Livin' on the MDedge

Web of antimicrobials doesn’t hold water


 

Music plus mushrooms equals therapy

Magic mushrooms have been used recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years, but researchers have found adding music could be a game changer in antidepressant treatment.

Illustration of psychedelic mushrooms chrissmith12/Pixabay

The ingredient that makes these mushrooms so magical is psilocybin. It works well for the clinical treatment of mental health conditions and some forms of depression because the “trip” can be contained to one work day, making it easy to administer under supervision. With the accompaniment of music, scientists have found that psilocybin evokes emotion.

This recent study, presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Lisbon, tested participants’ emotional response to music before and after the psilocybin. Ketanserin, an antihypertensive drug, was used to test against the effects of psilocybin. The scientist played Mozart and Elgar and found that participants on psilocybin had an emotional response increase of 60%. That response was even greater, compared with ketanserin, which actually lessened the emotional response to music.

“This shows that combination of psilocybin and music has a strong emotional effect, and we believe that this will be important for the therapeutic application of psychedelics if they are approved for clinical use,” said lead researcher Dea Siggaard Stenbæk of the University of Copenhagen.

Professor David J. Nutt of Imperial College in London, who was not involved in the study, said that it supports the use of music for treatment efficacy with psychedelics and suggested that the next step is to “optimise this approach probably through individualising and personalising music tracks in therapy.”

Cue the 1960s LSD music montage.

Chicken ‘white striping is not a disease’

Have you ever sliced open a new pack of chicken breasts to start dinner and noticed white fatty lines running through the chicken? Maybe you thought it was just some extra fat to trim off, but the Humane League calls it “white striping disease.”

Barn full of chickens rawpixel

Chicken is the No. 1 meat consumed by Americans, so it’s not surprising that chickens are factory farmed and raised to be ready for slaughter quickly, according to CBSNews.com, which reported that the Humane League claims white striping is found in 70% of the chicken in popular grocery stores. The league expressed concern for the chickens’ welfare as they are bred to grow bigger quickly, which is causing the white striping and increasing the fat content of the meat by as much as 224%.

The National Chicken Council told CBS that the league’s findings were unscientific. A spokesperson said, “White striping is not a disease. It is a quality factor in chicken breast meat caused by deposits of fat in the muscle during the bird’s growth and development.” He went on to say that severe white striping happens in 3%-6% of birds, which are mostly used in further processed products, not in chicken breast packages.

Somehow, that’s not making us feel any better.

The itsy bitsy spider lets us all down

Most people do not like spiders. That’s too bad, because spiders are generally nothing but helpful little creatures that prey upon annoying flies and other pests. Then there’s the silk they produce. The ancient Romans used it to treat conditions such as warts and skin lesions. Spiders wrap their eggs in silk to protect them from harmful bacteria.

Silk extraction from spider using a mechanical LEGO apparatus Simon Fruergaard

Of course, we can hardly trust the medical opinions of people from 2,000 years ago, but modern-day studies have not definitively proved whether or not spider silk has any antimicrobial properties.

To settle the matter once and for all, researchers from Denmark built a silk-harvesting machine using the most famous of Danish inventions: Legos. The contraption, sort of a paddle wheel, pulled the silk from several different species of spider pinned down by the researchers. The silk was then tested against three different bacteria species, including good old Escherichia coli.

Unfortunately for our spider friends, their silk has no antimicrobial activity. The researchers suspected that any such activity seen in previous studies was actually caused by improper control for the solvents used to extract the silk; those solvents can have antimicrobial properties on their own. As for protecting their eggs, rather than killing bacteria, the silk likely provides a physical barrier alone.

It is bad news for spiders on the benefit-to-humanity front, but look at the bright side: If their silk had antimicrobial activity, we’d have to start farming them to acquire more silk. And that’s no good. Spiders deserve to roam free, hunt as they please, and drop down on your head from the ceiling.

Anxiety and allergies: Cause, effect, confusion

We’re big fans of science, but as longtime, totally impartial (Science rules!) observers of science’s medical realm, we can see that the day-to-day process of practicing the scientific method occasionally gets a bit messy. And no, we’re not talking about COVID-19.

Old balance scale in front of window pxfuel

We’re talking allergies. We’re talking mental health. We’re talking allergic disease and mental health.

We’re talking about a pair of press releases we came across during our never-ending search for material to educate, entertain, and astound our fabulously wonderful and loyal readers. (We say that, of course, in the most impartial way possible.)

The first release was titled, “Allergies including asthma and hay fever not linked to mental health traits” and covered research from the University of Bristol (England). The investigators were trying to determine if “allergic diseases actually causes mental health traits including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, or vice versa,” according to the release.

What they found, however, was “little evidence of a causal relationship between the onset of allergic disease and mental health.” Again, this is the press release talking.

The second release seemed to suggest the exact opposite: “Study uncovers link between allergies and mental health conditions.” That got our attention. A little more reading revealed that “people with asthma, atopic dermatitis, and hay fever also had a higher likelihood of having depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or neuroticism.”

One of the investigators was quoted as saying, “Establishing whether allergic disease causes mental health problems, or vice versa, is important to ensure that resources and treatment strategies are targeted appropriately.”

Did you notice the “vice versa”? Did you notice that it appeared in quotes from both releases? We did, so we took a closer look at the source. The second release covered a group of investigators from the University of Bristol – the same group, and the same study, in fact, as the first one.

So there you have it. One study, two press releases, and one confused journalist. Thank you, science.

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