Monday, 10 April 2017

Fighting Ebola and other 'emergent' viruses

One of our academics, Dr Michael Jarvis, is working hard on an exciting new approach that could prevent the sudden appearance of serious infection from pathogens, such as bird flu, SARS, and Ebola by vaccinating the animals that habour these microbes and from which these microbes ‘spill over’ into humans and agricultural animals. One example is the deadly Ebola virus, which in Africa periodically spills over into humans from great apes. Closer to home, this approach is also being developed to prevent bovine TB infection of cattle. You can read about Michael's work in the top science journal Nature and on the Popular Science website. Not only could this work protect humans from deadly microbes, but when applied to control of Ebola it would also protect the wild apes too (Ebola is deadly for them): this online article looks at Michael's work from an ape conservation angle.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Progress in fighting antibiotic resistance

Mat Upton, one of our lecturers, writes "Antibiotic resistance is very newsworthy at the moment (have you been listening to Val McDermid’s Dangerous visions: Resistance on Radio 4?!). This really is a genuine threat to human health and could undermine all of modern medicine. There are many ways we can help to reduce the impact of antibiotic resistance, or drug resistant infections - discovery of new antibiotics is just one aspect. In my group, we are working to develop new ways of preventing and treating infections caused by MRSA, often called a superbug in the news. Our latest paper reports that a single dose of our lead antibiotic is as effective as 6 doses of the current standard treatment in an animal model of MRSA infection. This is the first report of single dose efficacy in this infection model and could lead to shorter therapies in humans. We now hope to secure funding to take the antibiotic into pre-clinical toxicity testing and phase 1 clinical trials."

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Working with local colleges

Recently staff from the Nutrition and Exercise laboratories hosted a group of students from Stoke Damerel Community College. Thirty students and their teachers visited the Exercise Physiology laboratory where final year Nutrition, Exercise and Health students Ashley and Shelley put them through their paces measuring the effect of exercise on heart rate and blood pressure. They also assessed their body mass index and grip strength. Students also had the opportunity to take part in a short lecture on exercise and health delivered by Associate Lecturer Gavin Seymour.

Friday, 16 December 2016

School scientist invited to speak at international emerging infectious disease forum

The annual meeting at the The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University provided a forum for experts to discuss current approaches for vaccine control of emerging zoonotic (animal to human transmitted) infectious diseases. Dr Michael Jarvis who works on herpesvirus-based vaccination strategies is pictured at the microphone below. You can read more about the meeting here.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Student back from Berlin

This summer, I was lucky enough to spend 6 weeks at the Robert Koch institute under the supervision of Dr Bernhard Ehlers. This research project was arranged by Dr Michael Jarvis of Plymouth University, and funded by the Seale-Hayne Trust. The Seale-Hayne Trust aims to support higher education and research in the field of agriculture, food and rural land use and related disciplines. Mycobacterium bovis (Mb) is considered the primary cause of tuberculosis in cattle, causing significant pathology, and a resulting economic burden on the agriculture industry. In keeping with the aim of the trust, our research project involved investigating types of a Mustelid herpesvirus found in different species of naturally infected badgers, with a projected aim to develop a recombinant disseminating vaccine to target Mb transmission to cattle.

The project was extremely enjoyable, and presented an unrivalled opportunity to learn and develop several practical techniques that otherwise I would not have had the opportunity for, such as PCR (I was even able to assist in some organ harvesting with another member of the research group!). Dr Ehlers’ team is fantastic, and from day 1 I was made to feel very welcome, and received tuition for each of the techniques so that I felt confident carrying them out alone. The facilities are second-to-none, and Berlin of course is also a great city to explore. I would definitely recommend this to anybody who is interested in research; I am now studying medicine, and in the future I hope to further my research interests, for which this experience has been invaluable!

Kati O’Brien 
Biomedical Science graduate
Below: Kati, second from left, with colleagues from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin

Monday, 21 November 2016

Students help BBC's Children in Need

Our students raised money for the BBC's Children in Need Appeal last Friday 18th November 2016, by running a ‘drop in’ Health Clinic in the Portland Square building within the clinical skills suites in return for donations for charity. Together they raised £135.56 and completed health checks for around 40 individuals including ECG, spirometry, blood pressure, BMI and body fat measurements. Healthcare Sciences, Nutrition Exercise and Health students alongside Medical students were involved in running the ‘drop in’ Health clinic.

Some feedback comments from the individuals volunteering for the health assessments ranged from ‘very pleased with the attention given to me today, I would recommend anyone to have it done’, ‘very worthwhile, a very professional and knowledgeable group’ and ‘the best service with the best people, our future health professionals’. Exemplary comments for professional practice and care were acknowledged for Victoria Old, Jack Dodd, Kelly-Marie Adkins and Emily Biggs (Healthcare Science practitioners in training). A raffle for the Giant Pudsey had also taken place with the coffee morning; Dr Gail Rees (Plymouth University) was the winner of Pudsey for 2016.

The photographs below are from the party afterwards held in the Royal William Yard that was linked to the national TV coverage. With Pudsey are (left to right): Emily Dawson, Hannah Muntz, Harriet Goodship (back), Catherine Walsh (front), John Ravey and Kelly Adkins. The photograph underneath has Hannah Waite and Lucy Hickman being interviewed, and the bottom one has Ph.D. student Emmanuel Maze dancing with Street Factory as part of the night's entertainments. A good night.

Friday, 18 November 2016

European Antibiotic Awareness Day

Antibiotic resistance is:

- as big a threat to human health as climate change
- going to result in 10 million deaths every year by 2050 if we ignore it
- something that will have an impact on us all.

Did you know that today is European Antibiotic Awareness Day, which is part of World Antibiotic Awareness Week? Find out more by visiting the PU website with links there to a range of resources and background info., including an opinion piece by our microbiology lecturer Mat Upton. Sign up to be an Antibiotic Guardian and help preserve antibiotics for future generations! Find out how you can help by seeking alternatives to antibiotics when you are ill. Follow the links to see how SoGoodStudios are helping to raise awareness through their game jam and play the Superbugs game to see how log you can keep the human race alive!