Archive for the ‘Laboratory Testing’ Category

Bedbugs With Drug-Resistant MRSA ‘Superbug’ Germ Found

ATLANTA — Hate insects? Afraid of germs? Researchers are reporting an alarming combination: bedbugs carrying a staph “superbug.” Canadian scientists detected drug-resistant staph bacteria in bedbugs from three hospital patients from a downtrodden Vancouver neighborhood.

Bedbugs Superbugs

Bedbugs have not been known to spread disease, and there’s no clear evidence that the five bedbugs found on the patients or their belongings had spread the MRSA germ they were carrying or a second less dangerous drug-resistant bacteria.

However, bedbugs can cause itching that can lead to excessive scratching. That can cause breaks in the skin that make people more susceptible to these germs, noted Dr. Marc Romney, one of the study’s authors.

The study is small and very preliminary. “But it’s an intriguing finding” that needs to be further researched, said Romney, medical microbiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

The hospital is the closest one to the poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood near the city’s waterfront. Romney said he and his colleagues did the research after seeing a simultaneous boom in bedbugs and MRSA cases from the neighborhood.

Five bedbugs were crushed and analyzed. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, was found on three bugs. MRSA is resistant to several types of common antibiotics and can become deadly if it gets through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Two bugs had VRE, or vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, a less dangerous form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Both germs are often seen in hospitals, and experts have been far more worried about nurses and other health care workers spreading the bacteria than insects.

It’s not clear if the bacteria originated with the bedbugs or if the bugs picked it up from already infected people, Romney added.

The study was released Wednesday by Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Forensic entomology dubbed scariest job of 2010

People scare local entomologist, not bugs
 
They live in a world of creepy-crawlies, collecting the flies, maggots and beetles that live off the dead. 
 

Because it’s such a macabre profession, forensic entomology this Halloween season has been dubbed the scariest job of 2010 by Careercast.com, a job-search website. In winning that dubious distinction, it edged out jobs such as communications tower technician, bomb squad technician, crime scene decontamination technician and medical test subject.

Not surprisingly, John Wallace disagrees.

The Millersville University professor is one of 15 forensic entomologists in the world certified by the American Board of Forensic Entomology.

“To me, there are many scarier jobs,” said Wallace, 49. “Bomb squad? Climbing a communications tower? I can’t see doing that. You can tempt fate only so often. What’s my risk? The person is already deceased.”

Wallace agrees that some aspects of his job might creep people out, especially those with a fear of insects. Forensic entomologists simply can’t afford that phobia because bugs are their bread and butter.

So to speak.

Still, it’s not every day a reporter hears someone ask an assistant, “Have you seen my jars of maggots?”

He didn’t find his maggots, but he does have a display case of insects, including blowflies, rogue and carrion beetles and other bugs that speed or hinder decomposition.

Because of popular TV shows focusing on crime-scene investigations, it’s often forgotten that forensic entomology has more uses than just determining how long a person has been dead.

Wallace once helped a veterinarian expose a false claim by a client who said his dog contracted maggots at the doctor’s clinic by determining the age of the maggots.

His expertise also is useful in cases of elder abuse and food contamination.

Wallace has one student working on wildlife entomology, which can be used to help in cases of poaching or other conservation crimes.

“She developed a technique to isolate wildlife DNA in maggot tissue,” Wallace said.

Still, there is no denying that forensic entomology can play an important role in solving murders, and Wallace has been part of that process.

In 2007, he helped the Innocence Project with a criminal appeal involving Kennedy Brewer, who was accused in Mississippi of raping and murdering a 3-year-old girl. The primary evidence against Brewer, who had been sentenced to death, were 19 sets of bite marks on the child’s body that the prosecution claimed were Brewer’s.

The defense, however, maintained that the bites were made by crayfish in the creek where the body had lain for three days.

Wallace traveled to the crime scene, collected three dozen crayfish and brought them back to his Millersville laboratory. There he kept them in a tank along with a dead pig.

He concluded that the marks left by the crayfish exactly matched the pattern of bites on the body. The evidence exonerated not just Brewer, but also Levon Brooks, who had been sentenced to life in prison after similar evidence had helped prosecutors convict him of a different homicide. Police later arrested Justin Albert Johnson, who confessed to both killings.

