles, i.e. regulatory patterns, in the blood of 533 young, healthy people. In their genome-wide search, they identified an epigenetic profile that is strongly correlated with the thickness of the cerebral cortex, in particular in a region of the brain that is important for memory functions. This finding was confirmed in an independent examination of a further 596 people. It also showed that it is specifically those genes that are responsible for the regulation of important immune functions in the blood that explain the link between the epigenetic profile and the properties of the brain. In the second study, the researchers investigated the genomes of healthy participants who remembered negative images particularly well or particularly poorly. A variant of the TROVE2 gene, whose role in immunological diseases is currently being investigated, was linked to participants' ability to remember a particularly high number of negative images, while their general memory remained unaffected. This gene variant also led to increased activity in specific regions of the brain that are important for the memory of emotional experiences. The researchers also discovered that the gene is linked to the strength of traumatic memories in people who have experienced traumatic events. The results of the two studies show that both brain structure and memory are linked to the activity of genes that also perform important immune regulatory functions in the blood. "Although the precise mechanisms behind the links we discovered still need to be clarified, we hope that this will ultimately lead to new treatment possibilities," says Professor Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Co-Director of the University of Basel's MCN research platform. The immune system can be precisely affected by certain medications, and such medications could also have a positive effect on impaired brain functions. These groundbreaking findings were made possible thanks to cutting edge neuroscientific and genetic methods at the University of Basel's MCN research platform. Under the leadership of Professor Andreas Papassotiropoulos and Professor Dominique de Quervain, the research platform aims to help us better understand human brain functions and to develop new treatments for psychiatric disorders. Virginie Freytag et al. A peripheral epigenetic signature of immune system genes is 2 linked to neocortical thickness and memory Nature Communications (2017), doi: 10.1038/ncomms15193 Angela Heck et al. Exome sequencing of healthy phenotypic extremes links TROVE2 to emotional memory and PTSD Nature Human Behaviour (2017), doi: 10.1038/s41562-017-0081
News Article | May 2, 2017
The National Academy of Sciences announced today the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The National Academy of Sciences announced today the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,290 and the total number of foreign associates to 475. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States. Newly elected members and their affiliations at the time of election are: Bates, Frank S.; Regents Professor, department of chemical engineering and materials science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Beilinson, Alexander; David and Mary Winton Green University Professor, department of mathematics, The University of Chicago, Chicago Bell, Stephen P.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and professor of biology, department of biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Bhatia, Sangeeta N.; John J. (1929) and Dorothy Wilson Professor, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Buzsáki, György; professor, Neuroscience Institute, departments of physiology and neuroscience, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City Carroll, Dana; distinguished professor, department of biochemistry, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City Cohen, Judith G.; Kate Van Nuys Page Professor of Astronomy, department of astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena Crabtree, Robert H.; Conkey P. Whitehead Professor of Chemistry, department of chemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. Cronan, John E.; professor and head of microbiology, professor of biochemistry, and Microbiology Alumni Professor, department of microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Cummins, Christopher C.; Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Darensbourg, Marcetta Y.; distinguished professor of chemistry, department of chemistry, Texas A&M University, College Station DeVore, Ronald A.; The Walter E. Koss Professor and distinguished professor, department of mathematics, Texas A&M University, College Station Diamond, Douglas W.; Merton H. Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, The University of Chicago, Chicago Doe, Chris Q.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and professor of biology, Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene Duflo, Esther; Co-founder and co-Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, and Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Edwards, Robert Haas; professor of neurology and physiology, University of California, San Francisco Firestone, Mary K.; professor and associate dean of instruction and student affairs, department of environmental science policy and management, University of California, Berkeley Fischhoff, Baruch; Howard Heinz University Professor, department of social and decision sciences and department of engineering and public policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Ginty, David D.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, department of neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston Glass, Christopher K.; professor of cellular and molecular medicine and professor of medicine, University of California, San Diego Goldman, Yale E.; professor, department of physiology, Pennsylvania Muscle Institute, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia González, Gabriela; spokesperson, LIGO Scientific Collaboration; and professor, department of physics and astronomy, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge Hagan, John L.; John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law, department of sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. Hatten, Mary E.; Frederick P. Rose Professor, laboratory of developmental neurobiology, The Rockefeller University, New York City Hebard, Arthur F.; distinguished professor of physics, department of physics, University of Florida, Gainesville Jensen, Klavs F.; Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Kahn, Barbara B.; vice chair for research strategy and George R. Minot Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Kinder, Donald R.; Philip E. Converse Collegiate Professor of Political Science and Psychology and research scientist, department of political science, Center for Political Studies, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Lazar, Mitchell A.; Willard and Rhoda Ware Professor in Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, and director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia Locksley, Richard M.