Theres good and bad news on the “superbug” front. In community hospitals in the Southeast, an easily spread bacterium appears to have overtaken the widely feared MRSA as the most common hospital-acquired infection. But a pilot project in Ohio found that pushing hard on simple things such as hand washing and thorough cleaning can lower rates of that bug significantly.Known as Clostridium difficile, or “C. diff,” the bacterium resides in the gut, is spread by contact and can cause painful intestinal infections and in some cases death. Its primarily seen in those over 65, and relapses occur in a fourth of patients, despite treatment.
Just five years ago, scientists at Stanford University discovered that neurons injected with a photo-sensitive gene from algae could be turned on or off with the flip of a light switch. This discovery has since turned hundreds of labs onto the young field of optogenetics. Today researchers around the world are using these genetic light switches to control specific neurons in live animals, observing their roles in a growing array of brain functions and diseases, including memory, addiction, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury.