Saturday, December 06, 2008

The ultimate peril: Chicken trucks!

For once I am lost for words. Maybe someone can help by leaving a comment

A surprising finding by a team of researchers at The John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore suggests that chicken trucks carrying live chickens from farms to slaughterhouses can be a source for disease-causing bacteria for the cars traveling behind them. Drivers and motorists stuck behind such a truck should "pass them quickly," study authors say.

Ana M. Rule, Ellen K. Silbergeld and Sean L. Evans collected air and surface samples from cars driving two to three car lengths behind the poultry trucks for a distance of 17 miles along the Delmarva peninsula. Air conditioners and fans were turned off, and the windows were all open. Broiler chickens are transported in open crates on the back of flatbed trucks with no effective barrier to prevent release of pathogens into the environment. The region connecting chicken farms in Maryland to a processing plant to the south in Accomac, Va. has one of the highest concentrations of broiler chickens per acre in the nation.

Researchers found increased concentration of bacteria that have the potential to threaten human health, including antibiotic-resistant strains, in air samples collected from inside the car and on surfaces in the car such as the door handle. Antibiotic resistance to the antibiotics tetracycline, erythromycin and dalfopristin was noted in three strains of bacteria from the chicken trucks. "Our study shows that there is a real exposure potential, especially during the summer months, when people are driving with the windows down; the summer is also a time of very heavy traffic in Delmarva by vacationers driving to the shore resorts," said Ana Rule, a research associate at the Baltimore school’s environmental sciences department and co-author of the study. She said studies to determine if chicken trucks can make you sick are somewhere down the road.

The study is published in the first issue of the Journal of Infection and Public Health, which will publish research on the epidemiology, prevention and control of infectious disease. It is the fist study to look at whether poultry trucking exposes people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The study authors conclude that transporting chickens in open truck to slaughter could influence human and environmental health.

Poultry producers said the study was an attempt to discredit the poultry industry. They said the results of the study were obtained using "unrealistic" conditions. Other researchers, however, said that getting sick that way was unlikely. None of the scientists who studied this problem got sick. Most healthy people, who are not so vulnerable and have a strong immune system, don’t suffer serious illness from these bacteria even if they are exposed to them in more conventional ways.

The authors say studies are needed to find safer ways to transport chickens from the farm to the slaughterhouse. The study raises new concerns over transportation methods and highlights the idea that we should consider improving these methods. Furthermore, more studies are needed to define how exposure to the antibiotic resistant bacteria affects humans, especially in areas where broiler chickens are raised.

Source. (H/T Panic Watch)

New pill could make jet lag a thing of the past

TRAVELLERS and shift workers could soon be able to pop a pill that adjusts their body clocks, allowing them to avoid jet lag and insomnia. A team of researchers from Monash University, The Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Harvard Medical School and Vanda Pharmaceuticals conducted trials on more than 300 Americans with an experimental drug that activates sleep hormone melatonin in the body. The trials showed promising results, an article in The Lancet reported yesterday.

"This drug has the potential to improve the quality and quantity of sleep for patients with transient insomnia caused by jet lag," said Dr Shantha Rajaratnam, of Monash University's School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine, who was one of the researchers.

During two trials in the US last year, 339 people were given the drug, tasimelteon, when their bedtime was shifted five hours earlier to simulate the time difference between Boston and London. Dr Rajaratnam said on average, those given the drug fell asleep 15 minutes faster and slept between 30 and 100 minutes longer than those who did not take the drug.

The body's sleep-wake cycle is controlled by melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland in response to patterns of light and darkness. But because melatonin is not patentable, drug companies have been keen to develop melatonin mimics, such as tasimelteon, which can be patented.

Dr Rajaratnam said the drug needed to be tested on more people and under more rigorous conditions before it could be marketed.


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