“So Kennedy Brewer was freed, and Levon Brooks was freed,” Wallace said. “They were wrongly convicted. That, for me, was a red-letter day.”

Closer to home, Wallace helped prosecutors during the trial of Micah Stewart, accused of the 2004 murder of his girlfriend, Courtney Fry. Visiting the morgue where her skeletal remains had been taken after being discovered in a Manor Township field in January 2005, he collected black soldier flies.

“Looking at the life cycle of that fly and the temperature data, I came up with a time interval of when those flies appeared on her body,” Wallace said. “That gave police a rough idea of how long she had been there.”

More recently, he examined pupa cases of flies found on the remains of Jonathan Moyer, who had been murdered by convicted killer Felina Billetdeaux in 2005 in a Brownstown apartment. His body was hidden in a closet for about a month before being buried by Billetdeaux and another woman, Steva Hagelgans.

Wallace said there were no live flies on Moyer, but a lot of pupa cases.

“At one point in this tiny apartment, thousands of flies had emerged while these two women were living there,” he said. “To me, that’s scary.”

Wallace admitted there is a ghoulish aspect to his job.

“I have seen some of the worst of humanity, and those images stay with you,” he said. “So some might say that’s pretty scary. But I just collect insects.”

Who has the scariest job?

After forensic entomologist, the top 10 scariest jobs of 2010, according to Careercast.com are:

2. Miner — The fear of confined spaces is one of the most common phobias, and there are few worse places for a person suffering from claustrophobia to be than a narrow mine shaft deep underground.

3. Broadcast tower technician — The tallest broadcast tower is the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota at a whopping 2,063 feet high. And whenever routine maintenance needs to be performed on this massive structure, a broadcast tower technician goes all the way to the very top.

4. Bomb squad technician — While police departments are increasingly employing robots for bomb disposal, there are still plenty of instances where humans are needed to get the job done.

5. Field epidemiologist — Protected by little more than a hazmat suit, field epidemiologists get up close and personal with germs, blood, needles and dead bodies on a daily basis — not to mention the risk they run of contracting a deadly disease themselves.

6. Crime and trauma scene decontamination — Unless you’ve got the stomach for regular exposure to blood and dead bodies, this might not be the job for you.

7. Pharmaceutical test subject — Many people carve out lucrative professions as human guinea pigs, enduring injections, blood draws, dangerous side effects and the risk of permanent injury or even death on a regular basis.

8. Bush pilot — Some studies put the chances of an Alaskan bush pilot dying in a crash at one in eight during a 30-year career.

9. Cryonics technician — Cryonics is controversial among scientists, but no matter what your opinion is of the practice, there’s no denying that any profession which involves removing the heads of people who’ve just died and preserving them at -200 degrees Fahrenheit is a little bit scary.

10. Comedian — For anyone gripped by a fear of public humiliation, having to stand in front of a large crowd and tell jokes to a potentially hostile audience can be a traumatic experience.

Forensic Entolmology is the science of determining a time frame and/or circumstance from the empirical evidence of insect activity on or around the site in question. A time of death can be reasonably determined by factoring in ambient temperature , availability of corpse to insects, and the progress of blowfly larvae through their life cycle on that corpse.

Approximately fourteen days is necessary for a blowfly to go from egg to adult.

 

Tiny Brained Bees Solve a Complex Mathematical Problem

 Bumblebees can find the solution to a complex mathematical problem which keeps computers busy for days.

New research shows that bumblebees can find the solution to a complex mathematical problem which keeps computers busy for days. (Credit: iStockphoto/Alexey Kryuchkov)
 

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and Queen Mary, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the ‘Travelling Salesman Problem’, and these are the first animals found to do this.

The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed.

Dr Nigel Raine, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway explains: “Foraging bees solve travelling salesman problems every day. They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because bees use lots of energy to fly, they find a route which keeps flying to a minimum.”

The team used computer controlled artificial flowers to test whether bees would follow a route defined by the order in which they discovered the flowers or if they would find the shortest route. After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the shortest route.

