Wednesday, November 24, 2010


First read the article from the popular press below then read details of the research on which it is based. The research findings bear virtually no resemblance to the advice given. And the advice is dangerous. There are many ailments that can be acquired through contact with dirt -- the terrifying necrotizing fasciitis for a start

The popular article fails to mention: 1). That the research concerns mice -- and the large differences between the mouse and human brains render the generalizability of the findings to humans unknown;

2). The effect is temporary; the mice actually had to be FED the live bacterium to get the results;

3). The effect on mood, making the mice less cautious, could have its own dangers;

4). It may only be the effect on mood rather than any increase in ability that got the mice through the maze more quickly. Mice are naturally very hesitant and cautious

Sadly, the willingness of the researchers to speculate seems to be largely at fault for the dangerous advice. Two articles below:

Playing in the dirt makes kids smart

PARENTS, step away from the baby wipes and put that hand sanitiser away - eating dirt could actually make your child smarter.

Research published in the current issue of Kidsafe NSW's playgrounds newsletter shows the positive side of a soil-borne bacteria that is likely to be inhaled when children are playing outside.

Academics discovered that mice that were fed the dirt bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae navigated complex mazes twice as fast as those which were not.

The research, presented in the US earlier this year, was welcomed by Kidsafe NSW Playground Advisory Unit program manager Kate Fraser as another reason kids should be encouraged to get outside and get dirty.

"Over the past few years terms like 'cotton wool kids' and 'helicopter parents' are becoming really common," Ms Fraser said. "So we thought it was time to air the laundry on what's happening with our play spaces and make sure we are offering kids challenges. "We need to make playgrounds safe, but also offer a certain amount of risk and controlled risk. It's a real balancing act."

It is believed the bacteria increases levels of serotonin, reduces anxiety and may also stimulate growth in certain neurons in the brain.

Ms Fraser said that while playing in the dirt was great, parents should take care around potting mix, which can contain harmful bacteria. "But as long as safety directions are followed, that can be a great learning experience, too," she said.

The research will be a relief to the parents who know it's almost impossible to stop children getting dirty. Nicole Livisianos, of Zetland, said her one-year-old Sebastian loves to get messy. "We come to the park almost every afternoon and he is always into something dirty," she said. "There's no point trying to stop him."

Providing natural play environments is a topic at the Kidsafe NSW Playground Conference next week. "Many pre-schools and schools are planting sustainable garden beds and are teaching kids how plants grow," Ms Fraser said. "They learn about the environment and where their food comes from. The benefits are endless. The trend is definitely to make the most of the natural environment."


A soil bacterium fed to mice appears to make them temporarily smarter

Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior, according to research presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

"Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature," says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks.

Previous research studies on M. vaccae showed that heat-killed bacteria injected into mice stimulated growth of some neurons in the brain that resulted in increased levels of serotonin and decreased anxiety.

"Since serotonin plays a role in learning we wondered if live M. vaccae could improve learning in mice," says Matthews. Matthews and Jenks fed live bacteria to mice and assessed their ability to navigate a maze compared to control mice that were not fed the bacteria. "We found that mice that were fed live M. vaccae navigated the maze twice as fast and with less demonstrated anxiety behaviors as control mice," says Matthews.

In a second experiment the bacteria were removed from the diet of the experimental mice and they were retested. While the mice ran the maze slower than they did when they were ingesting the bacteria, on average they were still faster than the controls.

A final test was given to the mice after three weeks' rest. While the experimental mice continued to navigate the maze faster than the controls, the results were no longer statistically significant, suggesting the effect is temporary.

"This research suggests that M. vaccae may play a role in anxiety and learning in mammals," says Matthews. "It is interesting to speculate that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where M. vaccae is present may decrease anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks."



There was for a time a view that early exposure to dirt protected children from developing autoimmune diseases such as asthma and diabetes. That theory has however by now been largely discredited. For instance: Tribal Australian Aborigines normally live in very squalid and dirty conditions by Western standards yet have HIGH rates of autoimmune diseases such as asthma and diabetes. Asthma in particular seems to be highly hereditary, though the "triggers" do vary from person to person

Australia's arrogant medical regulators take another big tumble

The arrogant bitches (e.g. Rita Maclachlan and Fiona Cumming) at the TGA thought they knew it all -- and to hell with evidence and to hell with people's jobs. No word so far about any of them being penalized for their grossly improper behaviour -- even though one of them even shredded notes in an attempt to hide their deliberations. The taxpayer is just left with a $100m bill for their high-handed actions -- $50m in 2008 and another $50m now

A SETTLEMENT, believed to be more than $50 million, has been reached in the Pan Pharmaceuticals class action against the federal government. The settlement, announced yesterday, brings to a close a string of legal suits since 2003, and is belated vindication for the company's founder, Jim Selim, who died earlier this year after a stroke and battle with leukaemia.

Mr Selim had been giving evidence in the Federal Court in the months before his death. Terms of settlement are confidential.

In 2003, Pan boasted "the largest product offering of its kind in the world", with 4500 formulations of tablets, gels, liquids, creams and powders on offer, when it became the subject of a huge product recall.

In April that year the Therapeutic Goods Administration suspended Pan's manufacturing licence and recalled everything it had manufactured in the past year. Its investigation into Pan was sparked by reports the company's Travacalm product was causing hallucinations in some people. The company collapsed within months.

In 2008 Mr Selim received a $50 million settlement from the federal government.

About 165 of Pan's customers, creditors and sponsors joined a class action, led by PharmaCare, seeking their own payments from the government and the TGA, saying they were left $120 million out of pocket by the action taken by authorities. Three other companies ran their own cases alongside it.

The litigation funder, IMF, said if the settlement was approved by the court they would receive $24 million which would generate a profit after overheads but before tax of $17 million.

Litigation funders generally receive about one-third of proceeds of settlement, making the settlement in favour of the class action more than $50 million. "Any settlement is a compromise from all parties concerned," said the executive director of IMF, John Walker. "[In] this particular dispute, I think everybody involved ought to be happy with the outcome."

Pan's associates had accused the authorities of negligence and misfeasance of public office and some are claiming for a loss of share value, which lawyers for the TGA said there was no legal authority for.

Mr Walker hoped an application for approval would be before the court before year's end.



Anonymous said...

TGA paid 17 million of our money for the unprecended mass recall in 2003 after the collapse of Pan left no-one to foot the recall advertising bills, and the payout to Jim Selim was 50million plus 5 million costs, The taxpayer in that case probably also paid 5-10 million to defend TGA, Bob Tribe (the Chief GMP Auditor), Noel Fraser (The Senior GMP Auditor), Rita Maclachlan (Bob's boss)and Terry Slater (the head of TGA), who probably paid nothing. In the recent class action, the tapayer probably paid out 50-70 million to settle the class ation, plus 24 million for IMF's costs, lus the taxpayer probably paid out another 5-10 million to defend Tribe, Fraser, Maclachlan, Slater, and another TGA staffer, Pio Cesarin who signed the letters ordering the mass recall. Altogether TGA demolished a 300million dollar comnpany by spending 200 million of our taxpayer's money.

There has to be an enquiry ito this reckless action by a gang of 5!

Anonymous said...

Your remarks are grossly unfair. You don't know the whole story and you don't know the people involved nor the circumstances surrounding the case. The arrogance is entirely yours.

jonjayray said...

"You don't know the whole story"

OK. Tell it!