New antibiotic resistance found in China

Scientists in China have discovered a gene that establishes resistance spread between bacteria. The mcr-1 gene allows a range of bacteria (including E.coli) to become resistant to the last fully functional antibiotic class - polymyxins. Genes have been found in both people and pigs. Scientists from the Lancet claim some strains have the potential to become epidemic. The gene was first found in pigs on an intensive Shanghai farm, which then lead to further testing. Twenty percent of animals and 14% of raw meat tested were carriers, along with 16 of 1,322 patients. Polymyxins, of which the main drug is colistin, were discovered 60 years ago but were little used as they cause damage to kidneys unless very carefully regulated. Recently they have been increasingly used as a last resort for infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria. It is thought the new resistance began in animals due to the widespread use of antibiotics – 12,000 tonnes of colistin is estimated to be used worldwide in 2015. An editorial in the Guardian suggests governments should fund research into a new last resort antibiotic, because it would be “almost completely unprofitable – since it would hardly ever be used, to preserve its effectiveness”.

Drugs advertising ban recommended in USA

The American Medical Association (AMA) has recently recommended a ban on drug advertising direct to consumers. They say it is a practice that “has driven up prices and led to more demand for them to be used in inappropriate circumstances”. The AMA’s chair-elect, Patrice A. Harris, reportedly said that the recommendation “reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fuelling escalating drug prices”. The AMA’s previous position was that there was “nothing wrong with advertising pharmaceuticals as long as the information in the ad is accurate and not misleading”. Meanwhile the pharmaceutical industry has argued that ‘direct-to-consumer’ advertising aims to provide “scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options”. Such pharma advertising is only permitted in the US and in New Zealand and in the case of the US, it is relentless on radio and TV channels.

Supplements improved behavior in school children

196 students aged between 13 and 16 and deemed to be “developing typically” were given a daily supplement containing a multivitamin, minerals and omega-3 oils or a placebo for 12 weeks. Children given the active supplement saw improved behaviour while those given a placebo saw a deterioration. This suggests “supplementary nutrition might have a protective effect against worsening behaviour” one of the researchers, from Oxford University, said. The school had existing standards of good behaviour so the conclusions should be treated with caution researchers warned. The relationship between diet and behaviour is complex, but diet has long been linked to problems with attention and aggression in children.

Insect producers will submit novel food applications to the EC

Producers of food-grade insects will submit a novel food application to the EC as soon as the much-debated EU novel food regulations pass into law in a few weeks. The new EU regulation placed insects at the forefront of debate, confirming they are now classed as unauthorised novel food ingredients. This will give manufacturers two years (before the new regulations are applicable) to submit a dossier for authorisation. The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) said the two-year deadline was ”deplorable”. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation insects form part of the diet of 27% of the world’s population, however a recent EFSA report highlighted the lack of consumption data in humans. The founder of IPIFF said EU companies had gathered substantial data proving safety for consumption.

US FDA denies GMO labeling petition

A citizens’ GMO labelling petition submitted to the US Food Drug Administration (FDA) on behalf of the Centre for Food Safety has been denied. The Associate Commissioner for Policy, Leslie Kux, sent a 35-page reply on the 19th November 2015, to the Executive Director of the Centre for Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell. The petition required that foods derived from genetically engineered (GE) sources be labelled under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and that “FDA revisit its interpretation of 'material' facts in light of intervening evidence since the agency enacted its 'Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties' in 1992”. Given the revolving door between the FDA and the biotech industry, it was no surprise that the FDA denied the petition saying it did not provide a “sufficient basis for FDA to rescind or otherwise deviate from its 1992 Policy”. They also said that the petition provides insufficient evidence that GMO foods “differ from foods derived from non-GE plant varieties in any meaningful or uniform way, or that as a class, such foods present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding”.

Keto-professors hearing resumes in South Africa

The hearing into the professional conduct of Professor Tim Noakes resumed this week in South Africa. The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) “is investigating a complaint against the Banting diet advocate after he advised a mother via Twitter, to wean her baby onto a low carb/high fat diet”. Claire Julsing-Strydom, the former president of the Association for Dietetics (South Africa), has been giving her testimony, although she has been informed that she is not an expert witness. Despite this, “The committees chairperson Joan Adams, stopped the HSPCAs lawyer Meshak Mapolisa several times during his questioning, saying he is leading Julsing-Strydom into giving an expert opinion”. It was she who made the complaint against Professor Noakes, as she claimed he was giving “unconventional advice”.