Highlights of the BMC-series: May 2017

Activating the mouse inflammasome • Why do violent criminals fight more than other criminal offenders? • Training improves physician comfort with electronic health records • Facing up to marsupial diversity • Use of more antibiotics leads to less growth inhibition • How do wheat plants reduce water loss under drought conditions? • How can parents help their children meet sleep guidelines?

BMC Immunology: Activation of the inflammasome in mouse macrophages reduces colonization by Salmonella

Recognition of microbial pathogens is key for innate immune function. This is done in macrophages by intracellular receptors known as NLRs, which then activate the inflammasome to defend against colonization by intracellular bacteria. Salmonella, however, has developed effectors that allow it to evade the inflammasome response. This study used recombinant Salmonella to test whether inflammasome activation could be triggered and whether that would affect bacterial colonization in vivo in mice. It was found that the recombinant bacteria increased activation of the inflammasome, thereby reducing bacterial counts and organ damage in the infected mice. This could lead to general application in vaccine design, encouraging activation of the immune system against a range of intracellular pathogens.


BMC Psychology: Why do violent criminals fight more than other criminal offenders?

Interpretation of facial expression is an important element of regulating social interaction. A recent study compared hostile attribution bias in violent criminals as compared to non-violent offenders and controls in the general population. Hostile attribution bias is the interpretation of ambiguous facial expressions as hostile, often leading to aggressive behavior. Violent offenders showed greater hostile attribution bias than non-violent offenders or controls, suggesting one mechanism underlying a tendency towards physical violence.


BMC Family Practice: Training improves physician comfort with using electronic health records

As electronic health record (EHR) use becomes more common, more negative effects are seen on the physician-patient relationship from the use of EHR. While several recommendations have been published to try to mitigate these effects, few studies have tested whether these recommendations are helpful in real patient interactions. A new study aimed to introduce training on EHR-related communication skills of residents with real patients and asses its impact on physician-patient interactions. After the training, physicians said that they were more comfortable using EHR overall and were seen to be using it less in situations where patients might feel that it was a barrier to communication.


Image of the month: Facing up to marsupial diversity

Images showing craniofacial diversity and convergence between marsupials and placental mammals. A recent study in BMC Evolutionary Biology showed that the genetic basis of craniofacial diversity in placental mammals does not drive similar diversity in marsupials.


BMC Microbiology: Use of more antibiotics leads to less growth inhibition

One method of overcoming the growing problem of antibiotic resistance is the use of combination therapies, two or more antibiotic drugs together. Identifying which drugs are most effective together is complicated by the rare occurrence of suppressive interactions, in which the drugs together are less effective than either alone. These suppressive combinations, while they are less effective at killing bacteria, may be better for combating the development of antibiotic resistance. This study looked for suppressive interactions in three-drug combinations, especially “emergent” suppressive interactions that reduce growth better than the single drugs but not as well as the pairwise combinations. Fourteen antibiotic drugs were tested in all possible combinations on three strains of bacteria. Pairwise suppressive interactions were rare, with only 5% of combinations failing to reduce growth more than the single drugs but 17% of three-drug combinations showing suppressive interaction as compared to the pairwise combinations. These emergent suppressive interactions may be clinically useful to balance between the needs of effective killing of bacteria in an individual patient and reducing the development of antibiotic resistance across a population.


BMC Plant Biology: How do wheat plants reduce water loss under drought conditions?

The plant cuticle is the outermost tissue layer and it is important in protecting the plant from environmental stresses, such as drought. Cuticle properties such as wax composition and glaucousness may control water loss and thereby contribute to drought tolerance. A new study examined water loss in five strains of wheat to compare leaf cuticle properties between strains with different drought tolerances and within strains grown in drought and non-drought conditions. The relationship found between cuticle properties and drought tolerance was not simple and included changes in wax composition, amount, and crystal structure. These relationships could be useful for selecting plants with higher drought resistance.


BMC Public Health: How can parents help their children meet sleep guidelines?

Sleep is an essential contributor to healthy child development and lack of sleep can contribute to obesity, low academic achievement, and other negative outcomes for children and their families. Parental behaviors can significantly influence child sleep quality and duration both positively and negatively. This study aimed to determine the relative contribution of various parental behaviors intended to support healthy sleep to children meeting healthy sleep guidelines. The results of the survey show that parental enforcement of bedtime rules, not just encouragement to follow routine, predicted increased sleep duration in children.

Lead author Evelyn Pyper discussed this research in more detail in her guest blog.

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