December has been a bumper month at PLOS Biology; here’s a roundup of some of the best bits in the media.
We’ve covered a huge breadth of biology in December, from antibiotics to antidepressants, regulating chemicals for public and environmental health, and honey bee guts.
Several studies have been tackling issues relating to the effective treatment of infectious disease. Each year over 20,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections in the US alone.
A promising breakthrough comes with the discovery that for those bacteria that have two cell membranes (such as E. coli), by increasing the distance between these membranes some of the bacterium’s protective responses can be blocked. Novel antibiotics may be able to exploit this feature and could render antibiotic-resistant bacteria sensitive again.
Our second article explores how developing alternative therapies for mild infections might help combat antibiotic resistance. The authors argue that developing non-antibiotic alternatives for mild infections (such as coughs, colds and urinary tract infections), while restricting antibiotic use to more serious and intractable infections, could indirectly slow development of antibiotic resistance in more dangerous bugs.
In an impressive move towards personalised medicine, a new study used mice to identify genetic variants in humans that could predict the outcome of antidepressant treatment in a patient cohort. Intriguingly, these variants implicate the glucocorticoid receptor in determining an individual’s response to antidepressant treatment; the ability to predict this would dramatically improve the quality of care/ treatment for depressed patients by taking the trial-and-error out of prescribing antidepressants.
In December PLOS Biology launched a brand new collection of articles focussing on challenges in environmental health and regulating toxic chemicals. The collection reviews a subset of chemicals in widespread use and discusses barriers to developing public policy both when the scientific evidence of harm is clear and when it is uncertain. The contributors highlight that engaged citizens, scientists, and policymakers are needed to close the gap between scientific evidence and policy. Check out the editorial that launched the collection here.
Finally, in completely different news, researchers have identified which bacterial species in the honey bee gut help them to digest pollen, and how. The gut bacteria are critical to promoting bee health so understanding their individual functions could have implications for colony health as a whole and could help scientists tackle colony decline in the future. The full study and fascinating images of the bee gut can be found here.
2017 was an action-packed year at PLOS Biology and we’re looking forward to sharing more awesome discoveries and thought-provoking science with you throughout 2018!
Featured image credit: NIAID, Flickr