Cockroach brains might just save your life

Cockroach brains could be rich stores of new antibiotics. Cockroaches could be more of a health benefit than a health hazard according to scientists from The University of Nottingham. Experts from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have discovered powerful antibiotic properties in the brains of cockroaches and locusts which could lead to novel treatments for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections. They found that the tissues of the brain and nervous system of the insects were able to kill more than 90 per cent of MRSA and pathogenic Escherichia coli, without harming human cells. Simon Lee, a postgraduate researcher, is presenting their work at the Society for General Microbiology’s autumn meeting which is being held at The University of Nottingham between the 6 and 9 September 2010. The research has identified up to nine different molecules in the insect tissues that were toxic to bacteria.  Simon Lee said: “We hope that these molecules could eventually be developed into treatments for E. coli and MRSA infections that are increasingly resistant to current drugs. These new antibiotics could potentially provide alternatives to currently available drugs that may be effective but have serious and unwanted side effects.” Dr Naveed Khan, an Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology who is supervising Simon Lee’s work said: “Superbugs such as MRSA have developed resistance against the chemotherapeutic artillery that

we throw at them. They have shown the ability to cause untreatable infections, and have become a major threat in our fight against bacterial diseases. Thus, there is a continuous need to find additional sources of novel antimicrobials to confront this menace.” Using state-of-the-art analytical tools, Dr Khan and his team are studying the specific properties of the antibacterial molecules. Research is currently underway to test the potency of these molecules against a variety of emerging superbugs such as Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and Burkholderia. Mr Lee explained why it is unsurprising that insects secrete their own antimicrobials. He said: “Insects often live in unsanitary and unhygienic environments where they encounter many different types of bacteria. It is therefore logical that they have developed ways of protecting themselves against micro-organisms.”  –  Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings. More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top

Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five. The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain’s “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.  Lindsay Brooke – Media Relations Manager. News from:  nottingham.ac.uk

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