‘Friendly’ bacteria may reduce pregnancy risks

Pregnant woman with hand on belly, holding ultrasound image.

Study suggests milk with probiotics may be good for pregnant women: Pregnant women who drink milk containing probiotic “friendly” bacteria are less likely to have premature births or pre-eclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy, suggests a Scandinavian study. Timing was everything, though, researchers found: Women who drank probiotic milk early in their pregnancies, but not those who only drank it before or late in pregnancy, were 21 percent less likely to give birth prematurely compared to others. For pre-eclampsia, a 20 percent risk reduction went along with drinking probiotic milk late in pregnancy, but not earlier in gestation or before getting pregnant. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

CDC struggles with budget cuts: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is facing dark days as Congress continues to slowly chip away at funding for the agency’s public health programs. When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law on Dec. 22, it cut $750 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), diverting the money to cover costs of CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CDC relies on PPHF for 12 percent of its budget, with much of that money going toward state and community programs. READ MORE

Don’t look up! A team of scientists from around the world has confirmed that millions of viruses rise into the atmosphere, and travel long distances before falling back down to the earth’s surface. The study, carried out by researchers from the U.S., Canada, and Spain, is the first of its kind to confirm viruses are being swept up into the free toposphere — the layer of atmosphere between the area where Earth’s weather systems develop — and below the stratosphere, where airplanes fly. READ MORE

Plans to track ‘poultry pollution’: Fears about potential health hazards caused by the rise of industrial poultry plants in a northeastern corner of the United States have prompted authorities to see if they are causing air pollution. The Maryland General Assembly is seeking to pass a bill that would establish a committee to design a study tracking air quality, and in particular ammonia and particulates, in agricultural communities around the state, according to the Baltimore Sun. READ MORE

Sterile males are new strategy to combat Zika: Thousands of sterile male mosquitoes were released in South Miami’s Brewer Park last week, with the plan being to release six million of the bugs over the next six months. The mosquitoes have been infused with a Wolbachia bacteria, and when they mate with females, the eggs won’t hatch. The hope is that this strategy will prevent another outbreak of Zika, spread by the bite of the targeted aedes aegypti mosquito. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Emerging disease threatens bananas: Bananas, a much-loved and consumed local staple in Papua New Guinea, are threatened by a new disease called “banana-wilt-associated phytoplasma,” which is spreading across the country. The country’s chief plant protection officer said a phytoplasma is an organism classed between a virus and bacteria, and noted this phytoplasma appears to be related to a new lethal disease of coconuts in the country. The disease is spread by insects via banana suckers and coconut seedlings. Phytoplasmas, which are most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions, cause a wide variety of symptoms ranging from mild yellowing to death. Read more HERE and HERE.

HUMANITARIAN CRISES

In Venezuela, the egg is exhibit A for inflation: Prices in Venezuela are doubling every few weeks, confounding cash-strapped Venezuelans who are scrambling to find a way to pay for basic transactions. A Jesuit priest is using a novel formula to keep track of hyperinflation—he’s tracking the cost of an egg. READ MORE

ANIMAL FEED SAFETY

Two kids sickened by Salmonella in pet food: Two Minnesota children suffered Salmonella infections and illnesses after coming in contact with bacteria from tainted pet food, the state Minnesota health department reported Friday. Testing found the same Salmonella DNA patterns in the siblings, one of whom was hospitalized last month for a painful bone infection known as osteomyelitis. Subsequent investigation found that the children’s home in the Twin Cities area contained ground turkey from the Minneapolis-based company Raws for Paws and that the pet food was contaminated with Salmonella reading. READ MORE

Second pet food recalled for Salmonella: Smokehouse Pet Products Inc. is recalling 4-ounce bags of dog treats labeled as “Beefy Munchies” because of possible Salmonella contamination. Although no illnesses have been reported to date, Salmonella can affect animals eating the products, and puts humans at risk from handling contaminated pet products. The “Beefy Munchies” were distributed in Washington, Michigan, North Carolina and Colorado through distributors selling to various retailers. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

Is fake meat the coming thing? A big trend in food over the past few years has been finding alternatives to meat that might make the need to rear animals redundant. There is a dizzying array of ways that groups are attempting to achieve this, whether it’s growing beef in a lab from stem cells, or formulating plant-based foodstuffs that mimic the taste and texture of the real thing. READ MORE

If so, how should it be labeled? The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) on Friday submitted a petition to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) asking the agency for rulemaking on beef labeling to clarify for consumers what is beef derived from cattle and “beef” products created in a laboratory. READ MORE