Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): From our Health Pack number 26


We featured this article below in our Health Pack Number 26.  For other articles on health, as well as mind-set, nutrition and exercise, please check all our health packs out. They can be found on our website:

www.hmhb2016.org.uk

I thought it would be a good subject to look at now that summer has finished, autumn is with us, and winter approaches. I know a couple of people who have self-diagnosed with this, and they are probably right. I don’t think I have it, but I am definitely a warm weather person, already missing the sunshine.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in winter, but it is also found in people in the summer.

It is no longer classified as a unique mood disorder but is now a specifier, called "with seasonal pattern", for recurrent major depressive disorder that occurs at a specific time of the year. Although experts were initially sceptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder.

Research on SAD began in the United States in 1979 when Herb Kern, a research engineer, had noticed that he felt depressed during the winter months. Kern suspected that scarcer light in winter was the cause and discussed the idea with scientists at the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) who were working on bodily rhythms. They were intrigued, and responded by devising a lightbox to treat Kern’s depression. Kern felt much better within a few days of treatments, as did other patients treated in the same way.

Sufferers may exhibit any of the associated symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social interaction, sleep and appetite problems, difficulty with concentrating and making decisions, decreased libido, a lack of energy, or agitation. Maybe I do have it!!!

Symptoms of winter SAD often include oversleeping or difficulty waking up in the morning, nausea, and a tendency to overeat, often with a craving for carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain. Yep, that’s me.

SAD is typically associated with winter depression, but springtime lethargy or other seasonal mood patterns are not uncommon.  Although each individual case is different, in contrast to winter SAD, people who experience spring and summer depression may be more likely to show symptoms such as insomnia, decreased appetite and weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.

You should consider seeing your GP if you think you might have SAD and you're struggling to cope.  Your GP can carry out an assessment to check your mental health. They may ask you about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour.

The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder isn't fully understood, but it's often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days.

The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:

production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels

production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression

body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD.

It's also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families.

A range of treatments are available for SAD. Your GP will recommend the most suitable treatment programme for you.

The main treatments are:

Lifestyle measures:  including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress level

Light therapy:  where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight

Talking therapies:  such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or counselling

Antidepressant medication:  such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

A study of people from Iceland, and Canadians of wholly Icelandic descent, showed low levels of SAD.  It has more recently been suggested that this may be attributed to the large amount of fish traditionally eaten by Icelandic people, in 2007 about 90 kilograms per person per year as opposed to about 24 kg in the US and Canada, rather than to genetic predisposition. A similar anomaly is noted in Japan, where annual fish consumption in recent years averages about 60 kg per capita.  Fish are high in Vitamin D. Fish also contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which helps with a variety of neurological dysfunctions.

Recent research has shown that one in three people in the UK suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  According to the findings, women are 40 per cent more likely than men to experience symptoms of the condition sometimes referred to as “winter depression”.  The research, commissioned by The Weather Channel and YouGov, shows that 29 per cent of adults experience symptoms of SAD at this time of year, ranging from low energy levels, to low self-esteem and anxiety. For eight per cent of people the symptoms are acute, while the remaining 21 per cent suffer a milder form of subsyndromal SAD.  Over half (57 per cent) of adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season. highlighting the strong links between the weather and wellbeing. Meanwhile, 40 per cent of people suffer from fatigue during the winter months.


"Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement" says a Study. Here is the evidence.

 


Below are quotes from University of Utah Health registered dietician nutritionist Anne Pesek Taylor.

 

“Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is typically used for flavour and colour in Asian cuisine.  It has an earthy aroma, and its flavour profile is slightly peppery and bitter, with a subtle ginger taste. Turmeric contains three naturally occurring phytochemicals called curcuminoids, the most notable and researched of which is curcumin.

 

“Researchers have found that phytochemicals from natural foods, such as the curcumin found in turmeric, may be a safe and effective way to help reduce inflammation and prevent and treat disease.  While acute inflammatory responses are beneficial for the body in that they help heal injury, irritation, or infection, we know that chronic inflammation can contribute to disease onset.  There is promising research to support curcumin’s use for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on obesity, to reduce arthritis pain and swelling, and to aid in complications such as diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy, and cardiomyopathy.

