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Through a long history of co-evolution, multicellular organisms form a complex of host cells plus many associated microorganism species. Consisting of algae, bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists and viruses, and collectively referred to as the microbiome, these microorganisms contribute to a range of important functions in their hosts, from nutrition, to behaviour and disease susceptibility. In this book, a diverse and international group of active researchers outline how multicellular organisms have become reliant on their microbiomes to function, and explore this vital interdependence across the breadth of soil, plant, animal and human hosts. They draw parallels and contrasts across hosts in different environments, and discuss how this invisible microbial ecosystem influences everything from the food we eat, to our health, to the correct functioning of ecosystems we depend on. This insightful read also pertinently encourages students and researchers in microbial ecology, ecology, and microbiology to consider how this interdependence may be key to mitigating environmental changes and developing microbial biotechnology to improve life on Earth.
Studies have shown that when religious and spiritual concerns are addressed by the medical team, patients are more satisfied with their care and have lower healthcare costs. However, little is known about how intensive care unit (ICU) clinicians address these concerns. The objective of this study was to determine how ICU clinicians address the religious and spiritual needs of patients and families.
We performed a cross-sectional survey study of ICU physicians, nurses, and advance practice providers (APPs) to understand their attitudes and beliefs about addressing the religious and spiritual needs of ICU patients and families. Each question was designed on a 4- to 5-point Likert scale. A total of 219 surveys were collected over a 4-month period.
A majority of clinicians agreed that it is their responsibility to address the religious/spiritual needs of patients. A total of 79% of attendings, 74% of fellows, 89% of nurses, and 83% of APPs agreed with this statement. ICU clinicians also feel comfortable talking to patients about their religious/spiritual concerns. In practice, few clinicians frequently address religious/spiritual concerns. Only 14% of attendings, 3% of fellows, 26% of nurses, and 17% of APPs say they frequently ask patients about their religious/spiritual needs.
Significance of results
This study shows that ICU clinicians see it as their role to address the religious and spiritual needs of their patients, and report feeling comfortable talking about these issues. Despite this, a minority of clinicians regularly address religious and spiritual needs in clinical practice. This highlights a potential deficit in comprehensive critical care as outlined by many national guidelines.
Antigenic variation in malaria was discovered in Plasmodium knowlesi studies involving longitudinal infections of rhesus macaques (M. mulatta). The variant proteins, known as the P. knowlesi Schizont Infected Cell Agglutination (SICA) antigens and the P. falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 (PfEMP1) antigens, expressed by the SICAvar and var multigene families, respectively, have been studied for over 30 years. Expression of the SICA antigens in P. knowlesi requires a splenic component, and specific antibodies are necessary for variant antigen switch events in vivo. Outstanding questions revolve around the role of the spleen and the mechanisms by which the expression of these variant antigen families are regulated. Importantly, the longitudinal dynamics and molecular mechanisms that govern variant antigen expression can be studied with P. knowlesi infection of its mammalian and vector hosts. Synchronous infections can be initiated with established clones and studied at multi-omic levels, with the benefit of computational tools from systems biology that permit the integration of datasets and the design of explanatory, predictive mathematical models. Here we provide an historical account of this topic, while highlighting the potential for maximizing the use of P. knowlesi – macaque model systems and summarizing exciting new progress in this area of research.
Schistosomiasis in China has been substantially reduced due to an effective control programme employing various measures including bovine and human chemotherapy, and the removal of bovines from endemic areas. To fulfil elimination targets, it will be necessary to identify other possible reservoir hosts for Schistosoma japonicum and include them in future control efforts. This study determined the infection prevalence of S. japonicum in rodents (0–9·21%), dogs (0–18·37%) and goats (6·9–46·4%) from the Dongting Lake area of Hunan province, using a combination of traditional coproparasitological techniques (miracidial hatching technique and Kato-Katz thick smear technique) and molecular methods [quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR)]. We found a much higher prevalence in goats than previously recorded in this setting. Cattle and water buffalo were also examined using the same procedures and all were found to be infected, emphasising the occurrence of active transmission. qPCR and ddPCR were much more sensitive than the coproparasitological procedures with both KK and MHT considerably underestimating the true prevalence in all animals surveyed. The high level of S. japonicum prevalence in goats indicates that they are likely important reservoirs in schistosomiasis transmission, necessitating their inclusion as targets of control, if the goal of elimination is to be achieved in China.
Early in the history of schistosomiasis research, children under 5 years of age were known to be infected. Although this problem was recognized over 100 years ago, insufficient action has been taken to address this issue. Under current policy, such infected children only receive their first antiparasitic treatment (praziquantel – PZQ) upon entry into primary school as current mass drug administration programmes typically target school-aged children. For many infected children, they will wait up to 6 years before receiving their first medication and significant schistosomiasis-related morbidity may have already established. This inequity would not be accepted for other diseases. To unveil some of the reasons behind this neglect, it is paramount to understand the intricate historical relationship between schistosomiasis and British Imperial medicine, to underline its lasting influence on today's public health priorities. This review presents a perspective on the historical neglect of paediatric schistosomiasis, focusing on important gaps that persist from the early days after discovery of this parasite. Looking to end this inequity, we address several issues that need to be overcome to move forward towards the lasting success of schistosomiasis control and elimination efforts.
Part of Robert T. Leiper's (1881–1969) lasting legacy in medical helminthology is grounded on his pioneering work on schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Having undertaken many expeditions to the tropics, his fascination with parasite life cycles typically allowed him to devise simple preventive measures that curtailed transmission. Building on his formative work with others in Africa and Asia, and again in Egypt in 1915, he elucidated the life cycles of African schistosomes. His mandate, then commissioned by the British War Office, was to prevent and break transmission of this disease in British troops. This he did by raising standing orders based on simple water hygiene measures. Whilst feasible in military camp settings, today their routine implementation is sadly out of reach for millions of Africans living in poverty. Whilst we celebrate the centenary of Leiper's research we draw attention to some of his lesser known colleagues, then focus on schistosomiasis in Uganda discussing why expanded access to treatment with praziquantel is needed now. Looking to WHO 2020 targets for neglected tropical diseases, we introduce COUNTDOWN, an implementation research consortium funded by DFID, UK, which fosters the scale-up of interventions and confirm the current relevance of Leiper's original research.
Civilian suicide rates vary by occupation in ways related to occupational stress exposure. Comparable military research finds suicide rates elevated in combat arms occupations. However, no research has evaluated variation in this pattern by deployment history, the indicator of occupation stress widely considered responsible for the recent rise in the military suicide rate.
The joint associations of Army occupation and deployment history in predicting suicides were analysed in an administrative dataset for the 729 337 male enlisted Regular Army soldiers in the US Army between 2004 and 2009.
There were 496 suicides over the study period (22.4/100 000 person-years). Only two occupational categories, both in combat arms, had significantly elevated suicide rates: infantrymen (37.2/100 000 person-years) and combat engineers (38.2/100 000 person-years). However, the suicide rates in these two categories were significantly lower when currently deployed (30.6/100 000 person-years) than never deployed or previously deployed (41.2–39.1/100 000 person-years), whereas the suicide rate of other soldiers was significantly higher when currently deployed and previously deployed (20.2–22.4/100 000 person-years) than never deployed (14.5/100 000 person-years), resulting in the adjusted suicide rate of infantrymen and combat engineers being most elevated when never deployed [odds ratio (OR) 2.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1–4.1], less so when previously deployed (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.1), and not at all when currently deployed (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.8–1.8). Adjustment for a differential ‘healthy warrior effect’ cannot explain this variation in the relative suicide rates of never-deployed infantrymen and combat engineers by deployment status.
Efforts are needed to elucidate the causal mechanisms underlying this interaction to guide preventive interventions for soldiers at high suicide risk.
Describe the epidemiology of healthcare-related (ie, healthcare-associated and hospital-acquired) pneumonia due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) among hospitalized patients in community hospitals.
Retrospective cohort study.
Twenty-four community hospitals in the southeastern United States affiliated with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (median size, 211 beds; range, 103–658 beds).
Adult patients with healthcare-related MRSA pneumonia admitted to study hospitals from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2012, were identified using surveillance data. Seasonal and annual incidence rates (cases per 100,000 patient-days) were estimated using generalized estimating equation models. Characteristics of community-onset and hospital-onset cases were compared.
A total of 1,048 cases of healthcare-related pneumonia due to MRSA were observed during 5,863,941 patient-days. The annual incidence rate of healthcare-related MRSA pneumonia increased from 11.3 cases per 100,000 patient-days (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.8–18.7) in 2008 to 15.5 cases per 100,000 patient-days (95% CI, 8.4–28.5) in 2012 (P = .055). The incidence rate was highest in winter months and lowest in summer months (15.4 vs 11.1 cases per 100,000 patient-days; incidence rate ratio, 1.39 [95% CI, 1.06–1.82]; P = .016). A total of 814 cases (77.7%) were community-onset healthcare-associated pneumonia cases; only 49 cases (4.7%) were ventilator-associated cases. Of 811 patients whose disposition was known, 240 (29.6%) died during hospitalization or were discharged to hospice.
From 2008 through 2012, the incidence of healthcare-related MRSA pneumonia among patients who were admitted to a large network of community hospitals increased, despite the decreasing incidence of invasive MRSA infections nationwide. Additional study is warranted to evaluate trends in this important and potentially modifiable public health problem.
Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2014;35(12):1452–1457
The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) has found that the proportional elevation in the US Army enlisted soldier suicide rate during deployment (compared with the never-deployed or previously deployed) is significantly higher among women than men, raising the possibility of gender differences in the adverse psychological effects of deployment.
Person-month survival models based on a consolidated administrative database for active duty enlisted Regular Army soldiers in 2004–2009 (n = 975 057) were used to characterize the gender × deployment interaction predicting suicide. Four explanatory hypotheses were explored involving the proportion of females in each soldier's occupation, the proportion of same-gender soldiers in each soldier's unit, whether the soldier reported sexual assault victimization in the previous 12 months, and the soldier's pre-deployment history of treated mental/behavioral disorders.
The suicide rate of currently deployed women (14.0/100 000 person-years) was 3.1–3.5 times the rates of other (i.e. never-deployed/previously deployed) women. The suicide rate of currently deployed men (22.6/100 000 person-years) was 0.9–1.2 times the rates of other men. The adjusted (for time trends, sociodemographics, and Army career variables) female:male odds ratio comparing the suicide rates of currently deployed v. other women v. men was 2.8 (95% confidence interval 1.1–6.8), became 2.4 after excluding soldiers with Direct Combat Arms occupations, and remained elevated (in the range 1.9–2.8) after adjusting for the hypothesized explanatory variables.
These results are valuable in excluding otherwise plausible hypotheses for the elevated suicide rate of deployed women and point to the importance of expanding future research on the psychological challenges of deployment for women.
During improved oil recovery (IOR), gas may be introduced into a porous reservoir filled with surfactant solution in order to form foam. A model for the evolution of the resulting foam front known as ‘pressure-driven growth’ is analysed. An asymptotic solution of this model for long times is derived that shows that foam can propagate indefinitely into the reservoir without gravity override. Moreover, ‘pressure-driven growth’ is shown to correspond to a special case of the more general ‘viscous froth’ model. In particular, it is a singular limit of the viscous froth, corresponding to the elimination of a surface tension term, permitting sharp corners and kinks in the predicted shape of the front. Sharp corners tend to develop from concave regions of the front. The principal solution of interest has a convex front, however, so that although this solution itself has no sharp corners (except for some kinks that develop spuriously owing to errors in a numerical scheme), it is found nevertheless to exhibit milder singularities in front curvature, as the long-time asymptotic analytical solution makes clear. Numerical schemes for the evolving front shape which perform robustly (avoiding the development of spurious kinks) are also developed. Generalisations of this solution to geologically heterogeneous reservoirs should exhibit concavities and/or sharp corner singularities as an inherent part of their evolution: propagation of fronts containing such ‘inherent’ singularities can be readily incorporated into these numerical schemes.
Understanding the spatial distribution of disease is critical for effective disease control. Where formal address networks do not exist, tracking spatial patterns of clinical disease is difficult. Geolocation strategies were tested at rural health facilities in western Kenya. Methods included geocoding residence by head of compound, participatory mapping and recording the self-reported nearest landmark. Geocoding was able to locate 72·9% [95% confidence interval (CI) 67·7–77·6] of individuals to within 250 m of the true compound location. The participatory mapping exercise was able to correctly locate 82·0% of compounds (95% CI 78·9–84·8) to a 2 × 2·5 km area with a 500 m buffer. The self-reported nearest landmark was able to locate 78·1% (95% CI 73·8–82·1) of compounds to the correct catchment area. These strategies tested provide options for quickly obtaining spatial information on individuals presenting at health facilities.
The US Army suicide rate has increased sharply in recent years. Identifying significant predictors of Army suicides in Army and Department of Defense (DoD) administrative records might help focus prevention efforts and guide intervention content. Previous studies of administrative data, although documenting significant predictors, were based on limited samples and models. A career history perspective is used here to develop more textured models.
The analysis was carried out as part of the Historical Administrative Data Study (HADS) of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). De-identified data were combined across numerous Army and DoD administrative data systems for all Regular Army soldiers on active duty in 2004–2009. Multivariate associations of sociodemographics and Army career variables with suicide were examined in subgroups defined by time in service, rank and deployment history.
Several novel results were found that could have intervention implications. The most notable of these were significantly elevated suicide rates (69.6–80.0 suicides per 100 000 person-years compared with 18.5 suicides per 100 000 person-years in the total Army) among enlisted soldiers deployed either during their first year of service or with less than expected (based on time in service) junior enlisted rank; a substantially greater rise in suicide among women than men during deployment; and a protective effect of marriage against suicide only during deployment.
A career history approach produces several actionable insights missed in less textured analyses of administrative data predictors. Expansion of analyses to a richer set of predictors might help refine understanding of intervention implications.
Evidence is growing for the long-term effects of environmental factors during early-life on later disease susceptibility. It is believed that epigenetic mechanisms (changes in gene function not mediated by DNA sequence alteration), particularly DNA methylation, play a role in these processes. This paper reviews the current state of knowledge of the involvement of C1 metabolism and methyl donors and cofactors in maternal diet-induced DNA methylation changes in utero as an epigenetic mechanism. Methyl groups for DNA methylation are mostly derived from the diet and supplied through C1 metabolism by way of choline, betaine, methionine or folate, with involvement of riboflavin and vitamins B6 and B12 as cofactors. Mouse models have shown that epigenetic features, for example DNA methylation, can be altered by periconceptional nutritional interventions such as folate supplementation, thereby changing offspring phenotype. Evidence of early nutrient-induced epigenetic change in human subjects is scant, but it is known that during pregnancy C1 metabolism has to cope with high fetal demands for folate and choline needed for neural tube closure and normal development. Retrospective studies investigating the effect of famine or season during pregnancy indicate that variation in early environmental exposure in utero leads to differences in DNA methylation of offspring. This may affect gene expression in the offspring. Further research is needed to examine the real impact of maternal nutrient availability on DNA methylation in the developing fetus.
The protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii is prevalent worldwide and can infect a remarkably wide range of hosts despite felids being the only definitive host. As cats play a major role in transmission to secondary mammalian hosts, the interaction between cats and these hosts should be a major factor determining final prevalence in the secondary host. This study investigates the prevalence of T. gondii in a natural population of Apodemus sylvaticus collected from an area with low cat density (<2·5 cats/km2). A surprisingly high prevalence of 40·78% (95% CI: 34·07%–47·79%) was observed despite this. A comparable level of prevalence was observed in a previously published study using the same approaches where a prevalence of 59% (95% CI: 50·13%–67·87%) was observed in a natural population of Mus domesticus from an area with high cat density (>500 cats/km2). Detection of infected foetuses from pregnant dams in both populations suggests that congenital transmission may enable persistence of infection in the absence of cats. The prevalences of the related parasite, Neospora caninum were found to be low in both populations (A. sylvaticus: 3·39% (95% CI: 0·12%–6·66%); M. domesticus: 3·08% (95% CI: 0·11%–6·05%)). These results suggest that cat density may have a lower than expected effect on final prevalence in these ecosystems.
The Health Protection Agency/QSurveillance national surveillance system utilizes QSurveillance® a recently developed general practitioner database covering over 23 million people in the UK. We describe the spread of the first wave of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic 2009 using data on consultations for influenza-like illness (ILI), respiratory illness and prescribing for influenza from 3400 contributing general practices. Daily data, provided from 27 April 2009 to 28 January 2010, were used to give a timely overview for those managing the pandemic nationally and locally. The first wave particularly affected London and the West Midlands with a peak in ILI in week 30. Children aged between 1 and 15 years had consistently high consultation rates for ILI. Daily ILI rates were used for modelling national weekly case estimates. The system enabled the ‘real-time’ monitoring of the pandemic to a small geographical area, linking morbidity and prescribing for influenza and other respiratory illnesses.