The Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey held a reception at the Turkish Embassy in Beijing with the aim of boosting investment cooperation with China. The event, as a part of their “Turkish Century Investment Reception” series, saw more than 500 business people and investors from China’s leading companies to attend.
Turkish Ambassador to China Ismail Hakkı Musa, President of the Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey Ahmet Burak Daglioglu, and the Silk Road Fund Chairwoman Zhu Jun were also in attendance.
“This year, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey and the 52nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Turkey and China. From e-commerce to telecommunications, from renewable energy to electric vehicles, from cloud technology to the defense industry, we have forged new partnerships with China in a wide range of areas,” the ambassador said.
In addition, the guests sampled sumptuous Turkish cuisine and discussed cooperation and investment opportunities.
Editor’s Note: Some observers believe that China-UK relations are at its lowest point, but Alistair Michie, secretary general of the British East Asia Council and winner of the Chinese Friendship Award Medal in 2013, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that he does not agree with this assessment. Instead, it would be highly desirable for all nations to have golden eras of understanding with China, Michie said, noting that one of the key issues is that a significant number of UK politicians are heavily influenced by the US. He also said that the UK should consider joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as other initiatives that can move both countries in a more positive direction. Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) talked with Michie to get his insightful opinions on China-UK relations, the BRI and more.
GT: The Chinese version of the book Consensus or Conflict? China and Globalization in the 21st Century co-edited by you has been published recently and distributed in China. Could you tell us why you wanted to compile such a book? What feedback have you received?
Michie: I was motivated to do the book in 2020. What I felt was that at that time, there was an opportunity for the world to gather together and deal with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the same way that the world dealt with the global financial crisis in 2008. Back in 2008, the G20 played a particularly crucial role in stabilizing what was a very serious global financial crisis. The way the economic crisis unfolded in 2008 posed extreme danger for the world. So, at the start of 2020, I hoped that the world and nations would gather together in a way that could lead to the development of solutions, where the world would unite toward a common destiny.
I was also greatly influenced by the Chinese leader’s repeated calls over many years for the world to move forward with mutual understanding and mutual respect toward a community of common destiny. I believed that the only way to effectively and efficiently address global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, was through collective action and a shared purpose.
This motivation laid the foundations for the book. I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to gather over 30 distinguished writers from around the world, who provided their perspectives on why it is crucial for the world to address issues like pandemics through consensus rather than conflict in terms of global matters. This served as the motivation and genesis of the book.
Regarding the feedback, I was particularly pleased that we gathered 10 recommendations from distinguished global leaders, printed in the front of the book. They emphasized the importance of reading this book as it promotes consensus over conflict. These high-level individuals from around the world recognized the crucial theme and message of the book. However, the outcome has been disappointing. Since the English version was published in September 2021, the world has significantly shifted toward conflict and away from consensus.
GT: Are you disappointed with the direction in which the world is progressing?
Michie: I am deeply frustrated because, since publishing the book with hopes of achieving consensus, the world has instead been steadily moving toward conflict. This is a critical issue for humanity, as there are numerous threats such as climate change, future pandemics, nuclear concerns, challenges in biosciences, and artificial intelligence. These issues require nations to act together in the interest of all humanity, but unfortunately, consensus is lacking. The lack of cooperation is deeply concerning as it can lead to misunderstandings, miscalculations, and catastrophic conflicts. It is a dangerous world. While I find some satisfaction in expressing these views and highlighting the dangers, I am still deeply frustrated by the world’s trajectory toward conflict rather than consensus.
By nature, I have always been positive that humanity will find a solution. However, it is also crucial to be realistic. One issue I addressed in my book is the communication crisis our world is facing. Different nations struggle to explain their perspectives, largely due to the fact that we think differently. For instance, China, with nearly 20 percent of the world’s population, has a distinct way of thinking compared to America and Europe.
Therefore, the lack of effective communication is causing a crisis in understanding different perspectives and points of view.
GT: Not long ago, you mentioned that there are many Americans who have closed their minds and turned a blind eye to significant global changes, which is “extremely dangerous” for the world. What specific “significant global changes” do you mean? Could you elaborate on the potential dangers it poses to the world if Americans turned a blind eye to these changes?
Michie: One of the major dangers that the world faces is the way many Americans are thinking today. The US holds a very dominant position in global governance despite only representing 4 percent of the world’s population. This massive influence held by a small number of people is frustrating for the rest of the world. Additionally, it is also frustrating that many Americans tend to look inward.
