Rare clay used by B.C. aboriginals found to kill bacteria resistant to antibiotics, say UBC researchers
UBC researchers say the clay exhibits potent antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Researchers at the University of B.C. have discovered that a rare clay used as medicine by aboriginals in northern B.C. contains antibacterial properties that could be used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Some 400 kilometres north of Vancouver, on the Heiltsuk First Nation’s traditional territory, sits a 400-million kilogram deposit of glacial clay in Kisameet Bay that scientists believe was formed near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.

The grey-green clay, known as Kisolite, has been used for centuries by the Heiltsuk First Nations to treat a range of ailments, including ulcerative colitis, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation, and burns. Locals have also historically used the clay for eczema, acne and psoriasis.

Now, UBC researchers say the clay exhibits potent antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Testing conducted by UBC microbiologist Julian Davies and researcher Shekooh Behroozian found that the clay, suspended in water, killed 16 strains of ESKAPE bacteria samples from sources including Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital, and the University of B.C.’s waste water treatment plant.

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this time lapse photography was shot by louis schwartzberg as past of a potentially largely documentary, “fantastic fungi”, which documents the work of mycologist paul stamets and the earth saving value of mushrooms. as paul explains in his ted talk

“mycelium infuses all landscapes, it holds soils together. it’s extremely tenacious. it holds up to 30,000 times its mass. we have now discovered that there is a multi directional transfer of nutrients between plants, mitigated by the mycelium. in a single cubic inch of soil, there can be more than eight miles of these cells. the mycelium, in the right conditions, produces a mushroom that bursts through with such ferocity it can break asphalt.

“we’re more closely related to fungi than we are to any other kingdom. we share in common the same pathogens. fungi don’t like to rot from bacteria, and so our best antibiotics come from fungi. we exhale carbon dioxide, so does mycelium. it inhales oxygen, just like we do. but these are essentially externalized stomachs and lungs. and i present to you a concept that these are extended neurological membranes.

“fungi were the first organisms to come to land. they came to land 1.3 billion years ago, and plants followed several hundred million years later. the mycelium produced oxalic acids, pockmarking rock and grabbing calcium and other minerals and forming calcium oxalates. this makes the rocks crumble, and is the first step in the generation of soil.

“now, we’ve had several extinction events, and 65 million years ago we had an asteroid impact, and a huge amount of debris was jettisoned into the atmosphere. sunlight was cut off, and fungi inherited the earth. those organisms that paired with fungi were rewarded, because fungi do not need light. fungi use radiation as a source of energy, much like plants use light. so, the prospect of fungi existing on other planets elsewhere, i think, is a forgone conclusion.”
Clay used by B.C. indigenous peoples found to kill drug-resistant bacteria | Metro News
UBC study finds that ancient clay long used by the Heiltsuk First Nation holds promise in treating antibiotic-resistant infections.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered rare mineral clay long used for its therapeutic properties by aboriginals in this province could hold promise in treating antibiotic-resistant infections.

For centuries, B.C.’s Heiltsuk First Nation have used clay found in their traditional territory of Kisameet Bay, some 400 kilometres north of Vancouver, to treat a range of ailments, including burns, skin infections, arthritis and ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

Now, UBC researchers have found the greyish-green mud, called Kisolite, shows potent antibacterial qualities against multidrug-resistant pathogens, called “ESKAPE” bacteria for their ability to escape the effects of antibiotics.
First Nations’ ancient medicinal clay shows promise against today’s worst bacterial infections
Naturally occurring clay from Kisameet Bay, B.C. — long used by the Heiltsuk First Nation for its healing potential — exhibits potent antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant pathogens. E…

Naturally occurring clay from Kisameet Bay, B.C. — long used by the Heiltsuk First Nation for its healing potential — exhibits potent antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant pathogens, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

The researchers recommend the rare mineral clay be studied as a clinical treatment for serious infections caused by ESKAPE strains of bacteria.

