Gut microbes and eye disease, superbug head lice and the disconnect with GMOs. This week in Abstract Science.

Gut Microbes Linked to Eye Disease

(Science Magazine, 8/18/2015, Mitch Leslie)

Approximately 400,000 people in the United States suffer from autoimmune uveitis, one of the leading causes of blindness. A new study found that some naturally existing gut microbes may contribute to the incidence of autoimmune uveitis. The disease occurs when T cells invade the eye and damage the middle layer. All people have these T cells, but in order to be activated, they have to first be triggered by their matching antigen, which researchers are now theorizing may reside in your gut microbes.

Rachel Caspi of the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and colleagues performed the study in mice, and found that gut bacteria can produce proteins that closely resemble those in the eye. These proteins can activate T cells in the intestines that then travel to the eye and cause autoimmune uveitis. The team is now working to specifically identify which proteins activate the T cells and which bacteria produce them.

Treatment-Resistant Lice Are Now In 25 States

(Huffington Post, 8/18/2015, Erin Schumaker)

It sounds like the premise of a bad horror film, but head lice superbugs are real, and they’ve been identified in 25 states in the US. Research presented at the American Chemical Society indicates that lice have developed a high level of resistance to the most common over-the-counter treatments. Kyong Yoon, an assistant professor of biological and environmental science at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, is leading a team doing ongoing research into this occurrence. Yoon and his team found that lice have developed a gene mutation, known as knock-down resistance, against pyrethroids, an insecticide widely used to treat head lice. While there are other, prescription treatments for head lice, they are not as safe, gentle or readily available as pyrethroids.

Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe

(Science Magazine, 8/18/2015, Stefaan Blancke)

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been found by scientific evidence to be both safe to eat and beneficial to the environment, however they continue to be met with resistance by the public. Stefaan Blancke, a philosopher at Ghent University, along with a group of Belgian biotechnologists and philosophers from Ghent University, recently published a paper arguing that negative representations of GMOs are compelling because they appeal to intuition. According to Blancke, “by tapping into intuitions and emotions that mostly work under the radar of conscious awareness, but are constituent of any normally functioning human mind, such representations become easy to think.” Therefore, with GMOs, many people oppose their use because it intuitively makes sense that they would pose a threat. Blancke goes on to discuss the need for earlier education in schools on the science surrounding GMOs, to help combat unfounded misconceptions.

—Compiled by Samantha Jorgensen, Social Media Strategist