For example, many Americans do not accept that there is a threat and danger from climate change. They are not actively dealing with other serious global threats like nuclear issues, artificial intelligence, or biosciences. This turning inward is extremely dangerous because these are issues that affect all humanity and the world.
Additionally, we have a situation where the US political system is deeply fractured, and this creates great dangers for the world going forward.
GT: UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently paid a visit to China and he said that it would not be “credible” to disengage with China. However, the British parliament referred to Taiwan as an “independent country” in an official document for the first time, coinciding with Cleverly’s visit. What’s your perspective on it? In recent years, the UK’s attitude toward China has undergone major changes. What do you think are the reasons behind this?
Michie: I think what we need to do is to be very careful about making statements that can cause anger between countries like this one. As I mentioned earlier, we are currently facing a communication crisis, and what we truly need is more dialogue and discussion to foster an intelligent conversation among nations. Fortunately, there are many people in the UK who are working toward creating that environment. However, there are also individuals in the UK who are not interested in engaging in an intelligent dialogue; they have their own agendas.
One of the issues we face is that a significant number of UK politicians are heavily influenced by the US, which aims to hinder China’s progress. On the other hand, there are US politicians who are also striving to build an intelligent dialogue. Nonetheless, this situation is extremely dangerous, particularly given the current communication crisis and social media. It is so easy to have many comments that can be misunderstood and create conflicts and misunderstandings on social media. Therefore, it is crucial to engage in as much dialogue as possible to foster an intelligent conversation among nations.
GT: Do you think the current UK policy toward China is too influenced by Washington?
Michie: I believe that one of the root problems is that the US still wishes to be the hegemonic leader of the world, despite comprising only 4 percent of the global population. It has convinced itself that this is the right path to follow. However, due to many Americans focusing inward and ignoring critical global issues such as climate change and other threats, a significant problem arises for the world.
GT: Some observers have said that China-UK relations are at the lowest point. Do you agree with this? Do you think the bilateral relations can get back to a golden era?
Michie: No, I don’t think we’re at the lowest point at all because one of the most important trends in the last two decades is the tens of thousands of Chinese students who have come to the UK to study. I think that we rank second or third in the world in terms of attracting Chinese nationals to come and study in our education system. That is the kind of foundation-laying for intelligent dialogue that I have argued is so important in creating the kind of understanding that will lead to consensus.
I am very hopeful that this student exchange will help to create a more peaceful and sustainable world in the future.
It would be highly desirable for all nations to have golden eras of understanding with China. Unfortunately, at the moment, we are not moving in that direction, but we must do everything in our power to engage in intelligent dialogue and create understanding, so that we can move toward what you describe as a golden era of relationships. This will enable us to address the significant challenges facing humanity.
GT: Many Western politicians have recently been talking about so-called decoupling from China. What’s your take on it? Is it possible for the West to decouple from China?
Michie: I believe that decoupling and de-risking are not the right direction. What we must do is focus much more on creating an intelligent dialogue so that we can understand each other better and avoid moving toward conflict. It is absolutely crucial to move away from de-risking and decoupling, as I argue that the fundamental need is to create a much deeper and better understanding. The only way we can solve the crises facing all of humanity is by coming together in consensus and creating mutual understanding and respect, in order to move toward a community of common destiny. That is the only way, but it poses a huge challenge for the world.
GT: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). How do you view the development of the BRI over the past decade and its future prospects?
Michie: I think the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been a hugely important initiative by China because it serves as a channel for creating human connection. Communication can take various forms, such as infrastructure development including roads, airports, and harbors, which facilitate the exchange of ideas and foster understanding. This initiative also promotes intelligent dialogue, and China possesses the expertise to extend these infrastructure developments worldwide.
So, I believe it is a hugely important contribution toward improving global governance. At the moment, global governance faces a challenge as it is dominated by just 14 percent of the global population, which includes 4 percent in the US and under 10 percent in Europe. It is understandable that the rest of the world becomes frustrated when such a small percentage of the world’s population holds such a dominant influence. Initiatives like the BRI are a way of striving toward creating a broader form of global governance that can lead us toward international consensus.
I hope that the BRI will continue to evolve, fostering exchanges and understanding that can truly guide us toward a more peaceful and sustainable world.
GT: Do you think that the UK should consider joining the BRI?
