Six Takeaways from the International One Health Congress

By Tracey Goldstein

I recently returned from the 2018 International One Health Congress(#IOHC) in beautiful Saskatoon, Canada. Insight, inspiration and networking were in abundance at the biennial conference, which drew more than 800 participants from 60 countries to hear renowned experts and researchers in One Health. It was a privilege to share the work of the UC Davis One Health Institute (OHI) and PREDICT.

Back in my office, many IOHC sessions and conversations remain top of mind. Here are my key takeaways:

Zika Virus May Pose Greater Threat Of Miscarriages Than Previously Thought

26 Percent Of Nonhuman Primates Lost Pregnancies Despite Not Showing Symptoms

By AJ Cheline

Research from several institutions, including the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, suggests that more women could be losing their pregnancies to the Zika virus without knowing they are infected.

The study, published in Nature Medicine July 2, found 26 percent of nonhuman primates infected with Zika during early stages of pregnancy experienced miscarriage or stillbirth even though the animals showed few signs of infection.

Young monkeys

Non-human primates such as these Rhesus macaques have similar brain development and reproductive physiology to humans, making them a good model to study Zika virus infection. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)

Data Dump: 11,000 Donate Stool Samples to Gut Microbiome Project

By Greg Watry

The American Gut Project has just produced the largest study yet of microbial diversity in human poop. With “contributions” from more than 11,000 citizen scientists, the team led by researchers at UC San Diego has compiled a public reference database on the human gut microbiome, published May 15 in the journal mSystems. The study is a step forward in understanding how factors such as diet, antibiotics and mental health relate to the microbes living in the human gut.

Biology Researchers Make Cell Metabolism “Best of 2017”           

Two different teams of researchers from the College of Biological Sciences are represented in the “Best of 2017” issue of the prominent journal Cell Metabolism. Their papers, on insulin-producing beta cells and on the effects of a low-carb diet on longevity in mice, are among just five research articles chosen to appear in the special issue along with two clinical reports and four review articles.

Pancreatic islet

Pancreatic islets make insulin in response to blood glucose. Mark Huising/UC Davis

Breast Milk Nourishes Probiotics for Healthy Babies

Earlier this week NPR broadcast a story about growing interest in giving probiotics – beneficial bacteria that live in the gut – to babies. Mark Underwood, professor of pediatrics, explained that in UC Davis neonatal care unit, all premature babies under a certain weight are given a probiotic to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC),a potentially deadly inflammation of the intestine. It’s becoming a common practice in premature infants, and Underwood and colleagues have carried out a clinical trial in full-term infants. They showed that newborns fed a supplement containing Bifidobacterium bacteria (thought to be beneficial) had more “good bacteria” and fewer “bad bacteria” in their guts two months later.

Chemical Messengers, Calcium and Neutrophils

Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell. They play a vital role in defending us from infections, by engulfing and destroying bacteria and viruses or cancerous cells. A new study by UC Davis engineering student Emmet Francis, working with Professor Volkmar Heinrich in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, adds to our knowledge of how neutrophils are drawn towards infection sites and how they can attack their targets.

First, Francis and Heinrich looked at how isolated neutrophils respond to chemical messengers called anaphylatoxins. These molecules guide immune cells to their targets but can cause severe illness in excessive amounts.

Receptors Key to Strong Memories

When we create a memory, a pattern of connections forms between neurons in the brain. New work from UC Davis shows how these connections can be strengthened or weakened at a molecular level. The study is published Feb. 27 in the journal Cell Reports.

AMPA-type glutamate receptors are responsible for fast synaptic transmission in the brain. (Wikipedia image)

Neurons branch into many small fibers, called dendrites, that connect to other neurons across tiny gaps called synapses. Messages travel across synapses as chemical signals: A molecule, or neurotransmitter, is released on one side of the synapse and connects with a receptor on the other side, a bit like tossing a ball and a fielder catching it in a mitt.

Looking for New Pollutants in the Ashes of Sonoma

In this month’s episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis graduate student Gabrielle Black talks about collecting samples of ash from neighborhoods burned by last year’s northern California wildfires. The intense heat on a wide range of household items from insulation to electronics may have created new chemical pollutants. Thanks to modern analytic technology, Black plans to search for both known pollutants and new compounds, and compare them to the ashes of burned wild land.

Listen to the podcast here.

More information

Testing Sonoma Ash and Air for Fire-Formed Pollutants

WHAT-NOW Survey (UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center)

Multi-state E. coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce

 By Heidi Meier and Ann Filmer

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a media statement in late December profiling a multi-state outbreak of food poisoning caused by the bacteria E. coli O157:H7 with 17 reported illnesses. Romaine and leafy greens are among the suspected sources of contamination, but no definitive source or location has been confirmed at this time, according to the CDC.

A lettuce field in California (photo by Trevor Suslow, UC Davis)

Prozac Use in Children: Studying Side Effects of Fluoxetine in a Monkey Model

Fluoxetine (Prozac) is widely prescribed for depression, anxiety and other behavioral and psychiatric disorders and is approved for use in children. But little is known about the side effects of fluoxetine, part of a class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in pre-teen children.

Young monkeys

Rhesus macacque monkeys have a relatively long period of development before they reach sexual maturity. That makes them a useful model to study the possible side effects of Fluoxetine (Prozac) in children. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)