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Pets and other domesticated animals can provide new clues to emerging diseases

Domesticated animals provide vital link to emergence of new diseases, says new research at the University of Liverpool. The latest findings appearing online in the Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics of Infectious Diseases, suggest pets and other domesticated animals could provide new clues into the emergence of infections that can spread between animals and humans. The study showed that the number of parasites and pathogens shared by humans and animals is related to how long animals have been domesticated. In fact, some studies show how doctors train dogs to detect deadly types of bacteria. See the Fox News site, "Dog trained to sniff out deadly C. difficile superbug."

Pets and other domesticated animals can provide new clues to emerging diseases.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The findings at the University of Liverpool in new research suggest that although wild animals may be important for the transmission of new diseases to humans, humanity's oldest companions – livestock and pets such as cattle and dogs provide the vital link in the emergence of new diseases. What researchers were looking for is to find out which pathogens/parasites are in domestic animals and how long these 'bugs' have been around. Were the pathogens in the wild animals before humans domesticated those animals for food and/or pets?

Using data sourced from existing studies and information collected together in the Liverpool ENHanCEd Infectious Diseases (EID2) database, the researchers cross-referenced all known cases of parasites and pathogens in domestic animals with the length of time they have been domesticated by man.

In dogs, which have been domesticated for over 17,000 years, there were 71 shared parasites and pathogens, and in the 11,000 year association between humans and cattle, 34 have accumulated

Epidemiologist, Dr Marie McIntyre, part of the study team explained, according to the May 15, 2014 news release, Domesticated animals provide vital link to emergence of new diseases, "We don't have enough knowledge of how new diseases get from wildlife into humans. This study shows that domesticated animals can play an important role in that process and that diseases have been shared in this way for thousands of years."

The research examined 'centrality', to determine which domestic animals are in the middle of a web of shared infections. These animals are most active in spreading disease to other domesticated species. This 'centrality' linked directly with the length of time since domestication.

The EID2 database used in the study was created by University researchers in the Institute of Infection and Global Health to bring a 'big data' approach to emerging diseases. It contains information from more than 60 million papers, pieces of electronic reference material and textbooks on the spread and emergence of pathogens around the world, and can be cross-referenced with data on climate change, which also affects the spread of some diseases. You may wish to check out, "EID2 Database: New Tools for One Health Research and Policy." Or see, the University of Liverpool's website on infection and global health research, environment, and health projects.

Dr McIntyre said, according to the news release, "Using data in this way can help us address the major threat of new diseases and the spread of existing diseases caused by climate change. Vast amounts of research are being carried out in this field, yet it isn't easy to search or draw patterns from it. As with this research into domestic animals, a database can help by bringing huge amounts of evidence together in one place." You also may be interested in the websites, "Enhancing food safety and food security" and "Understanding how pathogens cause disease." Or see, "Tracking emerging and zoonotic infections" and "Improving the health of pets, working animals and their owners."

Dog bacteria on human skin appears on people who are close pals with dogs

When it comes to being a dog person, you can prove it by looking at the dog bacteria on human skin which appears on people who are close to dogs, notes an April 18, 2013 NPR news article, "Bacteria On Dog Lovers' Skin Reveal Their Affection. Humans who share their homes with canines also share the similar bacterial house guests on their skin, say ecologists Tuesday in the journal eLIFE. Check out the original research, "Cohabiting family members share microbiota with one another and with their dogs."

The study explains that "two dog owners who don't even know each other have about as many of the skin bacteria in common as a married couple living together," according to the news article. Do the bacteria from dogs ever get washed off with each shower, only to be put back when the dog comes over to be touched by the human or the dog bowl is touched with each pet feeding? And how long does the dog bacteria remain after the household has no more pets?

Scientists concluded that it may be easier to exchange skin microbes via exposure to home surfaces or indoor air (both of which are typically dominated by skin-associated microbes; Fierer et al., 2010), than it is to exchange gut or mouth bacteria, potentially because skin surfaces may be less ‘selective’ environments compared to the gut or mouth environments.