 

“Turmeric is typically taken orally; however, a significant amount is excreted in faeces due to its fast metabolism and poor solubility.”  There is no set recommended dosage of turmeric, so “until a concrete dosing recommendation is made, dietitians will continue to encourage people to incorporate turmeric into their home cooking routine to reap some of its potential health benefits.  It pairs well with chicken and fish, is often added to lentil and rice dishes, and can add flavour to vinaigrettes, soups, or stews.”

 

“Turmeric is generally recognized as safe.  Few side effects have been reported; however, some have complained of nausea and diarrhoea when taking higher doses.  As with any dietary supplement, ask your health care provider before starting turmeric/curcumin as a supportive or preventive therapy to discuss potential side effects, risks, or medication interactions.”

 

HMHB has further researched this wonderful spice;

 

Antioxidant:

Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases.

It involves free radicals, highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons.

Free radicals tend to react with important organic substances, such as fatty acids, propteins, or DNA.

The main reason antioxidants are so beneficial is that they protect your body from free radicals.

Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure

In addition, curcumin boosts the activity of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

In that way, curcumin delivers a one-two punch against free radicals. It blocks them directly, then stimulates your body’s own antioxidant defences.

 

Boost Brain Function

Back in the day, it was believed that neurons weren’t able to divide and multiply after early childhood.  However, it’s now known that this does happen.  Neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain they can also multiply and increase in number.

One of the main drivers of this process is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in your brain.  Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF.  By doing this, it may be effective in delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function.

It may also improve your memory and how you focus your intelligence, which seems logical given its effects on BDNF levels. However, controlled studies in people are needed to confirm this.

 

Reduces risk of Heart Disease.

Heart Disease is the number 1 cause of death in the world.  Researchers have studied it for many decades and learned a lot about why it happens.

Unsurprisingly, heart disease is incredibly complicated and various things contribute to it.

Curcumin may help reverse many steps in the heart disease process.

Perhaps the main benefit of curcumin, when it comes to heart disease, is improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of your blood vessels.

It’s well known that endothelial dysfunction is a major driver of heart disease and involves an inability of your endothelium to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors.

Several studies suggest that curcumin leads to improvements in endothelial function. One study found that it’s as effective as exercise while another shows that it works as well as the drug Atorvastatin.

In addition, curcumin reduces inflammation and oxidation (as discussed above), which play a role in heart disease as well.  One study randomly assigned 121 people, who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery, either a placebo or 4 grams of curcumin per day, a few days before and after the surgery.  The curcumin group had a 65% decreased risk of experiencing a heart attack in the hospital.

 

It has Cancer beating properties

Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled cell growth.

There are many different forms of cancer, which still have several things in common. Some of them appear to be affected by curcumin supplements.

Curcumin has been studied as a beneficial herb in cancer treatment and been found to affect cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level.

Studies have shown that it can contribute to the death of cancerous cells and reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumours) and metastasis (spread of cancer).

Multiple studies indicate that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumours in test animals.

Whether high-dose curcumin (preferably with an absorption enhancer like piperine) can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be studied properly.

However, there is evidence that it may prevent Cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system like colorectal cancer.  In a 30-day study in 44 men with lesions in the colon that sometimes turn cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day reduced the number of lesions by 40%.  Maybe curcumin will be used along with conventional cancer treatment one day. It’s too early to say for sure, but it looks promising and is being intensively studied.

 

Can help with Arthritis

Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries.  There are several different types, most of which involve inflammation in the joints.

Given that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory compound, it makes sense that it may help with arthritis.  Several studies show this to be true.

In a study in people with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug.  Many other studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and noted improvements in various symptoms

Bacteria are amazing - but here are some facts you may not know. Let's take a look

 


Bacteria are amazing.

Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that thrive in diverse environments. These organisms can live in soil, the ocean and inside the human gut.

Humans' relationship with bacteria is complex. Sometimes bacteria lend us a helping hand, such as by curdling milk into yoghurt, or helping with our digestion.  In other cases, bacteria are destructive, causing diseases like pneumonia and MRSA.

 

Here are some facts you may not know.

 

At about 5 million trillion trillion strong, bacteria and their cousins, the archaea, vastly outnumber all other life-forms on earth.

 

Lined up end to end, they would stretch some 10 billion light-years;  literally from here to the edge of the visible universe.

 

And there are always more on the way.  “Pseudomonas Natriegens”, an ocean-dwelling bacterium, can go from birth to reproduction in ten minutes flat.  In five hours, a single cell could theoretically give rise to more than 1 billion offspring.

 

Bacteria have been around for at least 3.5 billion years, making them the oldest known life-form on the planet.

 

Humans didn’t catch a glimpse of them, until 1674, when a Dutch scientist, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek spotted tiny swimming “animacules” while fiddling with the newly invented microscope.  A compelling argument for brushing:  He discovered them while examining pond water and scrapings from the human mouth.

 

Most bacteria have yet to be identified.  In 2003 geneticist J. Craig Venter began trolling the high seas and analysing the water.  On his first trip he fished out more than a million never-before-seen bacterial genes.

 

The first artificial life-form will be not a robot but a bacterium.  Not content with finding natural bacteria, Venter is leading an effort to build a bacterium from scratch!!!

 

Your body has 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells.

 

Whipping their tails, “E-Coli” can travel 25 times their own length in 1 second. This is the equivalent to a horse running 135 miles per hour.

 

Bacteria have even set up permanent camp inside our cells.  Mitochondria, the powerhouses that supply energy to nearly every cell in the body, are the descendants of bacteria that were engulfed by larger microorganisms billions of years ago.

 

When you pop a pill to kill off a bad bug, you kill some of the good guys, too. A bacterium called “Clostridium Difficile” can move into the prime intestinal real estate cleared out by antibiotics, causing painful inflammation and Diarrhoea.

 

Bacteria are adept at developing resistance to antibiotics.  Among the deadliest of resistant bacteria is “MRSA” which killed 19,000 Americans in 2005 alone.  MRSA’s deadliness comes in part from a class of chemicals known as carotenoids, which MRSA uses to fight off our immune systems.  Ironically, carotenoids are found in many healthy fruits and vegetables and may reduce cancer risk.

 

But most bacteria are harmless, and some are even helpful in aiding our digestion. Mice with bacteria-free intestines need to eat 41 percent more calories than their germy counterparts.

 

Floating bacteria are extremely effective at spurring condensation, leading to snow and rain.  Some scientists propose spraying bacteria into the clouds to end droughts.

 

Certain bacteria thrive in extreme conditions.  In 2006, a probe at a South African gold mine turned up bacteria living nearly two miles underground, subsisting on the energy given off by radioactive rocks.

 

Another bacterial species, “Deinococcus Radiodurans”, can survive almost 10,000 times the dose of radiation lethal to humans, making it a prime candidate for the clean-up of nuclear waste.

 

Australian scientists found that a bacterium called “Ralstonia Metallidurans” can turn dissolved gold into solid nuggets.

 

By programming instructions into their genes, scientists have engineered “E Coli” that act like computers, assembling into glowing bulls-eye shapes on command

Seaweed extract boost dietary fibre and can aid in weight loss: University research here

 


Many people are aware of government guidelines for a well-balanced diet: to eat plenty of wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables.  But with busy lifestyles often prioritising convenience over health, the search is on for new food products that can deliver the same health benefits.

Research at Newcastle University has found that a seaweed extract added to bread not only boosts the dietary fibre content but could even aid weight loss.

For a number of years, Professor Jeffrey Pearson's team have been studying the capacity of dietary fibre to help people feel fuller for longer.  In particular, they've been looking at alginates in seaweed, which are already a common ingredient as a fat replacement in many processed foods.