Michie: I believe that everything should be considered in any way forward that we can create in dialogue and understanding, in order to create a world that is moving toward a common destiny. We can only solve the incredibly serious and dangerous challenges that the world faces if we move toward consensus. Initiatives like the BRI should be considered, as well as anything that can move us in a more positive direction.
President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, presented an ambitious vision for Kazakhstan’s technological future and advanced the deadline for the introduction of the 5G network from 2027 to 2025 during his speech at the recently concluded Digital Bridge 2023 forum in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Chinese technology companies are welcomed and expected to actively participate in the blueprint designed to support Kazakhstan in its journey to become a regional digital hub.
Tokayev emphasized the need to attract international players to the country’s venture market, leveraging their expertise and project quality assessment, as Kazakhstan is poised to enter a new era of connectivity and technological advancement with its ambitious plans for the accelerated launch of 5G wireless services.
As tech companies that actively support the construction of Kazakhstan’s digital economy, Chinese tech giant Huawei and TikTok, the popular short-video content app owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, have attracted much attention at the forum.
Bagdat Mussin, the Kazakhstani Minister of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry told the Global Times that the country trusts the quality and safety of Chinese technology. In front of Huawei’s booth at the two-day forum, many guests gathered around the display case of its digital communications equipment and all-scenario products hoping to learn how the company’s technology could further help boost local 5G networks.
As Central Asia’s largest IT forum, the Digital Bridge this year brought together over 20,000 participants, including representatives from more than 300 IT companies and delegations from 30 countries, far exceeding previous years’ participation. This strong turnout demonstrates Kazakhstan’s leading position as a digital and fintech hub in Eurasia.
President Tokayev cited expert estimates which indicate that the potential contribution of AI to the global economy is comparable to a quarter of global GDP.
In the last decade, within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China, as Kazakhstan’s neighbor, has shared its digital experience with Kazakhstan, where the Silk Road Economic Belt was first initiated, in becoming the digital center of Central Asia. China has also achieved more practical results in areas such as 5G, big data, cross-border e-commerce, and artificial intelligence.
Huawei, a prominent supplier of ICT infrastructure and smart devices, has backed Kazakhstan’s national initiatives and its 2050 Strategy in order to position the country as a digital center in the region. This support involves introducing innovative technologies, implementing best practices, and exchanging knowledge in areas such as intelligent cloud networks, 5G, and storage technologies.
The company has been serving the ICT industry in Kazakhstan since 1998 following the “in Kazakhstan, for Kazakhstan” vision.
The Global Times learned from Huawei that it is a strategic partner to all telecom operators in Kazakhstan, serving a population of over 18 million.
On June 1, 2023, Huawei and Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Digital Development jointly released the Digital Hub White Paper, which explores how to make Kazakhstan a digital hub in the Eurasian region. This includes the construction of connectivity hubs, cloud hubs, ICT talent hubs, and ecosystem hubs, opening up a new future for Kazakhstan’s digital economy.
The arbitrary bans imposed by some countries of Huawei’s technology have not shaken the Kazakhstani government’s trust in Chinese technology. In a press conference on October 13, Bagdat Mussin, Kazakhstan’s Minister of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry, told the Global Times that Kazakhstan welcomes Huawei and that approximately 200 educational centers in local universities have been set up to promote Huawei’s technology to the young generation.
Mussin stressed the reliability and safety of Chinese technology while noting that Huawei’s technology is included in the implementation phase of Kazakhstan’s 5G network building. He said that the country has followed the strict examination and certification processes necessary for the use of such tech to be used in the country.
Alina Abdrakhmanova, the managing director of the Astana Hub, the organizer of the forum, told the Global Times that Huawei has been a long-term partner to their technological research centers, and underscored that Huawei is establishing more infrastructure to ease access for local startups.
Huawei Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan signed an MOU at the International 2022 Digital Bridge Forum to cooperate with Kazakhstan’s leading universities and educational organizations to open the Huawei ICT Academy, providing more than 3,000 students with ICT-related information and courses.
During a visit to China in mid-May, President Tokayev held a meeting with Huawei Chairman Liang Hua, and welcomed the implementation of the project aimed at training highly skilled Kazakhstani specialists in the IT sphere at the Huawei ICT Academy. The president also supported Huawei’s initiatives for cultivating ICT talent in Kazakhstan and nurturing local talent, as reported by media sources.
