Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MRSA from human to cows?

Do we have another case of animals being blamed for human disease, or in fact is the the opposite true?

Scientists, physicians, veterinarians and the general public are concerned about zoonotic diseases, or those diseases that are passed from animals to humans. A classic example is rabies, and much is known about how to treat and prevent zoonotic diseases.

Reverse zoonoses are diseases that are passed from humans to other animal species, and examples of those include mumps in humans that can become parotiditis in your family pet dog or tuberculosis in humans that is called the same disease if passed on to deer, dogs or elephants.

Another known reverse zoonoses is furunculosis (recurring boils) in humans that is caused by Staphylococcus aureus. When transferred to cows, it can cause Staph mastitis. Scarlet fever in humans is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, and this Strep species can also cause mastitis in cattle.

There was a recent scientific journal article published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet Infectious Diseases in their Early Online Edition (doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70126-8 http://bit.ly/kJzSAU) that identified a new kind of MRSA, and importantly it was found in both cattle and humans. MRSA is an acronym for Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (http://bit.ly/WVHnK). There are many strains of Staph that fit in the MRSA category as they've become resistant to the methicillin antibiotics that have been used to treat them. Methicillin has been widely used in human medicine, but its use in veterinary medicine has been very limited.

The research article did a detailed DNA analysis on the Staph bacteria and it's clear that it’s not only a newly recognized MRSA, but that this unique strain was found in both cattle and humans. So far, it has only been found in the UK and Denmark. Much of the article was focused on the important implications for physicians who are trying to confirm a case of MRSA in a patient. It was estimated in the article, however, that approximately 2.8% of dairy farms may have this strain of Staph.

This important research article has triggered a number if 'news' items in publications like The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Independent, or online news aggregators like Natural Society or TopNews. Various blogs have jumped on the 'cow to human' claim and the 'Twitterverse' is rampant with links to this claim.

Only Reuters correctly indicated that the scientists did not know if humans were giving the MRSA bug to cows or if cows were a reservoir for humans.

The British group, Soil Association, is often referred to as the leading organization representing organic farming in the UK. They have published a policy paper on this topic that lists the limited evidence that the movement of the bacteria was from cow to humans.

Of course, prestigious journals like to tout their results, but back in 2002 and reported in 2007 the first case of identical MRSA in cows and humans was found in the Hungary.

The report in The Lancet was important for physicians trying to confirm diagnosis, but it seems to me that it's currently a bit early to say which direction this bug took. Whether it was from humans to cows or from cows to humans.

Hope that helps.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is 'organic' milk different or better?

A recent Journal of Dairy Science research study by Mrs. Gillian Butler and coworkers from Newcastle University in the UK has received a great deal of press coverage in the UK and elsewhere. The results indicated that milk produced under UK organic standards had significantly higher levels of fat, but that there were also significant differences in the type of fat in the milk. The fats thought to be ‘beneficial’ were found to be higher in ‘organic milk.’

This result was based on milk purchased in grocery stores located in the UK, and the result is likely due to the unique ways that cows are raised/fed in the UK. Full results at http://bit.ly/f7xTgN, just click on the PDF tab. There were also significant differences in milk fat composition for season and year in this UK study.

The US data is different, however. While there is a small, though statistically different, difference in some fatty acids, analysis of milk from cows raised by organic standards, rbST-free certified or conventional methods demonstrate "...that there were no meaningful differences that would affect public health and that all milks were similar in nutritional quality and wholesomeness." The abstract is at http://bit.ly/bg4yGs, but the PDF is not available for this article without a J Dairy Science subscription.

Similarly, milk composition from various regions and seasons in the US was found to be "... remarkably consistent across geographic regions and seasons from the perspective of human dietary intake of milk fat." Again, the abstract is at http://bit.ly/exfCcU, while the PDF is not available for this article without a J Dairy Science subscription.

Dairy cattle in the US tend to be fed in a more seasonally consistent manner and are fed feeds that would tend to not amplify the results observed in the UK.

There is much misinformation regarding these studies currently in the press and on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

You’ve got to read the primary research before you can reach conclusions. Hope that helps.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Named as one of the 'Top Ag "Tweeps"'

Unless you're living under a rock, you've probably heard about Twitter and other uses of the technology that is generally called 'microblogging.' There are a number of agricultural professionals who are active on Twitter.

Publishing on Twitter has developed its own language, often using shortened words borrowed from SMS text messaging. Two people who follow each others postings on Twitter are called "Tweeps." Tweep is a conjunction of the words Twitter and peep, or people.

Guess who just got listed as one of the "Top 11 Tweeps in the Ag Industry"? That's right, DairyScienceMark! In the Twitter world I tweet as DairyAdviser. Thanks to folks at BASF Plant Science who tweet as @NutriDense.

You can easily start following all 11 Tweeps through the @NutriDense facilitation in TweepML.

Lots of people use Twitter as a regular form of communication. You should check it out.

Hope that helps

DairyScienceMark (aka @DairyAdviser)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Taking a 'Sip' from the 'Internet Firehose' - Part 1

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information on the Internet. Many of us, however, need to stay on top of certain topics. There's an easy way to automatically search the Internet and let Google send you an e-mail whenever something new is published.

If you're overwhelmed with e-mail, then just follow the instructions to use 'News Reader' software to track any and all websites that publish new items using a 'News Feed.' That's what I do and I have dozens of websites that I track this way.

What follows is a 'recipe' that I've developed to help dairy farm advisers track news items on a topic of their choice. You'll have to adapt it for your use.

