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The 2nd--4th finger ratio (2D:4D) has been proposed as a potential indicator of greater androgen exposure during fetal development. Maternal periconceptional smoking may alter the homeostasis of fetal androgens, which could in turn result in differential development of 2D:4Ds in utero. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of maternal periconceptional smoking (i.e. 1 year before through the first trimester of pregnancy) on the 2D:4D of children within The Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) study. Maternal smoking history was obtained through questionnaires during the first trimester of pregnancy in 2001 women from 10 cities across Canada. The periconceptional smoking prevalence was 12%. A follow-up study was conducted to measure growth and development up to 5 years of age in a subsample of some 800 MIREC children (MIREC-CD Plus), and digital pictures of the ventral surface of both hands were obtained in mothers and children (2–5 years). The 2D:4D was calculated as the ratio of the 2nd and 4th fingers of each hand. Boys had lower mean 2D:4Ds compared with girls in both hands. Age and maternal 2D:4D were strong determinants of the children’s 2D:4D, however, the mean 2D:4D did not differ among children whose mothers had smoked during the periconceptional period compared with those who had not, irrespective of sex. In conclusion, we did not find an association between maternal periconceptional smoking and children’s 2D:4D, although the smoking prevalence was low.
Placental transport of vitamin D and other nutrients (e.g. amino acids, fats and glucose) to the fetus is sensitive to maternal and fetal nutritional cues. We studied the effect of maternal calorific restriction on fetal vitamin D status and the placental expression of genes for nutrient transport [aromatic T-type amino acid transporter-1 (TAT-1); triglyceride hydrolase/lipoprotein uptake facilitator lipoprotein lipase (LPL)] and vitamin D homeostasis [CYP27B1; vitamin D receptor (VDR)], and their association with markers of fetal cardiovascular function and skeletal muscle growth. Pregnant sheep received 100% total metabolizable energy (ME) requirements (control), 40% total ME requirements peri-implantation [PI40, 1–31 days of gestation (dGA)] or 50% total ME requirements in late gestation (L, 104–127 dGA). Fetal, but not maternal, plasma 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25OHD) concentration was lower in PI40 and L maternal undernutrition groups (P<0.01) compared with the control group at 0.86 gestation. PI40 group placental CYP27B1 messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were increased (P<0.05) compared with the control group. Across all groups, higher fetal plasma 25OHD concentration was associated with higher skeletal muscle myofibre and capillary density (P<0.05). In the placenta, higher VDR mRNA levels were associated with higher TAT-1 (P<0.05) and LPL (P<0.01) mRNA levels. In the PI40 maternal undernutrition group only, reduced fetal plasma 25OHD concentration may be mediated in part by altered placental CYP27B1. The association between placental mRNA levels of VDR and nutrient transport genes suggests a way in which the placenta may integrate nutritional cues in the face of maternal dietary challenges and alter fetal physiology.
This study presents the first analysis of benthic megafauna and habitats from the Sabrina Coast shelf, encompassing a proposed Marine Protected Area. Sea bed imagery indicated an abundant benthic fauna compared to other parts of the Antarctic shelf, dominated by brittle stars, polychaete tubeworms, and a range of other sessile and mobile taxa. The distribution of taxa was related (ρ=0.592, P<0.001) to variations in water depth, latitude, substrate type and phytodetritus. High phytodetritus cover was associated with muddy/sandy sediments and abundant holothurians and amphipods, while harder substrates hosted abundant brachiopods, hard bryozoans, polychaete tubeworms, massive and encrusting sponges, and sea whips. Brittle stars, irregular urchins and anemones were ubiquitous. Variations in substrate largely reflected the distribution of dropstones, creating fine-scale habitat heterogeneity. Several taxa were found only on hard substrates, and their broad regional distribution indicated that the density of dropstones was sufficient for most sessile invertebrates to disperse across the region. The hexactinellid sponge Anoxycalyx joubini and branching hydrocorals exhibited a more restricted distribution, probably related to water depth and limited dispersal capability, respectively. Dropstones were associated with significant increases in taxa diversity, abundance and biological cover, enhancing the overall diversity and biomass of this ecosystem.