The so-called ESKAPE pathogens — Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae,Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species — cause the majority of U.S. hospital infections and effectively ‘escape’ the effects of antibacterial drugs.

“Infections caused by ESKAPE bacteria are essentially untreatable and contribute to increasing mortality in hospitals,” said UBC microbiologist Julian Davies, co-author of the paper published today in the American Society for Microbiology’s mBio journal.

“After 50 years of over-using and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinals and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multidrug-resistant pathogens.”

The clay deposit is situated on Heiltsuk First Nation’s traditional territory, 400 kilometres north of Vancouver, Canada, in a shallow five-acre granite basin. The 400-million kilogram (400,000 tonne) deposit was formed near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.

Local First Nations people have used the clay for centuries for its therapeutic properties—anecdotal reports cite its effectiveness for ulcerative colitis, duodenal ulcer, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation, and burns.

“We’re fortunate to be able to partner with UBC on this significant research program” said Lawrence Lund, president of Kisameet Glacial Clay, a business formed to market cosmetic and medicinal products derived from the clay. “We hope it will lead to the development of a novel and safe antimicrobial that can be added to the diminished arsenal for the fight against the ESKAPE pathogens and other infection-related health issues plaguing the planet.”

In the in vitro testing conducted by Davies and UBC researcher Shekooh Behroozian, clay suspended in water killed 16 strains of ESKAPE bacteria samples from sources including Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital, and the University of British Columbia’s wastewater treatment pilot plant.

No toxic side effects have been reported in the human use of the clay, and the next stage in clinical evaluation would involve detailed clinical studies and toxicity testing. Loretta Li, with UBC’s Department of Civil Engineering, is conducting mineralogical and chemical analyses of the clay as well. MITACS, Kisameet Glacial Clay Inc. and the Tally Fund supported the work.

Kisameet Bay, British Columbia.

Shovel of clay from Kisameet Bay, British Columbia.

Zika Virus: The Making of an Epidemic

“Much like other generally non-lethal viruses spreading across the world, such as Chikungunya and West Nile Virus, this particular pathogen hasn’t gained significant attention in the public health realm.”

Now that we know about the possible secondary effects of Zika virus on the fetus, the public health spotlight is squarely on this pathogen. Unfortunately, due to a general lack of research, few questions have concrete answers. Instead, speculation and theory are dominating the discussion while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others do their best to quell fears using whatever knowledge they have. All told, this is the perfect recipe for an epidemic.

Read more.

Infographic: Lars Karklis/The Washington Post

Proposed changes to Animal Welfare Act concerning marine mammals (US)

Summary: Proposed changes would effect regulations regarding indoor facilities, outdoor facilities, space requirements and water quality in addition to revising regulations relating to swim-with-the-dolphin programs.

I’ve picked out some points of interest (ones which I understand beneath the legal jargon)

- APHIS claims that there is not enough information about appropriate temperature ranges for each marine mammal species, therefore the health and behaviour of marine mammal species will continue to be used to assess the adequacy of pool/enclosure temperatures.

Indoor Facilities

-within indoor facilities ventilation would have to prevent (rather than minimize) the accumulation of chlorine fumes,odors,ozone and ammonia fumes at levels which would be harmful/irritating to a person of average sensitivity.Ventilation would have to maintain humidity at a level which minimizes pathogen contamination from condensation.

- artificial lighting must provide the full spectrum of light, lights must be sufficient enough in order for employees to observe animal behaviour/health.

- facilities must provide at least 6 hours of uninterupted darkness in each 24 hour period and when possible should mimic lighting conditions found in the natural environment.

Outdoor Facilities

- air and water temperature ranges of outdoor species should be in accordance with currently accepted husbandry practices for the species housed.

- shade must be accessible and cover a sufficient area to afford all animals within their enclosure protection from direct sunlight (shade structures may be permanent or temporary) while not limiting their ability to move/be too close to another animal.