The dog bacteria that clings to human skin comes from the paws and tongue of the dog. But there wasn't an analogous germ signature for cat owners, the scientists say. But the bacteria on human skin doesn't stop at dogs, the news article explains. The human skin also harbors unknown bacteria. Check out the February 5, 2007 news release, "Human skin harbors completely unknown bacteria."

A 2007 study found that human skin has many more types of bacteria than previously thought

It appears that the skin, the largest organ in our body, is a kind of zoo and some of the inhabitants are quite novel, according to a new study. Researchers found evidence for 182 species of bacteria in skin samples. Eight percent were unknown species that had never before been described.

It is the first study to identify the composition of bacterial populations on the skin using a powerful molecular method. Not only were the bacteria more diverse than previously estimated, but some of them had not been found before, says Martin J. Blaser, M.D., Frederick King Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, one of the authors of the study. See, NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine. "The skin is home to a virtual zoo of bacteria," he says in the news release. This study was published February 5, 2007, in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See, "Human skin harbors completely unknown bacteria - Arrow Scientific."

The researchers analyzed the bacteria on the forearms of six healthy subjects; three men and three women. "This is essentially the first molecular study of the skin," says Dr. Blaser in the news release. The skin has been, he says, terra incognita, an unknown world that he and his colleagues have set out to understand much like explorers.

"There are probably fewer than ten labs in the U.S. looking at this question," says Dr. Blaser in the news release. "It is very intensive work," he adds. Zhan Gao, M.D., senior research scientist in Dr. Blaser's lab, led the research, which took more than three years to complete.

Some of the bacteria on the skin appear to be more or less permanent residents; others are transient, according to the study

This research is part of an emerging effort to study human microbial ecology. Dr. Blaser's laboratory has previously examined the bacterial population in the stomach and the esophagus. "Many of the bacteria of the human body are still unknown," he says. "We all live with bacteria all our lives and occasionally we smile, so they're not that bad for us."

The most numerous cells in our body are microbial—they outnumber our cells 10 to 1. The body has microbes native to the body, including the skin, and these populations change according to how we live, he says. "Ultimately what we want to do is compare disease and health," says Dr. Blaser. Keeping bacterial populations in our body stable may be part of staying healthy, he says.

In the new study, the researchers took swabs from the inner right and left forearms of six individuals picking the region halfway between the wrist and the elbow for its convenience. "It's not where they wash their hands," explains Dr. Blaser. "And they don't have to undress." The researchers wanted to be able to compare two similar parts of the body. Because they also wanted to study change over time, they took swabs from four of the individuals 8 to10 months after the first test.

Roughly half, or 54.4%, of the bacteria identified in the samples represented the genera Propionibacteria, Corynebacteria, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, which have long been considered more or less permanent residents in human skin.

The six individuals differed markedly in the overall composition of the bacterial populations on their skin. They only had four species of bacteria in common: Propionibacterium acnes, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum, Streptococcus mitis, and Finegoldia AB109769. "This is a surprise," says Dr. Gao. "But many things affecting the skin affect bacteria, such as the weather, exposure to light, and cosmetics use."

Almost three-quarters, or 71.4%, of the total number of bacterial species were unique to individual subjects, suggesting that the skin surface is highly diversified in terms of the bacteria it harbors, according to the study.

Women and men may harbor different types of bacteria on their skin

Three bacterial species were only found in the male subjects: Propionibacterium granulosum, Corynebacterium singulare, and Corynebacterium appendixes. While the sample is too small to draw conclusions, the scientists believe that women and men may harbor some different bacterial species on their skin.

In each individual, the bacterial populations varied over time while revealing a core set of bacteria for each individual. "The predominant bacteria don't change much," says Dr. Gao. "But the more transient bacteria did change over time," she says in the news release.

"What that suggests," adds Dr. Blaser, "is that there is a scaffold of bacteria present in everybody's skin. Some stay and others come and go."

Finding the method

To obtain a sample Dr. Gao rubbed a swab on each individual's forearms. "We didn't tell them to be particularly clean, we just made sure they didn't take antibiotics up to one month prior to the test," Dr. Gao explains. She chose three men and three women to have a balance of genders. She set up a clean room so the samples didn't risk contamination.