Interestingly, they have shown that adding alginates to foods may also offer a way to keep the fat content of foods the same and still lose weight.

Have your cake and eat it

Following on from a previous study which showed that some alginates can inhibit the action of pancreatic lipase so that less fat is digested, Pearson's team have developed an alginate bread, which they tested in a model gut system that mimicked the chewing, gastric and intestinal processes.

In this latest study, supported by the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (a partnership led by BBSRC - Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council - with the Medical Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and 13 industry members), Pearson's team have shown that alginate is released from the bread in the intestinal phase where lipase is most active.

What's more, in a subsequent acceptability study, using bread supplied by Greggs the baker, they demonstrated that alginates had no adverse effects on people, such as those associated with some weight management products currently on the market.

"We've found that not only do people not mind the taste of the alginate bread compared to ordinary bread they prefer it.  This is very encouraging as we look to further develop alginate food products, building on the links that we have forged with industry," says Professor Pearson

The Importance of Nutrition for Health and Society


This article is copied from a page managed by the "Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The connections between our foods, the nutrients they provide, and our health, are complex but have far-reaching consequences for individuals and society.  As changing diets and dietary habits place an increasing burden on healthcare systems, it is crucial that we develop new products, interventions and refined guidelines which will improve health through diet.  Achieving this will depend upon a complete understanding of the biological processes which connect the foods we eat to our long-term health.

The importance of nutrition for health and society

Eating a well-balanced diet, with adequate nutrients and appropriate calories, is a fundamental requirement for continued health.  An appropriate diet contributes to healthy development, healthy ageing, and greater resilience against disease.  Similarly, a poor or inappropriate diet places people at greater risk of infection and a range of chronic illnesses, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Despite the clear connections between nutrition and health, more than half of the UK population are obese or overweight, consumption of fruit and vegetables is falling, and the calorie density of the average shopping basket is increasing.  Meanwhile, around three million people in the UK are malnourished, including 25% of those in hospital and 42% in long-term care.

This represents a serious economic and social challenge.  High body mass index is one of the leading risk factors for chronic disease in the UK, accounting for 9% (£5.1Bn per year) of NHS spend.  The cost to the wider economy is vast at around £16Bn per year, rising to £50Bn by 2050 if action is not taken.  As costs escalate, the need for new products and interventions to promote health through our diets is becoming ever more urgent.

Research to improve health through nutrition

There is enormous potential to develop new or improved products, health interventions and more accurate dietary guidelines which will improve health through nutrition.  However, fully realising this potential will require a complete understanding of exactly how our food influences our health.

Although it is clear that nutrition and health are intimately connected, precisely how the biological connections work is often unclear.  Large population analyses can identify a correlation between a particular food or diet and a particular health outcome, but without knowing the mechanism which links the two we cannot be sure that the effect is real, and we cannot use this knowledge to refine dietary advice or develop new products.  Current uncertainty about the health consequences of different types of sugars and fat demonstrates that our understanding of what constitutes a “healthy” diet is far from complete.

New scientific techniques are providing opportunities to develop a much more complete understanding of how we choose our foods, exactly what effects different foods and nutrients have on our bodies, how they interact, and what the long term consequences for our health might be. By really getting to grips with the biological mechanisms at work, we can develop confident and accurate dietary advice which is tailored to different population groups, and nutritional interventions which will improve the health of at risk-individuals. Fully understanding the quantities and combinations of nutrients and diets which will best improve health means that new products and food processing techniques can be developed to make our diets healthier.

 


Monday, 26 October 2020

Scientists create bacteria killing molecules from wasp venom!!! Details of this clever breakthrough here.

 


A team led by scientists in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has engineered powerful new antimicrobial molecules from toxic proteins found in wasp venom.  The team hopes to develop the molecules into new bacteria-killing drugs, an important advancement considering increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can cause illness such as sepsis and tuberculosis.