- feeding and training must be performed so animals are not made to look directly into the sun

Space Requirements

- with regard to space - only areas that meet or exceed the minimum depth requirement could be used in determining whether the other parameters of MHD (minimum horizontal direction), volume and surface area meet the space requirements.

-APHIS would be authorized to determine if partial obstructions of a horizontal dimension compromise the intent of the regulations and/or restrict the freedom of movement of the animals in the enclosure.

Water Quality 

- in addition to coliform testing, another test for fecal contamination of water must be used on a weekly basis. Additional testing for suspect pathogenic organisms when there is evidence of health problems in the animals.

- any chemicals added to the pool must not cause harm to discomfort to the animals during the introduction or presence in the enclosure.

- all water quality records will have to be kept on site.

-pool water must be clear enough so animals health and behavior can be clearly monitored.


- removal of buffer area in swim-with-programs, as long as access to the sanctuary area is unrestricted. 

- interaction between marine mammals and the public shall not exceed 3 hours a day (increased from 2 hours per day). 

- minimum of 1 attendant per marine mammal, and one to monitor interactions. Additionally the number of participants per marine mammal shall not exceed the number the attendant can “monitor safely”.

To comment on the above changes and view the primary documents click below:!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2006-0085

Full document here x
In Ancient DNA, Evidence of Plague Much Earlier Than Previously Known
A new study suggests that Yersinia pestis, which causes plague, infected people as long as 5,000 years ago.
By Carl Zimmer

In important reminder that the past is much more than what human DNA can tell us!

Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues are now looking for more clues to how the plague affected the Bronze Age world — as well as other pathogens that may have left behind genetic traces. He is now grateful that he and his colleagues didn’t simply throw out all their nonhuman DNA.

“It was just annoying waste lying there that we had to bully our way through,” said Dr. Willerslev. “Now it’s not waste anymore. It’s a potential gold mine.”


Attention citizens of Tokyo. To prevent the spread of an unknown pathogen, a state of emergency has been declared in accordance with Chapter VIII of the Disaster Countermeasures Act of 1961. Compliance is mandatory.

… Compliance is deadly…

Stay in your homes. All passages in and out of Kaidan is forbidden. Any attempt to leave by sea or land will be met with deadly force.

… (laughing)…

If you are infected, you are instructed to present yourself to one of the guard towers located on the Wall for processing. If a family member is infected, isolate them and dial 119 to alert the authorities. Congregating in piblic is strictly forbidden. Crowding together will hasten the spread of the pathogen. Remain isolated. Undesirables have been spotted at the following locations: Susanoo’s Diner, The Bathhouse, Korinto Pachinko Parlour and Ginpachi Park. Do not approach these locations.

… They know too much…

Remain calm. The government is working to bring this situation to a swift resolution. Compliance is mandatory.

#TBT: Researchers have found, within the stomach of a prehistoric and well-preserved ice mummy (Oetzi the Iceman, to be exact), remains of his once-thriving gut bacteria! This means that the human microbiome has existed for millenia

Although Oetzi’s been in the hands of scientists since 1991, researchers have only just now ventured into his stomach (largely because it was so shriveled they’ve had some trouble getting to it!), finding that it is “full of material.” In particular, they found what was presumably his last supper (meat from a deer and an alpine mountain goat), as well as DNA from a type of bacteria that lived in his gut - Helicobacter pylori

According to a physician and microbiologist not related to the study, “Today, H. pylori can be found in about half of the world’s population. In people who have it, it’s the dominant organism in their stomach.” 

While H. pylori has been known as a harmful pathogen, causing ulcers and stomach cancers, it also provides some benefits, such as protecting against acid reflux and asthma. The bacterium is probably most beneficial to scientists, who use “its evolution to map the paths of ancient populations as they moved across the globe.”

Read up on Oetzi (an interesting guy, really - he suffered from parasitic worms, Lyme disease, tooth decay, and joint problems, among other ailments, he has at least 19 living relatives somewhere in Austria, and he had 60-plus tattoos) and his gut bacteria at NPR or The Atlantic