Traditionally, bacteria are cultured in the lab in petri dishes, which contain a medium to grow bacteria. But the method leads to inaccuracies, she explains, because only a fraction of bacteria in a sample grow in that medium. So the team used a powerful molecular method that involved extracting a subunit of genetic material called 16S ribosomal DNA from the samples. "It is kind of a common currency, it's a conserved gene," says Dr. Blaser. Another advantage is that there is a large database of 16S ribosomal DNA available to scientists.

The ambitious task for this study was to gather samples, prepare them, amplify the bacteria creating colonies of each single species of bacteria present in the skin samples. Then Dr. Gao used established tools—primers—to pick out the species-specific genetic regions in the bacteria. After sequencing those regions, the 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) in each colony, she consulted 16S rDNA databases to determine the bacterial species present in each sample. Many bacteria in the database only exist as sequences and have nether been named or extensively studied. Those are termed SLOTUs, or species-level taxonomic units.

Taxonomy and the study results

To distinguish organisms from one another, biologists group and categorize them. Species or SLOTUs are small categories. There are larger groupings such as genera and phyla. Humans, for example, belong to the phylum chordata, the genus Homo and the species Homo sapiens.

The molecular method used in this study revealed differences between the bacterial populations in individuals. Other methods had previously not shown those differences.

The team found a total of 182 species or SLOTUs and 91 genera of bacteria in the skin samples

The samples yielded mainly three phyla of bacteria: Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria. Ninety-four point six percent of the bacteria were in these phyla. These phyla were found in all six tested individuals. When compared with earlier studies, the researchers found that these three phyla are also dominant in the esophagus and the stomach. In terms of bacterial species, however, the insides of the body, for example the stomach, and the exterior of the body, the skin, show vast differences in bacterial populations.

Skin condition can change markedly due to a variety of factors such as climate, diet, personal hygiene, and disease. But skin is never devoid of bacteria, particularly its more permanent residents. That is not bad news, after all, in healthy individuals these bacteria are not pathogens. "Without good bacteria, the body could not survive," says Dr. Gao.

The next step for the research team is to look at diseased skin

"We plan to ask the question: Are the microbes in diseased skin, in certain diseases like psoriasis or eczema, different than the microbes in normal skin?" says Dr. Blaser in the news release. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the study along with a Senior Scholar Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation, and also funding by the Diane Belfer Program in Human Microbial Ecology in Health. The authors of the study are Zhan Gao, M.D, Chi-hong Tseng, Ph.D., Zhiheng Pei, M.D., Ph.D, and Martin J. Blaser, M.D.

Interestingly, in the other study of dog bacteria on human skin, the various types of research on bacteria on human skin points to whether a dog person is really a dog person because the individual loves dogs or because the person touched the dog's bowl, chew toy, or bedding. The exchange of bacteria wouldn't reveal the emotions a person had toward the dog's care and wellbeing. But it might show if someone visited a home and breathed the air or touched the furniture where there lives a dog.

Preparing natural mouthwash for dogs

Dog owner's secrets of keeping their pet's teeth healthy sometimes include brushing or wiping a dog's teeth with a tiny bit of grapefruit seed extract diluted with water and glycerin to soften the tartar.

Some natural product-oriented dog owners also add one drop of neem oil to the mixture along with a drop of grape seed extract mixed with a cup of water and spray the dog's gums. If you're interested in holistic cleaning remedies for dogs' teeth, you might even buy a grapefruit seed extract gel that's diluted with water, glycerin, and other ingredients with which to brush his dog's teeth. See the article, Grapefruit Seed Extract -- a great remedy for many ailments.

You might make a similar mixture for your own gums to combat gingivitis. Interestingly, when cleaning the gums of dogs and even humans, naturopathic physicians for the past quarter century have used grapefruit seed extract as a multipurpose compound. See, "Natural tips to keep your dog clean - BarkleyAndPaws." That article explains, "Herbs and natural gels and pastes provide a safe and effective way to reduce tartar and plaque buildup in your dog’s teeth, and there are pastes that contain peppermint, neem oil, and grapefruit seed extract that can greatly reduce the risk of infection and keep your dog’s mouth smelling clean. Enzymatic toothpastes specially formulated for dogs can be easily found in most pet shops."

Grapefruit seed extract diluted with water and/or glycerin for a dog's teeth and gums

Always dilute grapefruit seed extract with water and/or glycerin. Never put undiluted grapefruit seed extract into your mouth or your dog's mouth. Mix five drops of grapefruit extract with an 8-ounce glass of water or with glycerin. And never put it near your dog's eyes, mouth, ears, or skin unless you dilute it with water. The same applies to humans. Using grapefruit seed extract on your gums or your dog's has been mentioned in a variety of holistic health remedy suggestions.

For example, the pure grapefruit seed oil has vitamins C and E, and bioflavonoids. Grapefruit seed extract is an antioxidant. But don't swallow it. Just rub it on the gums and teeth. Check out the book, The Healing Power of Grapefruit Seed, by Shalila Sharamon and Bodo J. Baginski. (The Practical Handbook for Using Grapefruit Seed Extract to Heal Infections, Allergies, and Much More-One of the Most Effective New Healing Remedies.)

Another book is Nature's Antiseptics: Tea Tree Oil and Grapefruit Seed Extract by C.J. Puotinen. Also see the book, The Authoritative Guide to Grapefruit Seed Extract: A Breakthrough in Alternative Treatment for Colds, Infections, Candida, Allergies, Herpes, and Many Other Ailments, by Allan Sachs, D.D.,C.C.N.

Researchers are discovering the power of grapefruit seeds, which provide safe and inexpensive raw materials to support a quiet revolution in the way holistically minded physicians and consumers approach problematic germs. From Candida to traveler's illness, sore throat, gum disease, flu's, colds and beyond, Grapefruit Seed Extract is earning a reputation as the most versatile mainstay of herbalists around the world - a breakthrough in alternative treatment.

The author, Dr. Allan Sachs, is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Chiropractor, in practice since 1978 and recognized as a leading authority on the use of Grapefruit Seed Extract. He is a pioneer in the field of clinical ecology and the creator of many herbal formulas used by holistic practitioners throughout the world.

Grapefruit extract can be diluted with glycerin or even a small amount of grain alcohol. See, the article, tartar cleaner, dog teeth cleaning, brushing dog teeth. Grapefruit seed extract even can be used to get rid of dog urine odors from carpets. See, How to Get Rid of Dog Urine Carpet Odors with Grapefruit Seed. And for humans, grapefruit seed extract may help issues such as bleeding gums. See the site, Human Internal Uses - Grapefruit Seed Extract. Be sure to distinguish between grapefruit seed extract and grape seed extract.

Citrus seed extract

Grapefruit seed extract (GSE), also known as citrus seed extract, is a liquid derived from the seeds, pulp, and white membranes of grapefruit. While there has been no scientific demonstration of efficacy, this extract has been claimed by some practitioners of alternative medicine to possess antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. Indeed, it has been recommended by some nutritionists for the treatment of candidiasis, earache, throat infections, and diarrhea. If you want to buy grapefruit seed extract, check out one of the sites that sells it at All Health Trends.

Other naturopathic ways of keeping gums healthy include grape seed extract and neem oil. In India, neem oil sometimes is rubbed on the gums to ward off mild bacterial infections. Neem oil is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. Neem oil has been used in India for centuries. It's described in the Indian medical texts such as the Atharva Veda.

Home-made mouth wash often contains thyme oil

It's used sometimes by naturopaths for mouth washes as an antiseptic. Rosemary oil also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties when used to rinse the teeth. And peppermint oil has menthol, also with anti-bacterial properties. Check out various articles and research on these oils before you try them. Some people are allergic to any given plant extract or oil. So do your research before you put anything on your skin without knowing how you'll react. The goal here is to make a natural mouthwash that agrees with your health.

To make a mouthwash for yourself, you can include a few drops of any of these ingredients. But you can also use these ingredients to gently massage on your dog's teeth and gums to help remove tartar over a period of several weeks.

