Is Your Kitchen Making You Sick?

clean-kitchenThe winter season is often associated with the flu, the common cold, and other inconvenient ailments. While the cold weather is often a contributor to these conditions, experts revealed that the microbes getting you sick may in fact originate in your home, and more specifically, in your kitchen.

Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD, explained:

“Moisture and food particles make it the perfect environment for growing germs that make you sick. If you’re not killing them, you can go from 10 microbes to millions within 24 hours.”

You may think your kitchen is spotless, but here are the places you might want to double-check:

  1. Your kitchen sink. Dr. Reynolds says: “There can be millions of pathogens clinging to the sink, the seal of the drain and the rubber gasket around the garbage disposal.” She suggests cleaning the sink regularly, especially after rinsing raw meat, vegetables or pet bowls. Make sure to use a disinfectant spray at least once a day.
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  3. Your sponge, dishtowels and dish brush. According to the NSF International, more than 75% of dish sponges and towels carry harmful bacteria. Therefore, it’s important to change these towels daily and wash them in hot water. Sponges should also be changed at least once a week, or cleaned with disinfectant regularly.
  4. Your hands. Raw eggs, meats and vegetables can all carry pathogens, which will be transferred to different surfaces by your hands. Dr. Robert Donofrio of NSF International suggests: “Get out everything you need, such as the knife, the cutting board and the pot, so you’re not opening cabinet drawers and contaminating surfaces.” Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly as well.

Other places that make ideal hiding spots for pathogens include your coffee maker, purse or briefcase, refrigerator, stove, cabinet handles, garbage cans and countertops.

Common Bacteria Interferes with TB Vaccine Effectiveness

A common bacteria, mycobacterium chelonae, found frequently in soil and water, especially in countries outside the United States, has been shown to interfere with the effectiveness of the tuberculosis vaccine which has shown disappointing results in its efficacy around the world.

The vaccine, known as BCG for bacile Calmette-Guerin, is not producing the expected results which were originally hoped for.

“Uncovering the reasons why BCG is failing will help researchers in designing new, more effective vaccines against TB,” said Geok Teng Seah, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Microbiology at the National University of Singapore. “This will give us more tools to fight this globally significant infectious disease.”

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A more general application of the principle of environmental factors influencing the effectiveness of vaccines may help to improve the efficacy of other vaccines which sometimes do not work as well as they should. The results of the research were published in the December 2010 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

“This study sheds important light on why many immunological therapies and vaccines look great in the lab, but fall short in the real world,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “Humans are exposed to many more non-disease causing bacteria and viruses compared to relatively clean laboratory animals, and as this study shows with a TB vaccine, environmental exposure to one kind of bacteria can influence the efficacy of immunity to different, more dangerous bugs.”

Potato Peels Become Sunglasses with Help from New-Fangled Bacteria

Bioplastics are beginning to make headlines because they can be the answer to some hard to solve problems, for instance, can we make potato peels into sunglasses? Well, with newly developed bacteria, the answer to that question could very well be ‘yes.’

It turns out that we already know how to turn natural substances into valuable products; it is just that the process we are using now is inefficient. But according to researcher Jean-Paul Meijnen, bacteria can be ‘trained’ to change all the main sugars found in garden waste into high-quality and environmentally friendly products called bioplastics.

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The best raw materials for processing waste into plastic are the biological wastes which remain after food production, for example lignocellulose. Lignocellulose is the joining of lignin and cellulose, the materials that make leaves and stalks of plants rigid. Hydrolysis breaks down these substances into individual sugar molecules which the bacteria can use to form chemicals which are the basic substances of bioplastics. The ideal relationship would be for people or animals to consume the fruit of the plant, for instance maize, while the unused portion, the waste, which is the lignocellulose, becomes the raw material for the production of bioplastics utilizing the newly ‘trained’ bacteria.