September 2013

September 17th, 2013

"People living near pig farms or agricultural fields fertilized with pig manure are more likely to become infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, according to a paper published today in JAMA Internal Medicine1.

Previous research has found that livestock workers are at high risk of carrying MRSA, compared to the general population2. But it has been unclear whether the spreading of MRSA through livestock puts the public at risk of infection.

The study examined the incidence of infections in Pennsylvania, where manure from pig farms is often spread on crop fields to comply with state regulations for manure disposal. Researchers reviewed electronic health-care records from patients who sought care from the Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System (which helped to fund the study) in 2005–10."

Read more from Nature

September 4th, 2013

"Two new projects will call on the expertise of Imperial researchers, alongside other world-leading scientists in the US and the UK, to reduce the need for nitrogen-based fertilisers in agriculture.

This will make crop production cheaper and more sustainable, as well as reducing the environmental impact of arable farming.

Professors Bill Rutherford and Martin Buck together with their colleague from the Department of Life Sciences, Dr James Murray will search for a ‘lost’ nitrogen-fixing bacterium that was originally discovered in soil covering a charcoal fire in Germany. The aim is to scour the planet for the missing bug, and any related bacteria. Once found, they will test for a very special nitrogen-fixing enzyme that was originally reported to be able to work in the presence of oxygen, which is unlike all other known nitrogenase enzymes.

The second project will re-engineer the processes in bacteria that use solar energy to drive nitrogen fixation, so that it can ultimately be done inside plants and thus reduce the need for fertilisers."

Read more from Imperial College London