 

In the study, published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, the researchers altered a highly toxic small protein from a common Asian wasp species, Vespula Lewisii, the Korean yellow-jacket wasp.  The alterations enhanced the molecule's ability to kill bacterial cells while greatly reducing its ability to harm human cells.  In animal models, the scientists showed that this family of new antimicrobial molecules made with these alterations could protect mice from otherwise lethal bacterial infections.

 

There is an urgent need for new drug treatments for bacterial infections, as many circulating bacterial species have developed a resistance to older drugs.  The U.S. Centres for Disease Control & Prevention has estimated that each year nearly three million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant microbes and more than 35,000 die of them.  Globally, the problem is even worse:  Sepsis, an often-fatal inflammatory syndrome triggered by extensive bacterial infection, is thought to have accounted for about one in five deaths around the world as recently as 2017.

 

"New antibiotics are urgently needed to treat the ever-increasing number of drug-resistant infections, and venoms are an untapped source of novel potential drugs.  We think that venom-derived molecules such as the ones we engineered in this study are going to be a valuable source of new antibiotics," said study senior author C├ęsar de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, and Bioengineering at Penn.

 

De la Fuente and his team started with a small protein, or "peptide," called mastoparan-L, a key ingredient in the venom of Vespula Lewisii wasps.  Mastoparan-L-containing venom is usually not dangerous to humans in the small doses delivered by wasp stings, but it is quite toxic.  It destroys red blood cells and triggers a type of allergic/inflammatory reaction that, in susceptible individuals, can lead to a fatal syndrome called anaphylaxis, in which blood pressure drops and breathing becomes difficult or impossible.

 

Mastoparan-L (mast-L) also is known for its moderate toxicity to bacterial species, making it a potential starting point for engineering new antibiotics.  But there are still some unknowns, including how to enhance its anti-bacterial properties, and how to make it safe for humans.

 

The team searched a database of hundreds of known antimicrobial peptides and found a small region, the so-called pentapeptide motif, that was associated with strong activity against bacteria.  The researchers then used this motif to replace a section at one end of mast-L that is thought to be the chief source of toxicity to human cells.

 

In a key set of experiments, the researchers treated mice with mast-MO several hours after infecting them with otherwise lethal, sepsis-inducing strains of the bacteria E. coli or Staphylococcus aureus.  In each test the antimicrobial peptide kept 80 percent of treated mice alive.  By contrast, mice treated with mast-L were less likely to survive and showed severe toxic side-effects when treated with higher doses, doses at which mast-MO caused no evident toxicity.

 

The potency of mast-MO in these tests also appeared to be comparable to existing antibiotics such as gentamicin and imipenem -- for which alternatives are needed due to the spread of resistant bacterial strains.

 

De la Fuente and his colleagues found evidence in the study that mast-MO kills bacterial cells by making their outer membranes more porous, which can also improve the ability of co-administered antibiotics to penetrate the cells, and by summoning antimicrobial white blood cells.  At the same time, mast-MO appears to damp down the kind of harmful immune-overreaction that can lead to severe disease in some bacterial infections.

 

The researchers created dozens of variants of mast-MO and found several that appeared to have significantly enhanced antimicrobial potency with no toxicity to human cells.  They hope to develop one or more of these molecules into new antibiotics, and they expect to take a similar approach in future to turn other venom toxins into promising antibiotic candidates.

 

"The principles and approaches we used in this study can be applied more broadly to better understand the antimicrobial and immune-modulating properties of peptide molecules, and to harness that understanding to make valuable new treatments," de la Fuente said.


Could the Covid 19 virus become "endemic"? Interesting question. Let's see the research.

 


A new article by Columbia Mailman School researchers Jeffrey Shaman and Marta Galanti explores the potential for the COVID-19 virus to become endemic, a regular feature producing recurring outbreaks in humans.  They identify crucial contributing factors, including the risk for reinfection, vaccine availability and efficacy, as well as potential seasonality and interactions with other viral infections that may modulate the transmission of the virus.  The article appears in the journal “Science”.

