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20 May

Scientists fear impact of deep-sea mining on search for new medicines

Bacteria from the ocean floor can beat superbugs and cancer. But habitats are at risk from the hunger for marine minerals

hen Prof Mat Upton discovered a microbe from a deep-sea sponge was killing pathogenic bugs in his laboratory, he realised it could be a breakthrough in thefight against antibiotic resistant superbugs, which are responsible for thousands of deaths a year in the UK alone.

Further tests last year confirmed that an antibiotic from the sponge bacteria, found living more than 700 metres under the sea at the Rockall trough in the north-east Atlantic, was previously unknown to science, boosting its potential as a life-saving medicine.

But Upton, and other scientists who view the deep ocean and its wealth of unique and undocumented species as a prospecting ground for new medicines, fear such potential will be lost in the rush to exploit the deep sea’s equally rich metal and mineral resources.

Upton estimates it could take up to a decade for a newly discovered antibiotic to become a medicine – but the race towards commercial mining in the ocean abyss has already begun.

Source


17 May

Shelter Southwark Housing Advice

If you have an emergency housing problem, you can visit shelter.org.uk/advice for advice online, or call Shelter’s free* housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444; Monday to Friday, 8am–8pm or Saturdays and Sundays, 8am–5pm.

11 May

Melting permafrost in Arctic will have $70tn climate impact – study

The release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost will accelerate global warming and add up to $70tn (£54tn) to the world’s climate bill, according to the most advanced study yet of the economic consequences of a melting Arctic.

If countries fail to improve on their Paris agreement commitments, this feedback mechanism, combined with a loss of heat-deflecting white ice, will cause a near 5% amplification of global warming and its associated costs, says the paper, which was published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.

The authors say their study is the first to calculate the economic impact of permafrost melt and reduced albedo – a measure of how much light that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed – based on the most advanced computer models of what is likely to happen in the Arctic as temperatures rise. It shows how destabilised natural systems will worsen the problem caused by man-made emissions, making it more difficult and expensive to solve.

They assessed known stocks of frozen organic matter in the ground up to 3 metres deep at multiple points across the Arctic. These were run through the world’s most advanced simulation software in the US and at the UK Met Office to predict how much gas will be released at different levels of warming. Even with supercomputers, the number crunching took weeks because the vast geography and complex climate interactions of the Arctic throw up multiple variables. The researchers then applied previous economic impact models to assess the likely costs.

Source

24 Apr

NHS Long Term Plan

With people living longer, more people living with long-term conditions, and lifestyle choices affecting people’s health, significant changes are needed to keep our NHS sustainable, address inequalities, and provide the best possible care for everyone.

24 Apr

Bad diets killing more people globally than tobacco, study finds

Unhealthy diets are responsible for 11m preventable deaths globally per year, more even than smoking tobacco, according to a major study.

But the biggest problem is not the junk we eat but the nutritious food we don’t eat, say researchers, calling for a global shift in policy to promote vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes.

While sugar and trans-fats are harmful, more deaths are caused by the absence of healthy foods in our diet, the study found.

The research is part of the Global Burden of Disease study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, published in the Lancet medical journal.

Heart attacks and strokes are the main diet-related causes of death, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes, say researchers.

The study found that eating and drinking better could prevent one in five deaths around the world. Although diets vary from one country to another, eating too few fruits and vegetables and too much sodium (salt) accounted for half of all deaths and two-thirds of the years of disability attributable to diet.

Source

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