oysters on ice

DAILY DOSE: Three die from consuming raw oysters in NYC; Correcting The Iceman’s skin color.

Three individuals in the New York City region have died, and a fourth has been hospitalized due to infections from a flesh-eating bacteria known as Vibrio vulnificus. This bacterium can be contracted from consuming raw oysters or from exposure to saltwater. Although rare, infections from Vibrio vulnificus are severe, with a fatality rate of around 20% as per the CDC. Those who survive often require amputations. Dr. James McDonald, the New York state health commissioner, urged caution, especially for those with open wounds or compromised immune systems.

The affected individuals were from Suffolk County, New York, and Connecticut. Vibriosis is associated with several bacteria types, including Vibrio vulnificus. Warm saltwater is a common habitat for these bacteria. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. In some cases, the infection can cause tissues to die, leading to sepsis.

The number of infections has been rising, possibly due to increasing ocean temperatures. Historically, the bacteria were primarily found in the south, but they have been moving northward. Between 1988 and 2018, infections on the East Coast rose from 10 to 80 cases annually.

Connecticut has implemented measures to test oysters for Vibrio and maintain cold storage conditions for oysters, particularly after a 2013 outbreak. The recent incidents have raised concerns, but event organizers, such as those for the Milford Oyster Festival, assure the public of their safety protocols. (New York Times)

Mammals display vast differences in life spans, from the bowhead whale living up to 200 years to the giant Sunda rat’s mere 6 months. These variations are rooted in each species’ genome. Despite sharing similar genes, how these genes are regulated possibly determines aging. Haghani et al., in their research, studied DNA methylation, a process linked to gene regulation, across various mammalian species. DNA methylation modifies most cytosines followed by a guanine (CpGs) in mammalian genomes, with variations mainly at “enhancers” which control nearby gene expressions. While it doesn’t predominantly control gene regulation, DNA methylation serves as a reliable biomarker for gene activity and cell identity.

Using a pan-mammalian DNA methylation microarray, Haghani et al. assessed 15,456 samples from 348 species. This analysis revealed that species relationship is a significant factor influencing DNA methylation variation. Beyond taxonomy-specific methylation patterns, certain CpG modules were associated with life span variations, suggesting that specific DNA methylation changes could contribute to different life spans across species. Some regions tied to life span variation appear to be governed by pluripotency transcription factors like OCT4 and SOX2. Interestingly, reactivation of these factors, which can revert mature cells to an embryonic-like state, has been linked to reduced aging indicators in mice.

The research indicates the potential of DNA methylation as a robust biomarker across mammals, with applications in conservation biology and pollutant exposure assessment in wild animals. Despite the associations found, the exact mechanisms through which DNA methylation determines aging or life span remain unclear. However, with advancements in technology and a strong molecular marker in hand, future studies can delve deeper into understanding aging processes across various mammals. (Science)

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A ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans may halt mail-order access to mifepristone, a drug used in the majority of U.S. abortions. This decision overturns a portion of a lower court’s judgment that would have ended the FDA’s 23-year-old approval of the drug. The new ruling would also mandate the drug’s administration only up to the seventh week of pregnancy, in the presence of a physician, and not through mail. These restrictions are on hold until the Supreme Court decides. The decision reverts the FDA’s modifications from 2016 and 2021, which had relaxed certain conditions. While Vice President Kamala Harris and abortion rights advocates expressed concerns over the implications for abortion rights, anti-abortion groups welcomed the verdict. The historical significance lies in the rareness of U.S. courts overturning an FDA-approved drug. All judges involved have previously supported abortion restrictions. Mifepristone, along with misoprostol, is used for medication abortions. If mifepristone becomes unavailable, health care providers might resort to the less effective misoprostol. (Associated Press)

Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft successfully entered the moon’s orbit, marking a significant milestone in the country’s goal to be the first to land on the moon’s south pole to search for frozen water. The announcement came from Roskosmos, Russia’s space agency, noting that Luna-25 will orbit the moon for approximately five days before aiming for a soft landing on the lunar south pole on August 21. This achievement follows India’s Chandrayaan-3, which also recently entered the moon’s orbit with similar landing plans. Luna-25, comparable in size to a small car, intends to operate on the south pole for a year. Scientists have previously found evidence of frozen water in the region, which, if confirmed, could revolutionize space missions by facilitating extended human stays and enabling lunar resource mining. This achievement is particularly notable for Russia since no Russian spacecraft has orbited the moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna-24 mission in 1976. Some experts are labeling the renewed interest as the “second lunar race”, emphasizing its significance in global space strategy. (Reuters)

In May 2019, Beyond Meat’s stock performance marked one of the best public debut days for a major American company in years. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been at the forefront of a booming alternative meat market, driven by environmental concerns and the negative impacts of traditional meat production. Predictions suggested a flourishing future, with estimates as high as $290 billion by 2035 for the industry. However, by August 2023, Beyond Meat revealed a 31% year-on-year revenue drop, reflecting a broader industry downturn. Beyond Meat isn’t alone; other brands faced setbacks, suggesting the “peak vegan” point might have been reached.
Consumer skepticism over taste and the healthfulness of these plant-based alternatives have influenced this decline. The term “ultra-processed” has been weaponized against the industry, painting a picture of unhealthy, factory-produced foods. While there are challenges, there’s still potential. The food landscape changes slowly, and dietary shifts are evident, especially outside the US. With Germany and the Netherlands reducing meat consumption, Europe might represent the brighter future for plant-based alternatives. (Wired)

Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummy discovered three decades ago, has been extensively studied. From analyzing his last meal to his dental condition, scientists have painted a vivid picture of his life. However, a new DNA analysis in Cell Genomics has corrected previous reconstructions, revealing that Ötzi likely had dark skin and was experiencing baldness in his mid-40s. This discovery challenges biases about ancient European appearances.

In 1991, hikers found Ötzi in the Ötztal Alps. Though his genome was sequenced in 2012, technological limitations made the results less accurate. In a recent study, over 90% of Ötzi’s genome was remapped using advanced methods. The findings indicated that 92% of Ötzi’s ancestry traced back to early Anatolian farmers who migrated from modern-day Turkey around 8,000 years ago. The remaining 8% was linked to western European hunter-gatherers.

These revelations offer insight into ancient human migrations, suggesting Ötzi’s ancestors may have had minimal contact with other groups, settling in remote regions. Analyses show that Ötzi’s skin tone was darker than contemporary Europeans. Factors like diet, rich in vitamin D, might have contributed to this. Like many ancient Europeans, Ötzi consumed a meat-rich diet, which likely contributed to the preservation of his dark skin tone. Genomic markers also suggest traits like curly hair, diabetes, obesity, and male pattern baldness. With the ongoing climate change, more preserved bodies like Ötzi might be discovered, offering richer insights into prehistory. (Science)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.


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