Antibiotics from mangroves?

Researchers at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Malaysia have conducted a study on the mangrove ecosystem to search for actinomycetes bacteria. The mangrove ecosystem is known as a highly productive habitat for isolating actinomycetes, which has the potential of producing biologically active secondary metabolites.The UiTM study focused on eight different mangrove sites in Malaysia, which were chosen at random to isolate and screen actinomycetes from soil samples. A total of 53 possible marine actinomycetes were isolated and it was found that a three percent concentration of sodium chloride was sufficient to support the growth of marine actinomycetes.Among the isolated filamentous bacteria, five isolates showed antimicrobial activity from direct culture broth against at least one of the test organisms. Meanwhile, four extracts of ethyl acetate showed activity against Gram-positive test organisms. The results revealed that marine actinomycetes is a potential source for producing antibiotics.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Students on field course bag new spider species

As a spin-off (pun intended) of their Tropical Biodiversity course in Malaysian Borneo, a team of biology students discover a new spider species, build a makeshift taxonomy lab, write a joint publication and send it off to a major taxonomic journal.Discovering a new spider species was not what she had anticipated when she signed up for her field course in Tropical Biodiversity, says Elisa Panjang, a Malaysian master’s student from Universiti Malaysia Sabah. She is one of twenty students following the course, organised by Naturalis Biodiversity Center in The Netherlands, and held in the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The aim of the one-month course, say organisers Vincent Merckx and Menno Schilthuizen, is to teach the students about how the rich tapestry of the tropical lowland rainforest’s ecosystem is woven.Besides charismatic species, such as the orangutans that the students encounter every day in the forest, the tropical ecosystem consists of scores of unseen organisms, and the course focus is on these “small things that run the world” — such as the tiny orb-weaving spiders of the tongue-twistingly named family Symphytognathidae. These one-millimetre-long spiders build tiny webs that they suspend between dead leaves on the forest floor. “When we started putting our noses to the ground we saw them everywhere,” says Danish student Jennie Burmester enthusiastically. What they weren’t prepared for was that the webs turned out to be the work of an unknown species, as spider specialist Jeremy Miller, an instructor on the course, quickly confirmed.The students then decided to make the official naming and description of the species a course project. They rigged the field centre’s microscopes with smartphones to produce images of the tiny spider’s even tinier genitals (using cooking oil from the station’s kitchen to make them more translucent), dusted the spider’s webs with puffs of corn flour (also from the kitchen) to make them stand out and described the way they were built. They also put a spider in alcohol as “holotype,” the obligatory reference specimen for the naming of any new species — which is to be stored in the collection of Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Finally, a dinner-time discussion yielded a name for this latest addition to the tree of life: Crassignatha danaugirangensis, after the field centre’s idyllic setting at the Danau Girang oxbow lake.All data and images were then compiled into a scientific paper, which, via the station’s satellite link, was submitted to the Biodiversity Data Journal, a leading online journal for quick dissemination of new biodiversity data. Even though thousands of similarly-sized spider species still await discovery, Miller thinks the publication is an important one. …

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Know the Risks of Medical Tourism: Is It Worth It?

Know the Risks of Medical Tourism: Is It Worth It?Posted onMarch 10, 2014byRichard ReichEnglish-speaking patients are increasingly traveling to such places as Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico to save anywhere from 30 to 90 percent on medical procedures. The medical tourism market reached $10.9 billion in 2012, and according to projections by Transparency Market Research, it will grow to $32.5 billion annually by 2019.Some experts warn of the risks of traveling for medical procedures, however. Boston plastic surgeon Samuel Lin recalls a woman who had traveled abroad for breast augmentation. She came into his office complaining of discomfort, thinking her silicone implant had ruptured—only to learn a large cloth had been left in her chest.Such cases have some consumers wondering whether the risks of medical tourism are worth it. …

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Lifesaving HIV treatment could reach millions more people following landmark study

July 4, 2013 — Millions more people could get access to life-saving HIV drug therapy, following a landmark study led by Australian researchers based at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).The researchers have found a lower daily dose of an important HIV drug therapy is safe and as effective in suppressing the virus as the standard recommended dose.The findings have been presented at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.”This has the potential to affect the treatment of millions of HIV positive people,” says UNSW Professor Sean Emery, the protocol chairperson of the study, known as ENCORE1 and Head of the Therapeutic and Vaccine Research Program at the Kirby Institute.”A reduced daily dose should translate into a lower cost of treatment and permit more effective and efficient use of health care resources. Essentially, more people could receive this life-saving treatment for the same amount of funding.”HIV-positive people from 13 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America took part in the trial. Half these people took two-thirds of the current standard daily dose of the antiretroviral (ART) efavirenz, a commonly used treatment for HIV; the other half took the standard daily dose. The 630 participants were observed regularly for a year. The results indicate that a reduction in daily dose of one third is both safe and effective compared to the higher dose currently recommended for people with HIV infection.The research was part of a program funded with a grant of US$12.42 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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