As well as enhancing our understanding of how bees move around the landscape pollinating crops and wild flowers, this research, which is due to be published in The American Naturalist, has other applications. Our lifestyle relies on networks such as traffic on the roads, information flow on the web and business supply chains. By understanding how bees can solve their problem with such a tiny brain we can improve our management of these everyday networks without needing lots of computer time.

Dr Raine adds: “Despite their tiny brains bees are capable of extraordinary feats of behaviour. We need to understand how they can solve the Travelling Salesman Problem without a computer. What short-cuts do they use?’

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

All-natural bedbug sprays have little bite

Products such as Rest Easy and Bed Bug Bully claim to be highly effective at controlling the insects, but researchers say there aren’t yet any consumer products proven to keep bedbugs away.

Bedbug

Bedbugs can be very hard to get rid of, and “all natural” remedies don’t show much promise. (University of Florida Institute of Food / October 25, 2010)

Bedbugs combine all of the bloodsucking annoyance of mosquitoes with the survival instinct of cockroaches. No bigger than apple seeds, the adult bugs hide in ingenious places — inside electrical outlets, behind baseboards, deep in carpet fibers — during the day and attack their victims during the night. You may never know that you have a bedbug problem until bites start showing up on your skin. Bedbugs don’t spread any illnesses, but still. Ick.

The bugs are tough, they’re devious and they’re gaining new ground in homes and hotel rooms across the country, says Susan Jones, an entomologist at Ohio State University in Columbus. “They are the worst insects that we’ve ever had to deal with in an urban environment.”

As worry about bedbugs grows, it’s no surprise that many people are taking pest control into their own hands. Do-it-yourself exterminators can choose from many different sprays that claim to kill the bugs and prevent infestations.

Some products, like Rest Easy Bed Bug Spray, are sold as all-natural alternatives to traditional pesticides. Rest Easy, manufactured by the RMB Group, contains essential oils from cinnamon and lemon grass, among other ingredients. Bed Bug Bully, produced by a company called My Cleaning Products, claims to be 100% natural. The company website doesn’t list any ingredients, but a sales manager reached by phone said that the spray ingredients include tea tree oil and lavender. The company didn’t respond to a request for more information.

A 16-ounce spray bottle of Rest Easy — sold at many Walgreens, Ace Hardware and other stores — costs about $16. The company website instructs users to spray Rest Easy on “dressers drawers, closets, along baseboards, behind headboards, and around any other furniture you want treated.” The site advises against spraying the bed directly. “If bed bugs are present in the bed,” the site says, “call a professional for extermination.”

A 32-ounce bottle of Bed Bug Bully, available at many drugstores, retails for about $50. A video tutorial on the company website encourages users to spray “wherever you think bedbugs may be.”

If you want a little more punch in your spray, you might consider buying a product that contains an EPA-registered pesticide. Steri-Fab, a spray from Noble Pine Products, contains alcohol with a small amount of d-phenothrin, a common pesticide often found in flea and tick products. It’s sold online — Amazon is one option — and at many professional cleaning supply outlets. On Amazon.com, a 1-gallon bottle sells for a little more than $40. According to the company site, a gallon is enough to cover eight to 10 pieces of upholstered furniture or six to seven mattress sets.

The claims

The Rest Easy website says that its “optimized blend of natural ingredients has been universally recognized for thousands of years as a means for controlling insects.” In a phone interview, company President Howard Brenner said, “We are all-natural and highly effective.” He also said that people who have a serious and obvious infestation should call an exterminator. “Our product is for people who think they might have bedbugs or are paranoid that they might get them.”

The Bed Bug Bully site says the product is “by far the best bed bug treatment you can get on the market today.” It also promises “the same results delivered by pest service without evacuation.”

The Steri-Fab website says that, “unlike any other product available in the U.S. and the world,” Steri-Fab kills bedbugs, fleas, ticks and lice along with bacteria and viruses. The site also says it “dries in 15-20 minutes and leaves no residue.” The FAQ section explains that the product kills bugs on contact but becomes essentially inactive once it dries. In a phone interview, company Vice President Eric Bryan said his product “isn’t a panacea” but does have a proven ability to kill bugs. “Those all-natural botanical products” are baloney, he added.