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and professor, department of medicine (infectious diseases), and Marion and Herbert Sandler Distinguished Professorship in Asthma Research, University of California, San Francisco Lozano, Guillermina; professor and chair, department of genetics, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Mavalvala, Nergis; Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics and associate head, department of physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Moore, Jeffrey Scott; Murchison-Mallory Professor of Chemistry, department of chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Moore, Melissa J.; chief scientific officer, mRNA Research Platform, Moderna Therapeutics, Cambridge, Mass.; and Eleanor Eustis Farrington Chair of Cancer Research Professor, RNA Therapeutics Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester Nunnari, Jodi M.; professor, department of molecular and cellular biology, University of California, Davis O'Farrell, Patrick H.; professor of biochemistry and biophysics, department of biochemistry and biophysics, University of California, San Francisco Ort, Donald R.; research leader and Robert Emerson Professor, USDA/ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, departments of plant biology and crop sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Parker, Gary; professor, department of civil and environmental engineering and department of geology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Patapoutian, Ardem; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and professor, department of molecular and cellular neuroscience, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif. Pellegrini, Claudio; distinguished professor emeritus, department of physics and astronomy, University of California, Los Angeles Pikaard, Craig, S.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; and distinguished professor of biology and molecular and cellular biochemistry, department of biology, Indiana University, Bloomington Read, Nicholas; Henry Ford II Professor of Physics and professor of applied physics and mathematics, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. Roediger, Henry L.; James S. McDonnell Distinguished and University Professor of Psychology, department of psychology and brain sciences, Washington University, St. Louis Rosenzweig, Amy C.; Weinberg Family Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences, and professor, departments of molecular biosciences and of chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. Seto, Karen C.; professor, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, Conn. Seyfarth, Robert M.; professor of psychology and member of the graduate groups in anthropology and biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Sibley, L. David; Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor in Molecular Microbiology, department of molecular microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Spielman, Daniel A.; Henry Ford II Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics, departments of computer science and mathematics, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. Sudan, Madhu; Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Tishkoff, Sarah; David and Lyn Silfen University Professor, departments of genetics and biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Van Essen, David C.; Alumni Professor of Neurobiology, department of anatomy and neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Vidale, John E.; professor, department of earth and space sciences, University of Washington, Seattle Wennberg, Paul O.; R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena Wilson, Rachel I.; Martin Family Professor of Basic Research in the Field of Neurobiology, department of neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston Zachos, James C.; professor, department of earth and planetary sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Newly elected foreign associates, their affiliations at the time of election, and their country of citizenship are: Addadi, Lia; professor and Dorothy and Patrick E. Gorman Chair of Biological Ultrastructure, department of structural science, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel (Israel/Italy) Folke, Carl; director and professor, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden (Sweden) Freeman, Kenneth C.; Duffield Professor of Astronomy, Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, Weston Creek (Australia) Lee, Sang Yup; distinguished professor, dean, and director, department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, South Korea (South Korea) Levitzki, Alexander; professor of biochemistry, unit of cellular signaling, department of biological chemistry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Israel) Peiris, Joseph Sriyal Malik; Tam Wah-Ching Professorship in Medical Science, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China (Sri Lanka) Robinson, Carol Vivien; Dr. Lee's Professor of Chemistry, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford, Oxford, England (United Kingdom) Thesleff, Irma; academician of science, professor, and research director, developmental biology program, Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki (Finland) Underdal, Arild; professor of political science, department of political science, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway (Norway) The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and -- with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine -- provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.