Shaman is a professor of environmental health sciences and director of the Columbia Mailman School Climate and Health program and a leading authority in modelling infectious disease outbreaks like SARS-CoV-2 and influenza.  He was among the first to recognize the importance of asymptomatic spread and the effectiveness of lockdown measures and published highly cited estimations of the hypothetic lives saved had lockdown occurred sooner.  He and Galanti, a post-doctoral research scientist in Shaman's research group, also published research finding reinfections with endemic coronaviruses are not uncommon, even within a year of prior infection.

The new paper explores one potential scenario in which immunity to SARS-CoV-2, either through infection or a vaccine, diminishes within a year:  a rate similar to that seen for the endemic betacoronavirus that causes mild respiratory illness.  The result would be yearly outbreaks of COVID-19.  On the other hand, if immunity to SARS-CoV-2 was longer, perhaps through protection provided by immune response to infection with other endemic coronaviruses, we might experience what would initially appear to be an elimination of COVID-19 followed by a resurgence after a few years.  Other contributing factors include the availability and effectiveness of a vaccine and the innate seasonality of the virus.

"Should reinfection prove common place, and barring a highly effective vaccine delivered to most of the world's population, SARS-CoV-2 will likely settle into a pattern of endemicity," the authors write.  "Whether reinfections will be commonplace, how often they will occur, how contagious re-infected individuals will be, and whether the risk of severe clinical outcomes changes with subsequent infection remain to be understood."

Reinfection

Among those who have been infected with COVID-19, serological studies indicate that most infections, regardless of severity, induce development of some SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies.  Yet it remains unclear whether those antibodies are themselves sufficient to provide long-term "sterilizing immunity" to prevent reinfection.  For many viruses, insufficient immune response, waning immunity, or mutations that allow it to "escape" immune detection can undermine or circumvent immunity and allow subsequent reinfection, although a prior infection may provide partial immunity and reduce symptom severity.

Co-Infection

Immune response to SARS-CoV-2 may be affected by whether or not someone is currently, or was recently, infected with another virus. Many studies prior to the pandemic show that infection with one virus can provide short-term protection (about a week) against a second infection.  Other studies confirm that simultaneous respiratory virus infections are not associated with increased disease severity.  While some SARS-CoV-2 coinfections have been documented, including co-infections with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, there is insufficient data to draw conclusions.  At the population level, a significant seasonal influenza outbreak could strain hospitals already dealing with COVID-19.

Seasonality

Evidence suggests COVID-19 could be more transmissible during winter.  Outside the tropics, many common respiratory viruses re-emerge seasonally during particular times of the year.  The endemic coronaviruses (OC43, HKU1, NL63, 229E) all exhibit seasonality in temperate regions, similar to influenza.  Similarly, environmental conditions may also modulate SARS-CoV-2 transmissibility;  not enough to preclude transmission during the early stages of the pandemic when immunity is generally low but perhaps sufficient to favour recurring seasonal transmission during winter in temperate regions, similar to influenza, once immunity increases.

Has Covid 19 made us less active? University research here from the US.

 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most universities around the world transitioned from face-to-face classes to remote learning, closed campuses and sent students home this past spring. Such changes, coupled with social distancing guidelines, have altered social interactions, and limited our access to fitness facilities, parks, and gymnasiums. This is concerning as positive social interaction and access to exercise facilities both promote physical activity.

Recently, a group of Kent State University (Ohio) researchers sought to examine the impact of these pandemic-related changes upon physical activity and sedentary behaviour, specifically sitting, across the university population.

Kent State's College of Education, Health and Human Services professors Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., and Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., along with current and former Kent State doctoral students Greg Farnell, Ph.D., Jake Beiting, Ryan Wiet and Bryan Dowdell, Ph.D., assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. More than 400 college students, faculty, staff, and administrators reported their typical physical activity and sedentary behaviour before the COVID-19 pandemic and after the transition to remote learning and the closure of campus.

In this before-and-after comparison, participants reported nearly eight hours more sitting per week after transitioning from face-to-face classes to remote learning. Changes in physical activity were not so straightforward. Those participants who were not highly active before the pandemic actually increased physical activity after the closure of campus and the transition to remote learning, while participants who were highly active before the pandemic experienced a decrease in overall physical during the pandemic.

