Highlights of the BMC-series: January 2013

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Infant eczema – a microbial link • Identifying Intimate Partner Violence • It’s a dogslife for canine disease • Aquatic athletes • Barcoding biodiversity in the sub-Arctic • Cancer on Twitter

Microbiology: Infant eczema – a microbial link

The guts of infants begin to be colonized by microbes from their first exposure to the world after birth. There has been much study linking the composition of this microbiota to the development of allergic diseases, with conflicting results. A new study published this month in BMC Microbiology  uses a high-throughput approach to identify the diversity of bacteria present in the guts of children with eczema during early childhood. Lotta Nylund and colleagues found that children with eczema had a more diverse and adult-like microbiota than controls. They also found indications that giving probiotic supplements to the mother might also have some beneficial effects.

Musculoskeletal Disorders: Identifying Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence is a serious health issue and there have been widespread research efforts in this area over the past several decades from many perspectives. However, while orthapedic surgeons have historically identified cases of child abuse manifested in orthapedic injuries, identifying cases of domestic violence in the clinic have been less common. In an article published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Sheila Sprague and colleagues review evidence from a surgical research and provide recommendations for the development of an intimate partner violence identification and support programs.

Veterinary research: It’s a dogslife for canine disease

A paper this month describes the setup, recruitment and initial results from Dogslife, an internet-based system to monitor the health of UK-based Labrador Retrievers over time. It is more difficult to conduct longitudinal health studies of this type in domestic pets compared to farm animals, so this study was the first of its kind. Early findings are that around 80% of the dogs have had an illness in their first year, with a little over half taken to the vet.  In the longer term the researchers behind the project hope to identify environmental and genetic factors that influence the health of these dogs over their lives. The study is ongoing, so any owners of Kennel Club registered Labradors born in the UK after 1st January 2010 can join the project.

Image of the month

Fig 8E Bliss et al BMC Plant Bio (2013) 13,13

Fig 8E from Bliss et al BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:13 Glass model of Aristolochia fimbriata by Leopold and Rudolph Blatschka made near Dresden, Germany illustrated by Fritz Kredel (reproduced with permission).

Physiology:  Aquatic athletes

Like humans, salmon can be classified according to their athletic prowess – in this case their relative swimming performance. Vicente Castro and colleagues, writing in BMC Physiology , found juvenile fish that are good swimmers also prove to be more resistant to viral disease infection later in life compared to less able swimmers. Also similar to human athletes, salmon can be put through a training regime. Training had only a weak effect on improving disease resistance, although training did improve growth of the fish. These finding may have relevance for salmon improvement programs and provides an approach for fish breeders to weed out weaker juveniles while it is still cost effective.

Ecology: Barcoding biodiversity in the sub-Arctic

A huge sampling effort to characterise the species diversity of wasps and bees in a sub-arctic region of Canada uses techniques in DNA barcoding to uncover the surprising finding that the richness of parasitoid species is far higher than previously expected.  These findings therefore highlight the need for future research efforts to investigate the high diversity of potential host species that must also exist in this inhospitable region.

#Cancer: Cancer on Twitter

Increasingly patients and their loved-ones turn to the internet for information on their medical conditions. In a new study Yuya Sugawara and colleagues looked at how female cancer patients in Japan used Twitter to discuss their condition. They found that although Twitter could provide a good medium for rapid and timely dissemination of medical news and information, users primarily used it for discussing their treatments and offering one another psychological support.

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