The bottom line

Gail Getty, a research entomologist at UC Berkeley, says she’d love to see a day when people could quickly solve their bedbug problems on their own. “I want to encourage new research. It would be great if there was something that was safe and effective.”

Unfortunately, she says, no consumer products on the market today have been proved to completely remove bedbugs from the home. Because bedbugs are so adept at hiding, and because any bugs you can target with a spray are going to just be the tip of the infestation, it really takes a professional exterminator to get rid of the bugs, she says.

Jones, the Ohio State University entomologist, is especially leery of “all-natural” products. “If you think that using these sprays is going to get rid of your bedbugs, you are sorely mistaken.” Jones points out that pesticide-free products such as Bed Bug Bully or Rest Easy aren’t required by the Environmental Protection Agency to prove that they are actually effective against bugs — all that matters is that they are considered safe.

And while d-phenothrin, the pesticide in Steri-Fab, definitely has some killing power, Jones says many populations of bedbugs are developing a resistance to that chemical.

Jones adds that even professional exterminators armed with industrial-strength chemicals generally need several hours to clean out an infestation. “If somebody goes in and out in 15 minutes, you just wasted your money.”

Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs,Bed Bugs, Bed bugs, Bed Bugs,……Are you as tired of hearing about Bed Bugs as I am?

The truth of the matter is that those nasty blood sucking devils are here and getting worse. Good public awareness to their habits, signs of infestation and treatment is one of the best tools to getting some control of those guys (and gals).

One thing that you can do to keep safe from Bed Bug’s while traveling is to check the bed. Yep, check the entire bed and then some!

Before I even move anything into a room while travelling, I rip the sheets off, lift the mattress and check out everything from under the bed frame to the pillow cases. Does that seem extreme to you? On a recent trip to North Carolina, we stopped at three motels. Two of those motels had bed bugs, one of which was totally infested.    Check your rooms thoroughly!

BTW do not use a black light! You discover more problems with the room than bed bugs…..as seen below.

And since we are the subject of travelling stop over horro stories…lets keep going  and check out a few more.

ok, this is alittle different, lol.

A Few Reasons to Show Some Love for Bugs

from Earth911.com

by Chloe Skye

Do a typical search on “insects” on an environmental website and you’ll mostly get results about green options to keep the buggers away.

 But there are reasons why we should have a little more compassion for our tiny fellow earth-dwellers (even if you are a New Yorker fighting the bed bug plague!).

Researchers from the University of Florida recently found that termites may be used for biofuel. Photo: Flickr/fortes Believe it or not, there are many ways in which insects can be beneficial to humans, even beyond biological pest control and honeybee pollination.

 Medical advances

 According to Science Daily, an ingredient, chlorotoxin, in the “deathstalker” scorpion’s venom can slow the spread of brain cancer. In tests on lab mice, University of Washington (UW) researchers demonstrated that nanoparticles of iron oxide in combination with the venom could cut the spread of cancerous cells by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent for the scorpion venom alone.

 Another article reports that chlorotoxin could help gene therapy become an effective treatment for glioma, the most common and serious form of brain cancer. A study by the same UW researchers demonstrated that the substance allows therapeutic genes, which treat disease, to reach more brain cancer cells than current approaches.

 Biofuel creation

 University of Florida researchers have identified two enzymes termites use to break down wood for food, which may lead to an easier, faster and cheaper way to convert plant material to ethanol.

 The enzymes could be used towards creating cellulosic ethanol, which is typically composed of wood chips, switchgrass or corncobs, and may have up to 85 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline.

 Composting companions

 If you’ve always wanted to try composting but don’t have the space for a large-scale operation, vermiculture might be for you. Worm compost is simple: it’s made in a container filled with moistened bedding and redworms.

 All you have to do is add food waste and the worms, which are surface feeders, will convert it into compost. Vermicomposting can be done year-round and indoors, including in homes, offices and schools. The process is non-intensive, odorless and a great soil conditioner for houseplants and gardens both!

 Painkiller alternative

 Back to the scorpion venom! Researchers at Tel Aviv University are investigating ways to develop a novel painkiller from peptide toxins in Israeli yellow scorpion venom that would be highly effective (and less addictive than morphine) without side effects.

