Vladimir Fedorenko via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA 3.0
Vladimir Fedorenko via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA 3.0

How TB Grew Stronger and Spread Wider with the Collapse of the USSR

Vladimir Fedorenko via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA 3.0
Vladimir Fedorenko via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA 3.0

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that the USSR’s breakup and subsequent turmoil allowed one strain of tuberculosis to evolve in a virulent, drug-resistant form that continues to plague Central Asia. They also traced the spread of the strain from Central Asia to Afghanistan and then to Europe due to armed conflict and population displacement. 

Every action we take has unpredictable consequences on the world around us, and geopolitical events are no different. With this fact in mind, an international team of anthropologists and disease experts set out to investigate if and how human history could have altered the evolution of one widespread human disease.

Alain Grillet/ Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND 2.0

The tuberculosis-causing bacterium (Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, or MBTC) exists in seven distinct subtypes, or lineages. The second, third, and fourth lineages have been wildly successful as diseases go, but exactly how they’ve done it remains the subject of some disagreement. For this study, the researchers focused on the second lineage (L2), the so-called "Beijing lineage," a particularly nasty strain that’s rapidly spreading and shows drug resistance.

The team collected samples of L2 tuberculosis germs from patients in Europe, South Asia, and Central Asia. They scanned all the bacterial genes in order to sort out the geographic origins of each patient’s TB, as well as to pinpoint the moments in the disease’s evolution when specific mutations—like those that make it resistant to medication—first appeared.

Their results indicated that one especially drug-resistant subtype of L2 was most common in former Soviet states. This would make plenty of sense if the mutations conferring drug resistance had evolved while the states were all part of the same Soviet Union. But the mutations are relatively new. They evolved in those places after the Soviet Union collapsed—a time of intense and violent conflict. On top of that, citizens of these states were being displaced en masse, and public health resources were nearly nonexistent.

The strain has spread as a consequence of armed conflict and population displacement, the authors write. It was introduced to Afghanistan with the 1979–1989 Soviet invasion and occupation. It spread further after the American invasion in 2001, when much of the population experienced further upheavals. L2 continued to mutate in Afghanistan, creating a new strain. More recently it's been detected in Europe in small TB breakouts mostly limited to Afghan refugees.

The authors say the combination of these factors may have created a perfect environment in which TB could grow, get tougher, and become more virulent. Drug-resistant TB continues to be a major health concern in Central Asia. “Our results highlight the detrimental effects of political instability and population displacement on global TB control,” they write, “and demonstrate the power of [these] methods for understanding bacterial evolution in time and space.”

Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.

The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.

You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • H-E-B Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

It Only Takes an Hour for Bacteria to Spoil Your Picnic Foods

It turns out that Yogi Bear and ants are not the only things to fear when heading outdoors for a picnic lunch. During summer heat waves, you need to be concerned about food safety, too.

Typically, cooked food is safe to leave out at room temperature for up to two hours, Lifehacker reports. Beyond that, it should be kept out of the “danger zone” of 40°F to 140°F by being either refrigerated or kept hot using a heating source: This keeps bacteria from thriving. But food left outdoors on a warm day (above 90°F) chops that rule in half. Food only has about an hour under the Sun before bacteria like Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus begin to multiply rapidly and greatly increase your chances of falling ill. If you’ve ever felt a little green following a long afternoon cookout, this is one possible reason why.

The one-hour rule applies to most foods starting at a cooked or cold-served temperature. Still, cold items like potato salad should be kept refrigerated or in a cooler until they’re ready to serve. Processed foods like bread, crackers, and other pantry-type products are generally safe to leave out.

You should also adhere to indoor food safety practices, like washing your hands before and after touching raw food items or before you sit down with a plate. If there’s no running water, bring a jug and some soap or wet wipes. While packing up for a day out, put your food coolers in the passenger section of your car, not the trunk, where temperatures can cause ice or gel packs to warm up.

Keeping your perishable picnic food organized and stored has another benefit. If it's stowed away until you’re ready to serve, it’s less likely to attract ants that think they’ve been invited to your little gathering. It’s also a good idea to check picnic grounds or table legs for fire ant mounds—a sure sign that you’re better off relocating.

[h/t Lifehacker]


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