This year, Huawei Technologies and the national Kazakhstan Temir Zholy company signed a letter of intent on the digitalization of the railway network in Kazakhstan using new technologies. On the sidelines of the Digital Bridge forum, President Tokayev held a productive meeting with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, with a focus on strengthening the partnership between Kazakhstan and the popular social media platform.
Chew also delivered a keynote address at the plenary session, saying that TikTok has been accessible in Kazakh starting from this year.
He emphasized that the mission of TikTok is to “inspire creativity and bring people joy,” and amid the rapid development of AI, the mission will remain the same.
“More than 1 billion people from 150 countries can express themselves, and with TikTok, one can explore the world. This is a kind of canvas where you can paint anything and a bridge that unites communities all around the world,” he said.
The US-led political witch hunt against TikTok hasn’t stopped the app’s rise in popularity in Kazakhstan as it has attracted over 10 million registered users in the country.
Chew discussed the TikTok StartUp Academy project, an exclusive educational program for Kazakhstani startups launched in collaboration with the Astana Hub International Technopark of IT Startups. As part of this collaboration, the TikTok Startup Valley competition has provided training to over 200 startups on leveraging TikTok for product promotion.
Foreign investors gathered at round tables at the forum to discuss global challenges related to the digital area such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things, and Big Data.
The Global Times also truly experienced the digitization of the city – ranging from the convenience of calling a car online within five minutes from one’s own residence to the adoption of cashless payments, from intelligent ticket purchase system of tourist attraction to the AI technology at forum venues. All of these seem to indicate that this young city is actively pursuing a more interconnected path, to create a citizen-friendly digital ecosystem.
The forum, which spans two days, offers a wide range of activities and attractions, such as more than 30 panel discussions featuring speakers from around the world, as well as special events. This showcases Kazakhstan’s dedication to innovation, digital transformation, and the integration of technology with human progress.
Shenzhou-16 crew members Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao successfully completed all the assigned tasks and safely returned to the space research module with the support of the robotic arm after about eight hours of their first extravehicular activity (EVA), the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSA) said on Thursday.
During the spacewalk, the astronauts completed tasks including bracket installation and lifting of panorama camera B in the core module and the unlocking and lifting of panorama cameras A and B of the Mengtian lab module.
Jing and Zhu went out for the spacewalk. Zhu has become the first space flight engineer to perform an EVA.
The Shenzhou-16 crew will also carry out a number of space science experiments and conduct multiple EVAs.
The Shenzhou-16 crew is composed of three types of astronauts: commander, flight engineer, and payload expert. They have been in orbit for 51 days since they entered the space station on May 30.
According to the CMSA, the radiation biology exposure experiment is significant for ensuring a healthy long-term stay in orbit for astronauts and promoting China’s crewed lunar landing plans.
With the installation of gas cylinders in the electric propulsion system in orbit, this is the first time the “gas exchange” method has been used to complete the replenishment of electric propellants for long-term orbit maintenance of the space station, making its operation more economic and efficient.
The CMSA said the Shenzhou-16 crew are in good condition, and the space station is running stably.
China launched the Shenzhou-16 manned spacecraft on May 30, sending three astronauts to its space station for a five-month mission.
Waterlily beetles (Galerucella nymphaeae) literally fly across water, high speed videography and a bit of mathematical modeling reveals.
The beetles have a combination of hydrophobic hairs that line their legs and hydrophilic claws that grip the surface of water without getting too wet. Prior to “take off,” the insects lift their middle pair of legs. Then, the insects beat their wings extremely fast and fly horizontally across a pool of water. It looks a lot like water-skiing. In lab tests, waterlily beetles reached 0.5 meters per second — without an active brake system. Surface tension keeps the insects afloat, they found. The insects create ripples in the water, which generates drag at speeds greater than 0.23 meters per second (more drag than when the beetles just fly through air). Thus, for these beetles, skiing across a pond at breakneck speeds costs a lot of energy and requires greater wing thrust than normal flying. However, this mode of getting around could be more advantageous for foraging and help them avoid underwater predators like fish, the researchers speculate March 2 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Earth sciences reporter Thomas Sumner recalls seeing the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth when he was in high school. The climate science presented in the movie didn’t surprise him too much — a science-minded student, he had already read about many of the issues. But, he says, the film started a broader dialog about global warming. “People started caring,” he says, noting that he remembers his own family talking about it (and not always harmoniously) at the time. Revisiting the dramatic predictions made in the film proved an interesting journey for Sumner. “The main criticism I heard was that the film had watered down the science,” he says. Climate science is amazingly complex, and so is modeling effects of change — from how much sea level might rise to how a warming climate could alter hurricane patterns. Even more striking to Sumner were the sheer number of uncertainties that remain. Those uncertainties are not about whether the climate is changing, but about the details of what such changes will mean for the oceans, the atmosphere and the living things on land — and when the various dominoes might fall. Telling the future is hard, especially about interrelated complex systems, but as Sumner reveals in his story, scientists have made steady progress in the last decade.
Another interesting point is the documentary’s (and Al Gore’s) role in politicizing climate science, which is fair to assume was one of the aims. “Gore was polarizing,” Sumner says. “He created a conversation about global warming, but he also cemented it as a political issue.”
Teeth and gums are neither political nor talked much about. But, as contributing correspondent Laura Beil reports, scientists studying a possible role for gum disease in what ails the body must contend with a slew of uncertainties, not unlike those faced by climate scientists. The bacteria that cause gum disease, some studies find, can travel to the arteries, heart, brain and other sites where they can cause havoc. Not all studies agree, and proving the oral bacteria–disease link beyond a doubt may not yet be within scientists’ grasp. But the fix is relatively simple, even if avoided by many: frequent flossing and regular visits to the dentist.
Keeping things simple was the underlying goal of the team of scientists attempting to build, from scratch, a synthetic organism with the least possible number of genes, as Tina Hesman Saey reports. After many tries, the effort succeeded, but not without first humbling the researchers involved. In the initial attempts, their computer-designed minimal genomes didn’t take. What ultimately worked was putting back some of the unknowns — genes with no known cellular job to do. Only then did the DNA inserted into the shell of a microbial cell yield a synthetic microbe capable of growing and reproducing.
Telling a good story about complex science, whether in a film or in a report on the latest research, requires some simplification. But sometimes the most interesting part lies in the uncertainty.
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is in standby mode after a 66-kilovolt/18-kilovolt electrical transformer suffered a short circuit April 29 at 5:30 a.m. Central European Time. The culprit: A small wild animal, believed to be a weasel, gnawing on a power cable.
“The concerned part of the LHC stopped immediately and safely, though some connections were slightly damaged due to an electrical arc,” Arnaud Marsollier, who leads CERN’s press office, wrote in an e-mail to Science News.
Sadly, the weasel did not survive the event, but the LHC should be back online soon. “It may take a few days to repair but such events happened a few times in the past and are part of the life of such a large installation,” Marsollier writes. The power outage comes just as the LHC is preparing to resume collecting data.
This isn’t the the first time an odd event has stalled operations at the particle collider outside Geneva on the Swiss-French border. In 2009, a piece of bread (supposedly a baguette dropped by a bird or from an airplane) interrupted a power installation for an LHC cooling unit.
A popular type of heartburn medicine could hasten wear and tear of blood vessels.
Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, gunk up cells that typically line the veins and arteries like a slick coat of Teflon, researchers report May 10 in Circulation Research. Excess cellular junk ages the cells, which could make blood vessels work less smoothly.
The results, though controversial, are the first inkling of evidence that might explain why PPIs have recently been linked to so many different health problems, from heart attacks to dementia. “The authors present a compelling story,” says Ziyad Al-Aly, a nephrologist at the Veterans Affairs Saint Louis Health Care System in Missouri. It begins to outline how using PPIs could spell trouble later on, he says. But Al-Aly notes that the study has one big limitation: It was done in cells, not people.
Gastroenterologist Ian Forgacs from King’s College Hospital in London agrees. Drawing conclusions about humans from cells grown in the lab requires “a huge leap of faith,” he says. So far, scientists have found only correlations between PPIs and their alleged side effects. “We need to know whether these drugs really do cause dementia and coronary disease and renal disease,” he says.
In the last few decades, proton pump inhibitors have emerged as a kind of wonder drug for heartburn. The drugs switch off molecular machines that pump acid into the stomach. So less acid surges up to burn the esophagus.
In 2012, nearly 8 percent of U.S. adults were taking prescription PPIs, according to a survey published last year in JAMA. (Some PPIs are also available over-the-counter.) Many people use PPIs for longer than they’re supposed to, says study coauthor John Cooke, a cardiologist at Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas. “These are very powerful drugs — they’re not Tums,” he says. “They have side effects.”
Several of these side effects are still under debate. And if PPIs do increase the risk of dementia, say, or kidney disease, no one knows how. So Cooke and colleagues explored what chronic exposure to the drugs, which travel through the bloodstream, does to cells lining the blood vessels. Human cells treated with a PPI called esomeprazole (sold as Nexium) seemed to age faster than untreated cells, the researchers found. The cells lost their youthful shape and instead “looked kind of like a fried egg,” Cooke says. They also lost the ability to split into new cells, among other signs of aging.
Cooke traced the rapid aging to mishaps in acid-filled cellular chambers called lysosomes. These chambers act as tiny garbage disposals; they get rid of junk like broken-down proteins. But PPIs, which work so well at shutting down acid production in the stomach, also seemed to shut down the acidic garbage disposals, too, the researchers found. That caused proteins to pile up, forming “little heaps of rubbish,” Cooke says.
Mucking with blood vessels’ lining could trigger all sorts of problems. For instance, instead of gliding easily through, platelets and white blood cells could get hung up, sticking to vessel walls like Velcro. “That’s how hardening of the arteries starts,” Cooke says.
The next step is to see if similar damage occurs in people. Doctors and regulatory agencies should take a second look at the widespread use of PPIs, too, Cooke says. “There’s enough data now that we have to be very cautious in our use of these agents.”
But some researchers think PPIs are getting a bum rap. “Everybody and their mother now want to hammer PPIs,” says gastroenterologist David Metz of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s unfortunate because they’re spectacular drugs and they save people’s lives.”
The real question, Al-Aly says, is whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
In the scorching heat of the Kalahari Desert, some birds still manage to keep their cool.
Thermal imaging reveals that the southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) vents heat from its beak, a phenomenon previously observed in toco toucans (Ramphastos toco). A team of South African researchers snapped infrared photos of 18 hornbills on a farm in the southern edge of the desert at temperatures from 15° to 45° Celsius.
When air temperatures hit 30.7° Celsius, the difference between beak surface temperature and air temperature spikes — indicating the birds were actively radiating heat through their beaks. At most, the birds lost about 25.1 watts per square meter through their beaks. Hornbills probably manage this cool trick by dilating the blood vessels to increase flow in their uninsulated beaks, the team writes May 18 in PLOS ONE.
Toucans lose about 60 percent of their total heat loss through their beaks, but hornbills only shed up to 20 percent of their heat loss through this method. The researchers chalk that difference up to larger beak-to-body-size in toucans.
A last-ditch weapon against drug-resistant bacteria has met its match in Pennsylvania.
A 49-year-old woman has tested positive for a strain of Escherichia coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, researchers report May 26 in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
It’s the first time in the United States that scientists have found bacteria carrying a gene for colistin resistance known as mrc-1, write study coauthor Patrick McGann of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., and colleagues. But perhaps even more alarming is that the gene rides on a transferable loop of DNA called a plasmid.
“That means we now see a possibility of spread,” says physician and clinical microbiologist Robert Skov. And not just from mother cell to daughter cell, he says, but to neighboring strains of bacteria, too.
Bacteria carry most of their genetic information in a tangle of DNA contained in chromosomes inside the cell. But tiny loops of DNA called plasmids hang around outside of the tangle. These loops carry extra information that bacteria can use, like how to protect themselves from antibiotics. Bacteria can swap plasmids like trading cards, effectively spreading instructions for antibiotic resistance.
In December, Skov and colleagues discovered a Danish patient carrying bacteria with mcr-1 plasmid DNA, like the woman in Pennsylvania. And in November of 2015, researchers reported something similar in China.
Until then, all known colistin resistance was due to tweaks in chromosomal DNA (which, unlike plasmid DNA, isn’t easily spread among bacteria), says Skov, of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, who was not involved with the new work.
Colistin, a 50-year-old drug that doctors largely stopped prescribing in the 1970s because of its side effects, has made a comeback in the last five to 10 years. It’s used when other antibiotics fail; it’s a treatment option for people infected with multidrug-resistant bacteria. Now, with colistin-resistant bacteria, Skov says, antibiotic treatment options are becoming more and more limited.
The problem, scientists have been pointing out for years, is that people are taking antibiotics too frequently. More use means more opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance.
Still, even with colistin-resistant bacteria emerging all over the world, Skov says he doesn’t expect thousands of people to become infected.
“The scenario now is that once in a while, we’ll see a patient carrying bacteria that we don’t have any good antibiotics left for.” But that, he adds “is dreadful enough.”