What will your life be like without antibiotics?

Our bodies would not be able to function properly without bacteria. They are found throughout our bodies and aid in many processes such as digestion. The human digestive tract is littered with 000’s of so called ‘friendly-bacteria’. These friendly bacteria help digest food and ensure harmful bacteria do not build up. If the harmful bacteria do build up an infection may begin. I imagine every single one of you reading this have had an infection of some sort, from a typical throat or chest infection to something a little more embarrassing! My point is, in the world we live in, what do we do when we have an infection? We go to the doctors and get a prescription for some antibiotics. Within a week the infection will have gone and we are back to normal. But what would, or what will we do without antibiotics?

You may have seen in your local GP surgery posters describing the growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. This means as we use antibiotics more and more they become more and more ineffective against bacteria. If we continue as we are doing, eventually all antibiotics will be useless in fighting bacterial infections. The implications if this were to happen are huge. Procedures that would be affected include organ transplants, chemotherapy, potentially even a scratched knee!

So why don’t we just make some new antibiotics? Well unfortunately we have already done that and are now running out of possible alternatives. Over the last 4 years only 2 new antibiotics have been approved! Furthermore, bacteria are becoming much better at resisting antibiotics and much quicker at transferring resistance.

Scientists suggest that in 20 years people may die of bacterial infections that were treatable in 1990s. So what can we do about it? While the researchers carry out their research and the pharmaceutical companies battle over patents, it is our responsibility to be honest with doctors. If you have a cold (- colds are caused by a virus NOT bacteria) do not insist on antibiotics. They will not help your cold and will only worsen the problem of bacterial resistance. By helping doctors correctly diagnose and prescribe we can help to fight bacterial resistance, before it is too late.

Do you really know what’s lurking in the depths? Meet Peter’s elephantnose fish.

It has been my intention to write a post telling you all about my new pets – I have recently bought and set up a tropical aquarium. I have wanted to have fish since I can remember and even insisted on having an ‘under the sea’ themed bedroom for many years! Anyway a couple of months ago I decided to take the leap! Picking which fish to have was not easy, but I now have a small community of fish that I am more than happy with! I like my fish to have something interesting about them, a bit of history if you like. This might be where they came from, a novel feature they have, or perhaps just a great personality (I may or may not have imagined!).

Read moreDo you really know what’s lurking in the depths? Meet Peter’s elephantnose fish.

Too many mouths and too little time

Just a quick apology to all my regular readers. Over the last 2 months I have been taking the final exams for my degree and deciding what to do with my future! As such I have been unable to blog as frequently as I would have liked. I will be regularly posting from now, so your summers are already looking brighter!! Thanks for your patience, and feel free to get in touch!

Most (if not all) of the people reading this post consider supermarkets, greengrocers or corner shops a necessity, something that is just part of everyday life. The commotion caused when these shops close for bank holidays only emphasises that fact. During these public holidays shelves are often left empty and fresh goods go short. But what if this was more common than just on bank holidays? What if there was a national food shortage? Where would you get your food from?

Read moreToo many mouths and too little time

Albinism: Another excuse to collect the rare and exotic?

Across the entire animal kingdom there are some fascinating, sometimes even unbelievable characteristics. The adaptations that have made it through natural selection, been accepted by females and after all that aren’t a disadvantage, are truly exquisite. How do these adaptations come about? Random genetic mutations are at the beginning of every single adaptation on this planet. It is these mutations within the gene that are responsible for colouration, size, shape and many more! Sometimes mutations can result in something which is not advantageous – a mutational disorder. The disorder I wanted to discuss today is albinism.

Read moreAlbinism: Another excuse to collect the rare and exotic?

Ready or not, here European malaria comes … are we ready?

The questionnaire linked below is now closed. Thank you for your participation, I truely appreciate it.

To those of you who are not familiar to my blog, my name is Victoria Ellis and I am in my final year at the University of Manchester studying Zoology. As part of my final year project I am required to write a post on my blog and access how useful the post was to my readers. To do this I have created a very small questionnaire (7 questions), that simply requires you to answer questions on various aspects of malaria before and after reading this post. This is not a test of your knowledge, but a test of how your knowledge has changed as a result of reading my blog post. I would really appreciate it if you took the time to do this; it will only take a couple of minutes and is completely anonymous.

Read moreReady or not, here European malaria comes … are we ready?

Ethical considerations of sustainable fishing in Europe

The United Nations (UN) estimate that 200 million people are directly or indirectly employed by the fishing industry and around 1 billion people depend on fish as their primary source of protein. The UN also reports that one quarter of the world’s fish stocks are over exploited and half the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited (UN, 2010). To try and counter this problem the concept of sustainable fishing has been proposed.

Read moreEthical considerations of sustainable fishing in Europe

Animal tool use shows us humans aren’t so special!

Humans have always been fascinated with what makes us unique. What is it that has allowed us to make such an impression on the Earth like no species before us? There are many things that make humans unique from our ancestors, from bigger brains to bipedalism. We are also known as the “tool using animal”. That is not to say other animals don’t use tools, but humans use tools in an incredible number of activities and to an incredible degree of complexity. Because we arguably use tools better than any other animals, humans often associate tool use with intelligence. There are a variety of animals that use tools, some of which are discussed below.

Read moreAnimal tool use shows us humans aren’t so special!

Orangutan “who do you think you are” sheds light on conservation prospects

The orangutan is an animal very close to my heart. I was lucky enough to work with some of these beautiful and engaging animals during a trip to Borneo a few years ago. There are only two species of orangutan left on the entire planet, both of which are endangered! One species is found on the island of Borneo and the other species on the island of Sumatra. The orangutan is an arboreal animal that lives in dense tropical rainforest. The recent destruction of its habitat for timber extraction and oil palm plantations has resulted in a considerable global effort to conserve the species, before it is too late. However, modern conservation projects are not just a simple case of instigating a rehabilitation, relocation or reproduction programme.

Read moreOrangutan “who do you think you are” sheds light on conservation prospects

How did the Zebra get its stripes?

For centuries we have asked questions of evolution. Questions such as why does a Leopard have spots, how did a Camel get it’s hump or perhaps most famous of all: why is a Giraffe’s neck so long? A lot of the time people create “just-so” stories to answer these questions. For example, “it was favourable in terms of evolution by natural selection to be a Giraffe with a longer neck to reach higher branches”. When this theory was tested they found that Giraffes actually spend most their time foraging in low branches. Scientists now believe the long necks are used by males to fight each other for access to females to mate with. (The fact they can also reach higher into fruit bearing trees is an added bonus!) This is called necking. There are plenty of videos on YouTube if you are interested! Most just so stories have now been tested and more scientifically minded and testable hypotheses have been given to describe them. However there is one story that has been puzzling scientists until now: why does a Zebra have its stripes?

Read moreHow did the Zebra get its stripes?

Mosquitos – To kill or not to kill, that is the question.

The climate we live in today is one of change. There is a huge debate as to if that change is for the better or worse, but the fact remains the climate is changing. This is not a new phenomenon. The climate has radically changed since the beginning of life some 3.6-3.8 billion years ago. However, no single species has ever been directly responsible for changing the climate – until Homo sapiens rocked up. We are changing the climate so quickly evolution can’t keep up. This means many species are struggling to survive, leading to a significant number of species extinctions. We are very quick to jump to the needs of endangered species, particularly those that are beneficial to us. But what about the species we don’t like? What about mosquitos? How many times have you been on holiday and got a nasty bite, or been forced to religiously take anti-malaria tablets? Mosquitos are irritating disease spreaders, so why don’t we just get rid of them?

Read moreMosquitos – To kill or not to kill, that is the question.