Highlights of the BMC-series: January 2017

Antigen presenting capacity of murine splenic myeloid cells• Cost-effectiveness of antibiotic treatment strategies for community-acquired pneumonia• Endocrine correlates of puberty in female Asian elephants at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Sri Lanka• Cambrian suspension-feeding lobopodians and the early radiation of panarthropods • Non-associative versus associative learning by foraging predatory mites• Evolutionary diversification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in an artificial sputum model • Health communication implications of the perceived meanings of terms used to denote unhealthy foods

Immunology: Antigen presenting capacity of murine splenic myeloid cells
Myeloid cells produced in the spleen have been defined to have dendritic cell subsets in regards to their phenotype, development and functional roles. A novel dendritic-like cell in the spleen has recently been identified. This BMC Immunology research article uses a new flow cytometric procedure to characterise the activation of T cells by this new subset. Hey et al. show this subset is clearly distinguishable from conventional dendritic cells in its ability to activate cytotoxic effector T cells via  CD8+  T cell induction while remaining unable to activate CD4+ T cells.

Infectious diseases: Cost-effectiveness of antibiotic treatment strategies for community-acquired pneumonia
A cluster randomised cross-over trial was implemented to determine the cost-effectiveness of antibiotic treatment strategies with beta-lactam with macrolide or fluoroquinolone monotherapy compared to beta-lactam monotherapy alone. Cost-minimisation analysis is important as it aids the choosing of an optimal treatment from a third payer and social perspective. Crude average costs per patient were calculated for each scenario and it was shown that there were no significant differences in the cost-effectiveness of these antibiotic treatment strategies.

Zoology research: Endocrine correlates of puberty in female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Sri Lanka
While studies on wild Asian elephants show that females give birth at 12-18 years of age, there are examples of zoo elephants giving birth at only 5-6 years old. Little work has been carried out to determine the age at which young elephants reach puberty. This study in BMC Zoology measures hormone levels in elephants ranging in age from 3.5 years to 15 years to document initiation of ovarian cyclicity. It was identified that elephants in human care may reach puberty earlier than their wild counterparts, and perhaps this is due to a better nutrition and reaching a suitable bodyweight at a younger age.

Image of the month: Cambrian suspension-feeding lobopodians and the early radiation of panarthropods
Lobopodians are a group of Palaeozoic animals with soft legs, from which the Panarthropoda groups evolved. This group likely illustrates the importance of niche diversification on morphological diversity, however their ecology is poorly characterised. A study in BMC Evolutionary Biology describes a new species found in Canada whose morphology and suspension-feeding ecology is convergent with some modern marine animals. A Bayesian approach to biological classification supports the view that the sort this semi-sessile, suspension-feeding lifestyle of this taxon characterised the origin of Panarthtopoda. A wonderful artistic representation of this Ovatiovermis cribratus has been produced by Danielle Dufault.

The paper is discussed in more detail in this guest blog.

Artist's recreation of Ovatiovermis cribratus from the Burgess Shale

Ecology research: Non-associative versus associative learning by foraging predatory mites
Associative learning results from the pairing of unrelated stimuli while non-associative learning occurs in response to single stimuli. This study by Schausberger and Peneder determines how these learning processes contribute to learning tasks and overall behaviour in the predatory skills of foraging mites. In numerous scenarios where the foraging mites are predisposed to the prey in different associative and non-associate learning environments, it is shown that both learning forms operate in predatory mites and both result in persistant memory, with the argument that non-associative learning is an inevitable component of the associate learning counterpart.

Microbiology: Evolutionary diversification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in an artificial sputum model
Vast diversification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa occurs in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients during infection. This study in BMC Microbiology looks at identifying selective drivers behind this evolutionary process. Bacterial populations were experimentally evolved with or without a community of bacteriophages. Analysis of the final populations revealed large phenotypic diversity but no difference in relation to the presence or absence of phages. Most commonly, a loss of motility and gain of resistance to the phages was observed. Some evolved populations even demonstrated antibiotic resistance. The concluding populations are similar to those observed amongst clinical isolates from cystic fibrosis infections, indicating a useful model for this infection.

Obesity research: Health communication implications of the perceived meanings of terms used to denote unhealthy foods
Appropriate terminology in nutrition education programs and behaviour change campaigns is important in optimising the effectiveness of these efforts. An online survey was carried out by Pettigrew et al. to assess the perceptions of adults to the meaning of four terms  used to describe unhealthy foods. Within the results,  ‘Junk food’ was the term most clearly associated with unhealthiness, while ‘Snack food’ was thought to represent both healthy and unhealthy food. This study shows that a detailed understanding of these meanings is pivotal to ensuring nutrition guidance and health campaigns use appropriate terminology.

BMC Research Notes:  Renewing its focus
Since it first launched in 2008, BMC Research Notes has been a place where researchers can publish short notes and observations, research outputs which are useful for the community but which can end up hidden in the lab notebook or as a footnote in a dataset. In order to re-affirm the importance of publishing these kinds of outputs, the journal is renewing its focus on publishing note articles as well as other potentially dark data such as short null results.

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