C band backscatter parameters contain information about the upper snowpack/firn in the dry snow zone. The wide incidence angle diversity of the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) gives unprecedented characterisation of backscatter anisotropy, revealing the backscatter response to climatic forcing. The A (isotropic component) and M2 (bi-sinusoidal azimuth anisotropy) parameters are investigated here, in conjunction with data from atmospheric and snowpack models, to identify the backscatter response to surface forcing parameters (wind speed and persistence, precipitation, surface temperature, density and grain size). The long-term mean A parameter is successfully recreated with a regression using these drivers, indicating strong links between the A parameter and precipitation on long timescales. While the ASCAT time series is too short to determine which factors drive observed trends, factors influencing the seasonal and short timescale variability are revealed. On these timescales, A strongly responds to the propagation of surface temperature cycles/anomalies downward through the firn, via direct modulation of the dielectric constant. The influence of precipitation on A is small at shorter timescales. The M2 parameter is controlled by wind speed and persistence, through modification of monodirectionally-aligned surface roughness. This variability indicates that throughout much of coastal Antarctica, a microwave ‘snapshot’ is generally not representative of longer-term conditions.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the leading cause of congenital infection and non-genetic sensorineural hearing loss in children. There are no recent data on the incidence of CMV infection during pregnancy in Canada. This present study was undertaken to determine the seroprevalence of CMV IgG antibodies and the rate of seroconversion in a cohort of pregnant women in the province of Québec, Canada. We used serum samples and questionnaire data collected as part of the 3D Pregnancy and Birth Cohort Study (2010–2013) conducted in Québec, Canada. CMV IgG antibodies were determined in serum samples collected at the first and third trimesters. Associations between independent variables and seroprevalence were assessed using logistic regression, and associations with seroconversions, by Poisson regression. Of 1938 pregnant women tested, 40·4% were seropositive for CMV at baseline. Previous CMV infection was associated with: working as a daycare educator, lower education, lower income, having had children, first language other than French or English, and being born outside Canada or the United States. Of the 1122 initially seronegative women, 24 (2·1%) seroconverted between their first and third trimesters. The seroconversion rate was 1·4 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0·9–2·1]/10 000 person-days at risk or 3·9 (95% CI 2·5–5·9)/100 pregnancies (assuming a 280-day gestation). The high proportion of pregnant women susceptible to CMV infection (nearly 60%) and the subsequent rate of seroconversion are of concern.
Accurately measuring and monitoring the thickness distribution of thin ice is crucial for accurate estimation of ocean–atmosphere heat fluxes and rates of ice production and salt flux in ice-affected oceans. Here we present results from helicopter-borne brightness temperature (TB) measurements in the Southern Ocean in October 2012 and in the Sea of Okhotsk in February 2009 carried out with a portable passive microwave (PMW) radiometer operating at a frequency of 36 GHz. The goal of these measurements is to aid evaluation of a satellite thin-ice thickness algorithm which uses data from the spaceborne Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer–Earth Observing System AMSR-E) or the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-II (AMSR-II). AMSR-E and AMSR-II TB agree with the spatially collocated mean TB from the helicopter-borne measurements within the radiometers’ precision. In the Sea of Okhotsk in February 2009, the AMSR-E 36GHz TB values are closer to the mean than the modal TB values measured by the helicopter-borne radiometer. In an Antarctic coastal polynya in October 2012, the polarization ratio of 36GHz vertical and horizontal TB is estimated to be 0.137 on average. Our measurements of the TB at 36 GHz over an iceberg tongue suggest a way to discriminate it from sea ice by its unique PMW signature.
Our aim was to describe the epidemiology and incidence of community-onset invasive S. aureus disease in children presenting to our hospital, and to compare the clonal complexes and virulence genes of S. aureus strains causing invasive and non-invasive disease. The virulence gene repertoire of invasive disease isolates was characterized using DNA microarray and compared with the virulence gene repertoire of non-invasive S. aureus isolates. Over the study period, 163 children had an invasive S. aureus infection. There was no difference in the distribution of clonal complexes or in the prevalence of genes encoding virulence factors between invasive and non-invasive isolates. Future research should include a strong focus on identifying the host and environmental factors that, along with organism virulence factors, are contributing to the patterns of invasive S. aureus disease observed in New Zealand.
Hypovitaminosis D may be associated with diabetes, hypertension and CHD. However, because studies examining the associations of all three chronic conditions with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D) are limited, we examined these associations in the US Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial (n 2465). Caucasian PLCO participants selected as controls in previous nested case–control studies of 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)2D were included in this analysis. Diabetes, CHD and hypertension prevalence, risk factors for these conditions and intake of vitamin D and Ca were collected from a baseline questionnaire. Results indicated that serum levels of 25(OH)D were low ( < 50 nmol/l) in 29 % and very low ( < 37 nmol/l) in 11 % of subjects. The prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and CHD was 7, 30 and 10 %, respectively. After adjustment for confounding by sex, geographical location, educational level, smoking history, BMI, physical activity, total dietary energy and vitamin D and Ca intake, only diabetes was significantly associated with lower 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)2D levels. Caucasians who had 25(OH)D ≥ 80 nmol/l were half as likely to have diabetes (OR 0·5 (95 % CI 0·3, 0·9)) compared with those who had 25(OH)D < 37 nmol/l. Those in the highest quartile of 1,25(OH)2D ( ≥ 103 pmol/l) were less than half as likely to have diabetes (OR 0·3 (95 % CI 0·1, 0·7)) than those in the lowest quartile ( < 72 pmol/l). In conclusion, the independent associations of 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)2D with diabetes prevalence in a large population are new findings, and thus warrant confirmation in larger, prospective studies.
The Rank Forum on Vitamin D was held on 2nd and 3rd July 2009 at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK. The workshop consisted of a series of scene-setting presentations to address the current issues and challenges concerning vitamin D and health, and included an open discussion focusing on the identification of the concentrations of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) (a marker of vitamin D status) that may be regarded as optimal, and the implications this process may have in the setting of future dietary reference values for vitamin D in the UK. The Forum was in agreement with the fact that it is desirable for all of the population to have a serum 25(OH)D concentration above 25 nmol/l, but it discussed some uncertainty about the strength of evidence for the need to aim for substantially higher concentrations (25(OH)D concentrations>75 nmol/l). Any discussion of ‘optimal’ concentration of serum 25(OH)D needs to define ‘optimal’ with care since it is important to consider the normal distribution of requirements and the vitamin D needs for a wide range of outcomes. Current UK reference values concentrate on the requirements of particular subgroups of the population; this differs from the approaches used in other European countries where a wider range of age groups tend to be covered. With the re-emergence of rickets and the public health burden of low vitamin D status being already apparent, there is a need for urgent action from policy makers and risk managers. The Forum highlighted concerns regarding the failure of implementation of existing strategies in the UK for achieving current vitamin D recommendations.
Previous research suggests that n-3 PUFA may play a role in bone health. The present analysis aimed to investigate the impact of n-3 PUFA supplementation on bone resorption in adult men and women. Serum samples from 113 mild–moderately depressed individuals (twenty-six males and eighty-seven females, aged 18–67 years) randomised to receive 1·48 g EPA+DHA/d (n 53) or placebo (n 60) for 12 weeks as part of a large recent randomised controlled trial were assayed for n-3 PUFA status and a bone resorption marker, C-terminal cross-linking telopeptide of type 1 collagen (β-CTX). Regression analyses revealed that n-3 PUFA status following supplementation was associated with randomisation (placebo/n-3 PUFA) (B = 3·25, 95 % CI 2·60, 3·91, P < 0·01). However, β-CTX status following supplementation was not associated with randomisation (B = − 0·01, 95 % CI − 0·03, 0·04). Change in β-CTX status was also not associated with change in n-3 PUFA status (B = − 0·002, 95 % CI − 0·01, 0·01). These findings provide no evidence for an association between n-3 PUFA supplementation (1·48 g EPA+DHA/d) for 12 weeks and bone resorption in humans assessed by β-CTX, and suggest that n-3 PUFA supplementation may be unlikely to be of benefit in preventing bone loss.
Strains of Candida albicans can be differentiated by the morphological features of streak colonies developed on malt agar. A morphotyping system is proposed, where numerical codes are assigned primarily on the basis of the nature and extent of marginal fringing and the surface topography of the streak colony. The system allows ready differentiation to be made of morphotypcs, requires no specialized equipment or expertise and provides a simple and reproducible means for epidemiological studies of candida and candidosis.