Compound created to combat resistant bacteria

UF researchers found a way to break down deadly bacterial masses.

When bacteria attach to human body tissue, they become highly resistant to common antibiotics. A team of UF researchers developed compounds, called halogenated phenazines, designed to break down growing lumps of bacteria attached to human tissue.

Robert Huigens, a professor in UF’s College of Pharmacy and lead investigator of the research, said these mass-fighting compounds are the first of their kind and can save lives.

He said there are 17 million of these bacterial-mass infections a year.

"These are life-threatening infections, and they are a huge reason people are dying in the United States," Huigens said.

The team finalized the research in August and published the article this term.

Huigens said his interest in bacterial masses began when he was a graduate student, and he believes the research is far from over.

"We are continuing to develop this and are going to submit another paper hopefully before Christmas," he said.

Huigens said his research could greatly benefit people with joint replacements or catheter therapies, as those are common places for these bacterial masses to form.

He said he is eager to share the discovery of the compounds.

"It’s great to be able to reach out and send this message and let people know that we are working on this important problem," he said.

- Rachel Howard

Link found between obesity and hospitalization

A UF research team found that people who are obese are more likely to be hospitalized.

The team discovered that those with a body mass index of 30 or greater, which is the threshold for obesity, were more likely to go to UF Health Shands’ Emergency Department, said Matthew Ryan, the study’s lead researcher.

Ryan works for UF Health and has been studying the prevalence of obesity in emergency medicine since 2008. He said his idea for the study came from observing patients in the Emergency Department.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of U.S. adults are obese.

When Ryan conducted his research, he said he found about 24 percent of people in Alachua County were obese. Of the patients coming to the Emergency Department, about 39 percent were obese.

"We were significantly higher in prevalence of obesity in the UFED," Ryan said.

He said the team surveyed patients in the Emergency Department and asked if they thought their weight was negatively impacting their health.

Most people who were obese didn’t think their weight was affecting their health, which Ryan said he found surprising.

"If you have a problem and you don’t recognize that’s a problem, you can never fix the problem," he said.

- Briana White

$2 million grant will fund UF strawberry research

Recently, the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences received a federal grant of about $2 million to research new ways to grow organic strawberries.

The grant is from the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.

The research could make farming strawberries cheaper and more environmentally friendly, said Marilyn Swisher, a UF sustainable agriculture professor.

The research will focus on cover crops, which are plants grown in the same areas as the strawberries during the off season to improve the soil, Swisher said. Strawberries are grown in Florida from November to May.

The goal is to find how changes in cover crops could affect the plants, both in terms of pest presence and exposure to diseases, Swisher said.

It isn’t known if the insects and diseases present on strawberry crops are harmful or beneficial, she said.

"We need to figure all that out so it’s not risky for the farmers," Swisher said.

Swisher said although the research will be based on organic strawberries, the conclusions may be useful to non-organic farmers. Better growing methods could help reduce the environmental impact of farming. It could also lower costs, she said.

UF biology freshman Taylor Clark said she loves strawberries and often buys Strawberry Acai Starbucks Refreshers.

She said she thinks strawberries are too expensive right now.

"I think that would make me buy them more often if they’re cheaper," the 18-year-old said.

- Emily Mavrakis

Drink created to stop diarrhea, help with dehydration

UF researchers found a new way to prevent the deadly effects of diarrhea.

Sam Cheng, a professor of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine who also works at UF Health, recently created a drink to stop diarrhea and replace bodily fluids.

The drink stimulates an anti-diarrheal protein in the gut that regulates bodily fluids. The drink is different from Pedialyte, a drink found in drugstores, Cheng said. Pedialyte replaces fluid loss resulting from diarrhea, but it doesn’t stop it.

Cheng and his research team initiated the project a year ago.

The team studied the nutrients found in the drink of animals. They found that the nutrients did what they should: They regulated diarrhea, he said.

The drink has not been commercialized yet, and it is still in the research stage, he said.

"We tried a few patients in our clinic and it worked beautifully," Cheng said.

Once it becomes commercialized, the drink will help developing countries by lowering diarrhea-related death rates, he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,000 children die from diarrhea every day.

"The beauty is the solution can be used to stop any form of diarrhea," Cheng said.

- Christena Carollo