"It appears that the participants who were most physically active before the pandemic may have been the most negatively affected," Barkley said. "This makes sense as these active individuals are more likely to utilize the fitness facilities that were closed when the pandemic hit. However, the increases in physical activity in participants who were less active before the pandemic were surprising. Perhaps the elimination of a daily commute left them with more time for physical activity. Or perhaps, they started walking just to get out of the house for a bit. Independent of the changes in physical activity, the sample-wide increase in sitting by over an hour per day is concerning as excess sitting is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even a greater risk of dying earlier."

The authors suggest that while many, like those on university campuses, experienced and may continue to experience challenging, pandemic-related changes to their daily routines, it is important that we all work to maintain positive health behaviours despite these challenges. The Kent State researchers recommend the following:

Try to minimize sitting for extended periods of time, and when possible, add in some exercise at home or outside.

For those who are still working or taking classes remotely, try to incorporate a standing desk into your routine and/or plan breaks where you get up and move away from your computer. During those breaks, try to do some light activity, like taking a walk.

Breaking up your sedentary activity by adding some physical activity will not only benefit your physical health; it can improve cognition, productivity and reduce stress.

"There are likely lots of us that could use some stress relief right now," Barkley said. "Getting up and moving can provide just that."

The Kent State study, titled "The Acute Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour in University Students and Employees," is published in the “International Journal of Exercise Science”.

A wound dressing that detects infection and improves healing?? Yep - scientists are developing. Have a read.

 


Scientists have developed a next generation wound dressing that can detect infection and improve healing in burns, skin grafts and chronic wounds.

 

In research led by RMIT University's Dr Asma Khalid, smart wound dressings made of silk and nanodiamonds effectively sensed wound temperature, an early sign of infection, promoted healing and reduced infection from certain bacteria.

 

Senior researcher Professor Brant Gibson said it offered a solution to the global challenge of wound care and healing.

"Traditional wound management presents a significant challenge for clinicians, who have to regularly check for infection by looking for signs of redness, heat and swelling," he said.

"However, once these visual signs appear, inflammation and infection are far advanced, making therapies or interventions substantially more challenging.

"This new technology would aid clinicians to detect infections earlier and non-invasively without the painful procedure of dressing removal."

 

Heat sensing capability

Co-researcher and wound specialist at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Dr Christina Bursill, said the smart wound dressing was a potential game changer.

"As a non-invasive measurement of wound temperature, this new technology provides a highly accurate way to monitor wound quality, compared to the very subjective method of visual assessment," she said.

 

To incorporate the heat sensing capability, the team turned to diamonds which are known to detect biological temperature to a highly precise level.

 

"By embedding nanodiamonds into silk fibres using an electrospinning process, we've been able to develop a naturally derived wound dressing that can sense infections," Vice-Chancellor Fellow at RMIT Dr Asma Khalid, explained.

"The heat sensing capability opens the possibility of contactless wound monitoring by clinicians who would be able to obtain information on the wound's status from the nanodiamond temperature readout."

 

Bacterial resistance

The study in “ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces” also tested the hybrid technology for resistance to gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, the major players in skin wound infections.

 

"These leading causes of wound or surgical infections in healthcare settings are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics," Khalid noted.

"We were very excited to find the nanodiamond silk membranes showed an extremely high antibacterial resistance to gram negative bacteria," she said.

 

The study shows the smart membranes can detect early signs of infection and protect wounds from certain bacteria and infection, while also maintaining the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the area.

 

"Realising this exciting new technology would provide a beneficial and cost-effective solution to the increasing challenge of wound management and healing," Khalid said.

 

The research consortium included scientists from RMIT University, the Universities of Adelaide and Melbourne, Flinders University, SAHMRI and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP).

 

The work was supported by RMIT University's Vice Chancellor Fellowship and the ARC through the CNPB and a Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant.