Public Health Recommendations During H1N1 Pandemic Adopted By Less Than 5 Percent Of Population

Approximately 1 out of every 4 people observed in a public setting failed to cover their mouth when they coughed or sneezed according to research presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Even more concerning, less than 5 percent of people covered their mouth using methods recommended by public health officials.

“We were surprised to find that this was the first study of directly observed respiratory hygiene behaviour that we could identify,” says Nick Wilson of Otago University Wellington in New Zealand, an author on the study.

In the midst of the H1N1 influenza pandemic that started in 2009, public health officials around the world were urging individuals to take action to avoid spreading the infection. One of the simplest actions recommended was that individuals cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, preferrably with a tissue or into their elbow, to avoid getting the virus on their hands and spreading it to nearby surfaces.

To determine if people were heeding the advice of public health agencies, Wilson and his colleagues conducted an observational survey in 3 public areas in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington: A train station, a hospital and a shopping mall. Local public health authorities had already been conducting an educational campaign with posters and radio and newspaper advertisements recommending people cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, using a tissue or their elbow.

Using medical students as observers they recorded the incidence of coughs and sneezes and the individual response to the respiratory event.

Wilson and his colleagues observered 5.5 coughs and sneezes per observed-person-hour of which 26.7% went uncovered and only 4.7% were covered by a tissue, handkerchief or elbow (the method recommended by public health officials). The most common behavior, observed in 64.4% of cases, was to cover the mouth with the hands. Use of a handkerchief or covering the mouth with the elbow were the least common behaviors.

“This study showed a low prevalence of recommended respiratory hygiene behaviors suggesting that hygiene messages promoted in mass media campaigns have not been seen and/or have not been readily adopted by the public in this city,” says Wilson.

Subsequent work they have done indicates that there has actually been a drop off in some hygiene behaviours since the pandemic in the New Zealand winter of 2009. This is based on regular monitoring of public use of a hand sanitiser station at the entrance to the hospital near where they work.

Source: American Society for Microbiology

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Bush Addresses NAACP Convention, Pledges To Address HIV/AIDS With Organization

President Bush on Thursday for the first time since he was elected addressed the NAACP’s national convention and pledged to work with the organization to address issues such as HIV/AIDS, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. During his 45-minute speech, Bush said that HIV/AIDS is highly affecting communities in the country, adding that Congress should reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act (Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/21). He pledged to create a domestic program aimed at combating HIV/AIDS, which he said disproportionately affects blacks (Wallsten, Los Angeles Times, 7/21). Bush also said that he will urge Congress to increase funding for HIV/AIDS research (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/21). In addition, Bush said that his administration hopes to work with the NAACP to launch a nationwide effort aimed at increasing access to rapid HIV tests because “one of the reasons the disease is spreading so quickly is many don’t realize they have the virus.” Bush also spoke of the effects of HIV/AIDS worldwide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and highlighted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (White House release, 7/20).

Related Editorial
Although Bush “mentioned a few areas in which he and the NAACP are genuinely in sync, such as giving Africa more help to battle HIV/AIDS,” his speech overall was “pedestrian” and a “model of cautious conciliation,” a Los Angeles Times editorial says. “The president deserves credit for resisting the urge to pander,” the editorial says, adding, “But his speech also raises a question: If that’s all he wanted to say, did he have to wait five years?” (Los Angeles Times, 7/21).

“Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved. Continue reading

Global Fund Needs $1B To Meet Commitments, Calls For More Funding From E.U., Asian, Middle Eastern Countries

The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday announced that it needs almost $1 billion to meet existing commitments, and wealthy nations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East should boost their contribution levels, Reuters reports. Jon Liden, the Global Fund’s communication director, said Britain and the U.S. have fulfilled most of their funding pledges, but other countries have been slow to provide funding. “The European Union as a whole could do more, … (and) the Middle East sits on a fair amount of money,” Liden said. He added that Asian and Middle Eastern governments could become new sources of funding for the organization. Brian Brink, chief medical officer at South African mining company Anglo American, said large corporations should make more donations to the Global Fund (Quinn, Reuters, 6/29). The Global Fund on Thursday released its latest progress report, which said that at the end of April, 544,000 people had started antiretroviral therapy through Global Fund programs, up from 384,000 six months earlier and representing a four-fold increase from December 2004 (Global Fund release, 6/29). The Global Fund in 2005 was responsible for 20% of international funding to fight HIV/AIDS and for two-thirds of funding for tuberculosis and malaria control programs. The Global Fund has approved 386 programs in 131 countries to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, according to South Africa’s Mail & Guardian (Chibba/Eetgerink, Mail & Guardian, 6/29). Early indications show that more funding could significantly cut the prevalence of the three diseases, according to the report (Global Fund release, 6/29). The Global Fund will hold its second annual partnership forum from July 1 to July 3 in Durban, South Africa. According to Liden, the forum’s aim is to “inspire donors and to lay a foundation of trust.” He added, “But we have the hope and belief that some new pledges will be seen anyway” (Mail & Guardian, 6/29).

“Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved. Continue reading

Rare Forms Of Meningitis More Deadly Than Viral Meningitis

Hospital patients with rare types of meningitis, including fungal and parasitic meningitis, are 15 times more likely to die than patients hospitalized with viral meningitis, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among hospitalizations in 2006, according to AHRQ’s new analysis, the death rate for fungal and other rare types of meningitis was approximately 9 percent (about 500 deaths among 5,300 stays) compared to 8 percent for patients with bacterial meningitis (nearly 1,300 deaths among 15,700 stays), and a death rate of 0.6 percent (about 200 deaths among 39,300 stays) for viral meningitis — the most common form.

Meningitis is a rare but serious condition that mainly attacks younger people, or those whose immune systems are weakened from AIDS or other causes. By inflaming the tissue surrounding the spinal cord and brain, the infection can cause epilepsy, brain swelling or bleeding, cerebral palsy, stroke, and in severe cases death. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, severe headache, neck stiffness, inability to tolerate bright light or loud noises, skin rashes, and seizures. Infants may have other symptoms, including jaundice.

AHRQ also found that in 2006:

- About 72,000 hospitalized Americans had meningitis. It cost hospitals $1.2 billion to treat the patients.

- Patients from poor communities were more likely to be hospitalized for meningitis than people from wealthy communities. For example, nearly half of fungal or other rare types of meningitis hospitalizations were for patients from the poorest communities.

- Patients with fungal or other rare types of meningitis tended to be older (43 average age) than those with bacterial meningitis (38 average age) or viral meningitis (30 average age).

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in 2006. The report uses statistics from the 2005 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

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Oklahoma State Department Of Health Marks 20th Anniversary Of World AIDS Day

Monday, Dec. 1, marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. This time is set aside every year to recognize the efforts to combat the AIDS epidemic throughout the world. The theme for this year is Leadership and it will be promoted along with last year’s campaign “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” The Oklahoma State Department of Health wants to encourage leaders at all levels to focus on AIDS prevention by empowering individuals, organizations and governments to lead in the response to AIDS.

Below are some of the Oklahoma events planned to recognize World AIDS Day:

– In Oklahoma City, the annual World AIDS Day Memorial Service will be held Monday, Dec. 1, at the Mayflower Congregational Church at 3901 N.W. 63rd Street in Oklahoma City. The event is sponsored by the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma and is supported by various community-based organizations including R.A.I.N., Red Rock North, Guiding Right, Inc. (G.R.I.), Planned Parenthood, Logan County Health Department, Other Options and AIDS Walk of OKC. The event starts at 7 p.m., is open to the public, and everyone is invited to attend.

– On Monday, Dec. 1, Guiding Right, Inc., will be providing counseling and HIV testing at Langston University from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. A Guiding Right, Inc. representative will also be presenting at a luncheon held on the same day.

– Health, Outreach, Prevention, Education (H.O.P.E., Inc.) in Tulsa is participating in a community-wide remembrance ceremony on December 1 at Unity Church of Christianity, 3355 S. Jamestown, Tulsa.

The Tulsa AIDS Coalition sponsors the event and it will begin at 6 p.m.

To learn more about the 2008 World AIDS Day campaign theme of Leadership and why now is the time to lead, empower, and deliver, email infoworldaidscampaign or check out this Web site: www.worldaidscampaign.

Oklahoma State Dept. of Health
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Compounds Show Significant Promise Against Potential Bioweapon Toxins

Because of the high cost and limited applicability of currently available treatments, the newly identified compounds have the potential to fill the existing therapy gap and to provide protection against a bioterrorism attack using the toxin.

The study is being published the week of February 5 in an online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our study is an important milestone in the fight against biological terrorism,” said Kim Janda, a Scripps Research scientist who led the study. “These small molecules are the first to show efficacy against this neurotoxin in animal models. Equally important, both have surprisingly simple structures, so their biological activity can be readily optimized. With their different modes of action, they could easily be developed as part of a potent ‘cocktail’ therapy.”

Janda said he expects to develop more small molecule candidates as potential botulism treatments.

Botulinum neurotoxins, which cause the disease botulism, are some of the most toxic substances known to scientists. One subtype, botulinum neurotoxin A, is a 100 billion times more potent than cyanide and relatively easy to produce, making it a potential biological weapon.

Using a multifaceted screening approach, Janda and his colleagues identified the two compounds and tested their efficacy in both cell-based assays and in mice exposed to the toxin.

One compound extended survival time by 36 percent (from 484 minutes to 659 minutes) a remarkable achievement considering its simple structure. Moreover, 16 percent of the animals treated with the second molecule survived with no obvious symptoms of botulism. No significant side effects were observed with either molecule.

Janda pointed out that the two compounds showed surprisingly little activity in cellular assays, suggesting that these standard cell-based screening methods may miss promising therapeutic candidates.

“Our study showed no correlation between cellular activity and in vivo efficacy,” Janda said, “which is highly unusual. Clearly, cell-based assays do not provide all the necessary information – animal-based studies are still an essential part of the discovery process. These findings validate our multidisciplinary screening approach to identify unrecognized chemical structures as potential treatments.”

While research efforts aimed at finding treatments for bioterrorism agents have increased dramatically since September 11, 2001, remarkably few have emerged. There are currently no small chemical molecules approved for treatment of botulism.

Botulism is a serious but extremely rare illness. There are seven related botulinum neurotoxins (A through G), although each acts differently and only four attack humans. The toxins kill through paralysis of the respiratory muscles. After attaching themselves to receptors on the neuronal surface – primarily muscle controlling motor neurons activated by acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter – the toxins block the release of acetylcholine proteins, inducing paralysis. Approximately 110 cases of botulism are reported each year in the United States.


Other authors of the study, “An In Vitro And In Vivo Disconnect Uncovered Through High Throughput Identification Of Botulinum Neurotoxin A Antagonists,” are Lisa M. Eubanks, Mark S. Hixon, and Tobin J. Dickerson of The Scripps Research Institute, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, and The Worm Institute of Research and Medicine; Wei Jin, Sukwon Hong and Dale L. Boger of The Scripps Research Institute and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology; Colin M. Clancy, Eric A. Johnson and William H. Tepp of the University of Wisconsin; Michael R. Baldwin and Joseph T. Barbieri of the Medical College of Wisconsin; Carl J. Malizio and Michael C. Goodenough of Metabiologics.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world’s largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Research is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It also includes Scripps Florida, whose researchers focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Currently operating from temporary facilities in Jupiter, Scripps Florida will move to its permanent campus in 2009.

Contact: Keith McKeown

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Studies Look At Health Benefits Of Male Circumcision In Black, African Men

HIV risk appears to be lower among U.S. black men who have been circumcised and are considered at high risk of contracting the virus than among black men who have not been circumcised, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Reuters reports. Two other studies in the journal also examine the benefits of male circumcision to prevent the spread of disease and infection.

For one of the studies, CDC researcher Lee Warner and colleagues looked at black men living in Baltimore and found that 10% of those who were at high risk of HIV and were circumcised had the virus, compared with 22% of those who were not circumcised. According to the report, “Circumcision was associated with substantially reduced HIV risk in patients with known HIV exposure, suggesting that results of other studies demonstrating reduced HIV risk for circumcision among heterosexual men likely can be generalized to the U.S. context.”

Ronald Gray of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues in an editorial accompanying the study noted that in the U.S., circumcision is less common among blacks and Hispanics. However, blacks and Hispanics are the most at-risk of groups for contracting the virus. “Thus, circumcision may afford an additional means of protection from HIV in these at-risk minorities,” they wrote.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine circumcision for infants, and as a result, Medicaid does not cover the procedure, according to the editorial. The editorial adds that “this is particularly disadvantageous for poorer African-American and Hispanic boys who, as adults, may face high HIV exposure risk” (Fox, Reuters Health, 12/17).

The study is available online. The editorial also is available online.

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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House Committee Considers Holding Hearings To Investigate Pricing Of Abbott’s Antiretroviral Norvir

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is considering holding hearings to investigate the pricing of Abbott Laboratories’ antiretroviral drug Norvir, an unnamed committee staffer said recently, The Hill reports. The staffer said that the committee — which is chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — has examined the issue during the current legislative session but that he could not say when the hearings would occur if the committee votes to proceed with them. Abbott spokesperson Melissa Brotz said that the company is “cooperating with the inquiry” (Mikhail, The Hill, 3/14). In December 2003, Abbott quadrupled the per-patient wholesale price of Norvir, which is known generically as ritonavir. Norvir is used primarily as a booster for other protease inhibitors, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Reyataz and Merck’s Crixivan. The cost of Norvir increased from $51.30 for 30 100mg capsules to $257.10 for 30 100mg capsules, or by $5,000 more annually (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3). Some lawmakers and HIV/AIDS advocates said that the price increase was unreasonable because Norvir was developed using federal funds, according to The Hill. Abbott said that the decision to increase the drug’s price was intended to help the drugmaker continue its work in HIV/AIDS medications and other areas. Six House members — including Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) — in April 2004 sent a letter to then House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Joe Barton (R-Tex.) asking that the committee investigate the issue. According to an unnamed staffer, Barton did not conduct any hearings in response to the letter.

Federal Funds
The federal funds used to develop Norvir were “at the crux” of a request brought by the consumer advocacy group Essential Inventions in 2004, The Hill reports (The Hill, 3/14). Essential Inventions in April 2004 filed a request with NIH for a license to produce a generic version of the drug while it is still under patent, saying that the drug was developed using federal funding and is being sold at an unreasonably high price. According to the group, under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, the government has the authority to grant licenses to other manufacturers to produce patented medicines that were developed using federal funding. In such cases, the government also reserves the right to demand reasonable prices from the drugmaker. According to Abbott, although a $3.47 million federal grant funded early research on Norvir, the company spent a total of $300 million to bring the drug to market. NIH rejected the request concluding that Abbott was adhering to the intent of the law and that Norvir is made available to patients on “reasonable terms.” NIH in its August 2004 decision said that the Federal Trade Commission is the appropriate agency to address allegations that Norvir’s pricing is anti-competitive. However, FTC has told Abbott that it will not address such complaints, Abbott spokesperson Jennifer Smoter said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/5/04). Following NIH’s decision, Waxman and then-Rep. and current Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in October 2004 called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate. In addition, a 2005 lawsuit filed in federal court by the Service Employees International Union’s Health and Welfare Fund is scheduled to go to trial in 2008 (The Hill, 3/14).

“Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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Cholera Reaches NYC Post Haitian Earthquake

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic quake, with an epicenter near the town of L?¬©og??ne, approximately 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Cholera cases became an immediate epidemic, and now New York is revealing incidence since the outbreak of the disease in Haiti last year. This update has been confirmed Saturday by city officials.

Since October, an epidemic cholera strain has been confirmed in Haiti, causing the first cholera outbreak in Haiti in at least 100 years. The first reported cases have now been identified in the Big Apple, New York City after travelers to a wedding in the Dominican Republic have been engaged by the bacterium.

A commercial laboratory notified health officials on Friday that three New Yorkers had developed diarrhea and dehydration, classic symptoms of the disease, after returning from a wedding on Jan. 22 and 23 in the Dominican Republic, where the government has been trying to prevent the disease from spreading from neighboring Haiti.

Dr. Sharon Balter, a medical epidemiologist for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene states the following based on her findings:

“We work closely with the C.D.C. on these cases, so we know about the outbreaks and we expected cases. We may see more cases. We probably will see more cases. And we always see cases related to travel.”

City health officials are now working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to determine what the New York victims ate and to see if the strain of the disease they contracted is linked to the cholera epidemic that has ravaged Haiti, killing thousands since October and infecting many more.

Candice Burns Hoffmann, a spokeswoman for the C.D.C . adds:

“We’re providing support to the state, with lab testing, in determining which strain is at issue. I know there is an investigation in the Dominican Republic, as well, for that wedding, and the C.D.C. is there to support the state health department and also international organizations.”

Officials at the C.D.C. have noted a few cases of cholera in the past three or four months from travelers who arrived in the United States from Haiti or the Dominican Republic.

While cholera can spread swiftly where sanitation is poor and clean drinking water is unavailable, the possibility of transmitting the disease in New York is considered low.

More than four thousand Haitians have died of cholera since the outbreak. The disease, which is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration, has spread across all 10 provinces of Haiti, infecting over 200,000 people. Of the patients hospitalized, over 120,000 have been successfully treated. Artibonite, the northern province, accounts for 852 cholera deaths, while 632 fatalities have been registered in Ouest province, including Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of thousands stay in camps more than a year after the devastating earthquake that claimed some 300,000 lives.

The recent outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe suggest that current global action plans against cholera are failing; however studies have found a benefit to vaccination before and after outbreaks. In Hanoi, administration of 1 or 2 doses of the vaccine was found to provide approximately 76% protective efficacy.

For this more recent study, scientists modeled 50% and 75% vaccine coverage, with completion of vaccination ranging from 10 weeks after an outbreak was first reported to a completion of vaccination 33 weeks after an outbreak is first reported. They found that even delayed responses could have benefit, and their model neither included herd effect modifiers, nor the effect that vaccination could have on subsequent disease burden after the initial outbreak has waned into an endemic situation.

Dr. Edward T. Ryan of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, “The Cholera Pandemic, Still with Us after Half a Century: Time to Rethink,” comments on the significance of the works, especially in light of recent events in Haiti:

“By the time the vaccine was distributed, it was thought that the window of possible benefit would have passed. However, Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, has undergone a number of mutations in the last few years, and is now associated with longer outbreaks, and more severe clinical disease, leading to higher case totality rates and increased drug resistance. Although everyone agrees that the ultimate prevention and control of cholera will require provision of clean water and adequate sanitation to the world’s population, the simple fact is that this will not be a reality for decades for the world’s most impoverished, as well as for those affected by civil unrest and natural disasters. Less clear is the role that cholera vaccine could play once an outbreak has started. Classically, cholera would cause intensive and short outbreaks.”

This outbreak is of particular concern given the current conditions in Haiti, including poor water and sanitation, a strained public health infrastructure, and large numbers of people displaced by the January earthquake and more recent flooding.

Sources: Public Library of Science and The New York Times

Article updated: 20 February 2011

Sy Kraft, B.A.

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An Answer To Another Of Life’s Big Questions

Monash University biochemists have found a critical piece in the evolutionary puzzle that explains how life on Earth evolved millions of centuries ago.

The team, from the School of Biomedical Sciences, has described the process by which bacteria developed into more complex cells and found this crucial step happened much earlier in the evolutionary timeline than previously thought.

Team leader and ARC Federation Fellow Trevor Lithgow said the research explained how mitochondria — the power house of human and other cells, which provide complex eukaryotic cells with energy and ability to produce, divide and move — were thought to have evolved about 2000 million years ago from primitive bacteria.

“We have now come to understand the processes that drove cell evolution. For some time now the crux of this problem has been to understand how eukaryotes first came to be. The critical step was to transform small bacteria, passengers that rode within the earliest ancestors of these cells, into mitochondria, thereby beginning the evolution of more complex life-forms,” Professor Lithgow said.

The team found that the cellular machinery needed to create mitochondria was constructed from parts pre-existing in the bacterium. These parts did other jobs for the bacterium, and were cobbled together by evolution to do something new and more exciting.

“Our research has crystallised with work from other researchers around the world to show how this transformation happened very early on — that the eukaryotes were spawned by integrating the bacterium as a part of themselves. This process jump-started the evolution of complex life much more rapidly than was previously thought.”

The research consisted of two components, the first used computers to read, compare and understand DNA sequences. From this, experiments were designed to do actual laboratory testing using a bacterium that is the closest living relative to the original ancestor of the mitochondria.

The research was published in the prestigious journal Science.

Professor Lithgow said the latest findings were only made possible due to a gradual gathering of evidence within the scientific community and recent developments in genome sequencing. “We can now “read” with great care and insight genome sequences — the complete DNA sequence of any organism. From these sequences we find tell-tale clues to the past. Our findings are relevant to all species, including the evolution of humans,” Professor Lithgow said.

“It continues to amaze that this theory, proposed in the century before the advent of molecular investigations, is so accurate on a molecular scale. This improved understanding is directly relevant to the big picture timeline for the evolution of life.”

Professor Lithgow said the findings will be regarded by some scientists as controversial as many have long-held views on the process of evolution as a tinkerer. “This will surprise and may even spark debate. However our research compliments the basic rules of life. Even at the molecular level, the rules of the game are the same. Evolution drives biology to more and more complex forms,” Professor Lithgow said.

Samantha Blair
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