Human mouthwash -- homemade and antimicrobial

After your dental cleaning, make a soothing anti-viral and anti-bacterial mouthwash with exotic myrrh and clove oil. Disinfect those mouth sores caused by a virus. Oxygenate away those anaerobic bacteria that create the roots of gum disease. Start by making a safe antimicrobial oil-based mouthwash using herbs, oils, minerals, non-corrosive vitamins, and water.

Mix 4 drops of clove oil, 2 drops of myrrh, one tablet of zinc, and one tablet of folic acid (that you buy in a health-food store) in 16 ounces (473 mil.) of water. Let the tablets dissolve in the water and oils mixture, and then shake well. Add anti-bacterial herbs of your choice such as sage, mint, or ginger.

Don't use vitamin C on your teeth

Don't make a mouthwash with vitamin C powder from ascorbic acid or with any citrus oil, vitamin, vinegar, acid, or fruit that corrodes teeth. Keep your mouthwash alkaline. Don't swallow this mouthwash. Rinse, swish, and spit it out. Choose edible oils. A few drops of edible oils can be added to your home-made mouth wash.

To make a simple mouth wash, mix four drops of clove oil, 2 drops of myrrh essential oils, a folic acid vitamin tablet dissolved in water, and a zinc mineral tablet dissolved in water. You can purchase all these ingredients at a health food store.

Mix oils and tablets in a pint of distilled water until the folic acid and zinc tablets are dissolved. Use as a mouthwash. Don’t swallow any. Store your mouthwash in a covered glass jar in your refrigerator for up to a week.

Oregano oil if not diluted enough can burn

Make your own mouthwash with three to five drops of natural, wild organic oil of oregano in water. Swish it in your mouth or put it in your Water Pik® that’s already filled with warm water. Move the water and oregano oil between your teeth.

If you have canker sores inside your mouth, rinse the roof of your mouth with extra virgin olive oil. Another way to soothe virus-caused canker sores in your mouth is to make a paste of monolaurin and water.

Open a monolaurin capsule and mix with a few drops of water. When you have a paste, spread it inside your mouth, on your tongue and on your hard palate. Leave it for a few minutes. You can swallow one capsule of monolaurin after it’s been moved around your mouth for a few minutes. It’s made from lauric acid, which comes from coconut oil.

Remember that your skin absorbs anything you put on it, and you never know what you’re allergic to at any time. Make a mouthwash from edible oils or extracts that are anti-viral and not acid-based. You want your mouth to be alkaline.

Your oil base for mouthwash can be extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sesame seed oil, monolaurin, clove oil, or oregano oil and water. Don’t put the oil of oregano directly on a sore in your mouth as it will burn. Keep it diluted with olive oil and water. Mix oil of oregano first with water.

Take a sip of water, put a few drops of oil of oregano in your mouth, and swish it around. Take another sip of water and either swallow or spit it out. Don’t use more than one or two drops of oil of oregano with water if you plan to swallow it. If you buy essential oils in a health food store make sure you purchase oils safe to put inside your mouth, not oils meant for external massage. Never put oils that burn your mouth in any other body orifices.

Oils are for rinsing out the mouth. The only oil you could swallow safely after swishing around in your mouth would be extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil. Some oils are toxic if swallowed, and others are toxic if swallowed while not diluted one part of oil to 25 parts of water.

Before you use any particular oil for making your own mouthwash, check the aromatherapy sites to make sure the oil you select is not toxic. Monolaurin sometimes may be helpful if you have a viral infection in your mouth, such as some types of canker sores.

As a mouthwash, unrefined, virgin coconut oil is anti-microbial and anti-viral, making it an awesome protector against disease and infection. Monolaurin, a medium chain fatty acid present in coconut oil, is the same chemical found in human breast milk.

Already being used in intravenous solutions, infant milk formula and kitchens around the world, virgin coconut oil has yet to become a staple choice for better health. Monolaurin is frequently used in the form of coconut extracts as a mouthwash as well as a food in tropical areas such as in the Philippines.

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