Making The News:  Something Hilarious, Something Ominous…

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Hilarious:  Chicks and Kids
Antibiotic use in animals is defended as infection prophylaxis, but the honest reason why chickens are exposed for most days of their short life to antibiotics of various kinds is for growth promotion.  Antibiotic use keeps those chicks healthy which in turn makes them eat more and put on some extra 10% weight.  This amounts to a huge 10% profit in an industry where profit margins are extremely small.  Your mother’s chicken cost a lot more than what you pay nowadays at your favorite discounter.  Indeed, chicken meat has become the cheapest source of protein in the world, thanks to large broiler units and the antibiotics we feed indiscriminately.

Now a new study is out showing that antibiotics are also increasing weight gain in … children[1].  In a review of electronic health records from 163,820 children, recent antibiotic use in all ages and also cumulative intake was associated with a noticeable increase in BMI (by as much as 3.8%) and weight (up to 1.15 kg).  Beware of macrolides; they were associated with an average weight gain of 1.5 kg at age 15.

Take-home message: What’s good for chicks may be good for kids too.  No, that’s not right – the lesson: What’s bad for kids, is good for chicks.  I am getting confused!  Ah, now I get it: Antibiotic prophylaxis is good for chicks but antibiotic treatment is bad for kids.  Wow, that was difficult!

What the study did not address, is the antibiotic exposure kids get through chicken meat consumption.   I’d venture a guess:  there is a correlation between how many kid’s meal chicken fingers you ate last year and cumulatively and BMI. Now we know it’s not just the calories, it’s also the amount of antibiotics consumed that drives our obesity epidemic.  Bottom line: Get rid of antibiotics in veterinary ‘prophylaxis’ and use antibiotics judiciously in kids with otitis, rhinitis, bronchitis.

Ominous: Chik and CDC
The CDC released some data on Chikungunya infections in the Americas: The Dominican Republic has thus far seen most of the 1.7 million cases reported thus far.  Travel-related cases have occurred in the US in increasing numbers.  With the Aedes mosquito vector already established in the US, we are warned that more indigenous cases may soon occur.  Cases have already appeared in Florida.

Chikungunya is a tough disease.  Most people infected are symptomatic, with fever and joint pain predominating.  This polyarthralgia/arthritis can be severe and long-lasting, to the point of becoming incapacitating.  It is known that the virus interferes with Toll and JAK/STAT signaling pathways. CephalotaxineTreatment is still purely symptomatic but antivirals, antibodies and immune modulators are in development.  Reviews of novel antivirals are found in several recent articles.[2]  Chloroquine does not work and neither does ribavirin, the drug for all RNA viruses.  Interferon, coumarin, bindarit, arbitol, mycophenylate, and harringtonine, a cephalotaxine, all showed some in-vitro activity[3].

Treatment with immune serum works but is impractical.

Chikungunya is coming closer to a home near you.  A single aminoacid substitution in a viral envelope protein was recognized in 2007 which is of great significance as it confers a better adaptation to the A. albopictus mosquito vector which is more prevalent than A. aegyptii in the Southern US [4] .

[1] Schwarz, B. Antibiotic use and childhood body mass index trajectory.  International Journal of Obesity accepted article preview 21 October 2015; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.218.
[2] Parashar, D. Review Article. Antiviral Perspectives for Chikungunya Virus.  BioMed Research International Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 631642,
[3] Kaur, P. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Jan;57(1):155
[4] Kumar, N. J Gen Virol. 2008;89(Pt 8):1945

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