  1. Go to http://news.google.com
  2. In the search box, type in the search terms you'd use for a Google search. For example, type in dairy farm carbon credits and then click on the "Search News" button.
  3. Look over the list of responses. If some or most of the 'hits' are what you're looking for, then go to step 4 below. If few are what interests you, then adjust the search terms until you like the list.
  4. When the list is acceptable, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on the link "Create an email alert for dairy farm carbon credit" which is under the "Stay up to date on these results:"heading.
  5. In the next page, you'll go into the "Google Alerts" system, and you can adjust how you get sent the info. You can change the type of search from "News" to other items. You can change the frequency from daily to 'as it happens' or once per week. You then type in your e-mail address and click on the "Create Alert" button.
  6. You'll be sent an e-mail from Google asking that you confirm the alert. When you get the e-mail, you must click on the link to confirm that you want the search.
  7. You can create more alerts by clicking on the link to do so. You might want to create one alert that scans 'News' and a seperate alert that scans the 'Web' for the same search terms.
  8. You can sign up with Google for an account so that 'manage your alerts.' I do this through my Gmail.com account, which is free. Many people prefer the Gmail message handling features, and if I didn't need to use my umd.edu mail account to highlight my professional association with the University of Maryland, I'd use Gmail exclusively. I currently use it for all my personal e-mail. If you'd like an invite into Gmail, I'd be glad to provide one, but it's not necessary.
  9. When managing your alerts, you can either receive the notices by e-mail (which I find clogs up my mailbox) or you can view them with 'newsreader' software. I use this approach, and you go into the manage your alerts screen and change the "Deliver To" option from e-mail to "Feed".
If you need more info on newsreaders and feeds, you'll have to let me know. That's going to be the topic of my next 'Sip from the Internet Firehose' blog post. I personally use 'Google Reader' to view my custom set of news feeds, but there are many systems that work well.

Hope this helps.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Note Updated Time!!!!!! Twitter at ADSA Discover Conf on Dairy Herd Analytics

If you're like me, you've heard a lot about Twitter lately and wondered what all the hubbub was about. Twitter is best thought of as a 'microblogging' approach to publishing on the Internet that is limited to 140 characters at a time.

As you know, I follow communication technologies and their use by/for dairy professionals, so I've checked out Twitter and pondered its use with dairy. One of the best uses I've seen is doing 'real-time' live 'microblogging', called tweets', from a conference.

With that in mind, you can follow me at the 17th ADSA Discover Conference that is focused on Dairy Herd Analytics. You can review the program at http://www.adsa.org/discover/17thDiscover/Program062509.pdf . I will be providing real-time information about the speakers and their key conclusions as the conference progresses. You can track my postings (tweets) at http://twitter.com/dairyadviser.

There are opportunities for you to ask real-time questions of the speakers at the following dates/times. Please note that all times are US Eastern Daylight Time.

Tuesday, 25 August
9:00 AM
11:15 AM
2:15 PM
4:00 PM

Wednesday, 26 August
.9:00 AM
11:15 AM
2:30 PM
3:15 PM

Thursday, 27 August
9:00 AM
11:15 AM (Wrap UP)

You can ask questions for the speakers or make comments by using Twitter.com direct messages to me (@dairyadviser). To do that, you need to signup with Twitter.com for a free account and then 'follow' me. If you follow me, then you can send a direct message.

I hope you can use this opportunity of an excellent and stimulating conference program to explore the Twitter communication approach.

Hope that helps


Friday, July 24, 2009

Raw Milk Madness

Drinking raw milk is quite simply, madness. I know and understand that people want to drink raw milk instead of pasteurized milk. I also understand that dairy producers are responding to demand, especially those producers who are near larger metropolitan areas.

I do have a problem, however, with public agencies who are complicit with these activities. You can read more about what's happening in Idaho, as published in the Capital Press Ag Weekly.

"The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has started the process to update its rules governing the sale of raw milk, setting the first meeting for Aug. 10 in Boise. The agency proposes to update milk quality and sanitary requirements for raw milk for human consumption and provide clarity to existing rules for raw milk produced under a "cow-share" program."

This whole business of 'cow-share' is just a wink and nod to marketing raw milk. People feed this raw milk to children.

Lots of people jay walk. Lots of parents jay walk with their children. Should our state agencies help make it legal for parents to jay walk their children across a busy street?

Think about it.


rinking raw milk is quite simply, madness. I know and understand that people want to drink raw milk instead of pasteurized milk. I also understand that dairy producers are responding to demand, especially those producers who are near larger metropolitan areas.

Carbon Footprint

I'd heard and read a lot about carbon footprints, but never understood it very well until I heard a presentation by Jude Capper, now a new Ass't Professor at Washington State Univ. She summarized some work that she had done in conjunction with Dale Bauman and Euridice Castaneda-Gutierrezof Cornell Univ and Roger Cady, now of Elanco. The fundamental component of their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2008, but they have expanded it and continued their analysis.

If you haven't heard Jude speak on the topic or are confused about carbon footprint and animal agriculture I suggest that you participate in the eXtension webinar hosted by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center. Both Jude and Roger will be presenting. Just click on the "Live Webcast" link and then the "Connect Now" link. The webinar room will open about 15 mintues before the start.

The webinar will be at 2:30 PM EDT on 31 July 2009. Let your friends and neighbors know.

Hope that helps.


Disclaimer: Roger Cady and I are old friends. We started Dairy-L, the listserv-software-based virtual community together now 20 years ago. That doesn't mean that I don't chastise him when he needs it, ( :-) ) but he doesn't on this. It's good work.