 The research is based on knowledge that the natural venom compounds interact with sodium channels in nervous and muscular systems, some of which communicate pain.

 If you find the idea of these painkillers hard to stomach, don’t worry. The painkillers would use chemically engineered derivatives that mimic the scorpion toxins, not the real thing.

 In the past, scientists have also created pesticides from scorpion venom that harm insects like locusts without affecting beneficial ones like honeybees.

 Biological antifreeze

 University of Alaska scientists have identified an antifreeze molecule, called xylomannan and composed of a sugar and fatty acid, in a freeze-tolerant Alaska beetle. The beetle is able to survive temperatures below minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

 These molecules may help freeze-tolerant organisms survive by preventing ice crystals from forming or penetrating lethally into cells.

 Plastic Breakdown

 Good news for the great outdoors! Mealworm beetles have been found to possess bacteria in their digestive tracts that can help decompose often-discarded expanded polystyrene.

 Now if we could only find a great use for all of those cockroaches and bed bugs!

 

The End—————————————————————————-

Bed Bugs Make A Comeback

click for larger image Panama City, Fla:
Good night… sleep tight… don’t let the bed bugs bite.  It’s a well-known bedtime rhyme and increasingly, a real problem.

Bed bugs hide in small cracks and crevasses, but they’re often found in mattresses and box springs – hence, the name.  Once thought eradicated, the lowly insect is making a comeback.

“We have a lot more calls today than we’ve had in the years past,” said Jimmy Strickland, owner of Gulf Coast Pest Control in Panama City.

Bed bugs hitchhike on suitcases, boxes and shoes in their search for food.  That food is the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts.  Adults are about a quarter-inch long.

“If you do an inspection and you look in the cracks and crevasses of your mattresses along the sewn edges… they are visible to the naked eye,” said Strickland.

According to the National Pest Management Association, there are several ways to prevent bed bugs.  Vacuum suitcases when returning from vacation; hotels and motels are breeding grounds.  Check bed sheets for blood spots – a tell-tale sign of their presence.  Never bring second-hand furniture into your home before thoroughly examining it for infestations.  And, regularly inspect areas where pets sleep.

A polyurethane mattress protector can also help.  “It will give a nice soft feel but it won’t allow the bedbugs to penetrate your mattress,” said Richard Branham, owner of The Sleep Center, a mattress retailer in Panama City.

Although do-it-yourself treatments are available, it’s a good idea to call a professional once bed bugs invade.

“It’s very intense and very time consuming and of course, the more knowledge the applicator has, the better chance of him finding the bugs,” said Strickland.

And it can be expensive.  According to Strickland, treatment can cost $300-$500.

“Usually it’s a one time treatment,” said Strickland.  “If they’re deep into furniture, in the cracks and crevasses of furniture… more than one treatment is necessary.”

Bed bugs don’t carry diseases, but their bites can become red, itchy welts.  Beyond that, they just don’t make good bedfellows.
   

Fears of a Decline in Bee Pollination Confirmed

 Widespread reports of a decline in the population of bees and other flower-visiting animals have aroused fear and speculation that pollination is also likely on the decline. A recent University of Toronto study provides the first long-term evidence of a downward trend in pollination, while also pointing to climate change as a possible contributor.

A recent study provides the first long-term evidence of a downward trend in pollination. (Credit: iStockphoto)
 
 
at our research site, but we suspect that a climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge from hibernation is a more important factor,” says James Thomson, a scientist with U of T’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Thomson’s 17-year examination of the wild lily in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is one of the longest-term studies of pollination ever done. It reveals a progressive decline in pollination over the years, with particularly noteworthy pollination deficits early in the season. The study will be published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences on September 6.

Three times each year, Thomson compared the fruiting rate of unmanipulated flowers to that of flowers that are supplementally pollinated by hand. “Early in the year, when bumble bee queens are still hibernating, the fruiting rates are especially low,” he says. “This is sobering because it suggests that pollination is vulnerable even in a relatively pristine environment that is free of pesticides and human disturbance but still subject to climate change.”

Thomson began his long-term studies in the late 1980s after purchasing a remote plot of land and building a log cabin in the middle of a meadow full of glacier lilies. His work has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.