Monthly Archives: September 2019

Sep 30

Day to ride Hawaii confidence wave

Jason Day is confident he can use the momentum from his record equalling round in Maui to break through in Honolulu.

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Fresh off a blistering career best round of 62 at Kapalua, which saw the Queenslander jet from eight shots back to just one out of a playoff and a tie for third at the Tournament of Champions, Day is champing at the bit to hit Waialae Country Club.

In just his fourth trip to Waialae, and first since 2011, the world No.8 is hopeful he can live up to his billing as the highest-ranked player in the first full field event of 2015.

“Before last week I was feeling confident and my form was good but the final round in Maui really helped to cement in my mind that all the hard work we are doing is getting us in a good place,” Day said.

“The putts weren’t going in the first few days but it all came together and I know if I stay focussed over the four days here in Honolulu then I can hopefully be contending on Sunday afternoon.”

The 27-year-old admitted to being in a bit of a daze as he reeled off 11 birdies in 14 holes in the final round at Kapalua, but was also mindful it is the zone he has been working towards.

While friends and family spent some time in the pool between the third and fourth rounds last week Day took time out to train his mental state and find his groove, a move that ultimately paid off.

“I was just stressing a bit. I was just thinking about my putts and asking myself why am I not holing putts because I was hitting it well,” Day explained.

“But I took some time out, cleared my mind of any negative thoughts and just resolved to trust my stroke in the final round. Thankfully it seemed to work.”

Geoff Ogilvy, John Senden, Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch have all followed Day from Maui to Oahu for the event while Marc Leishman, Robert Allenby, Cameron Percy and Stuart Appleby are also in the field this week.

Leishman returns after finishing ninth two years back and fifth last year with the Victorian hopeful of continuing his upward trend.

Only an average third round stood in his way in 2014 where he dropped from one shot off the pace to four back and then couldn’t make up the ground on Sunday.

“I’m feeling good after a great break back home in Australia and it’s great to come somewhere I’ve played well,” he said.

There is no reason why I can’t continue the form from the last few years, the course is one that suits me.”

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Sep 30

We need new antibiotics to beat superbugs, but why are they so hard to find?

By Matthew Cooper, The University of Queensland

We’ve heard a lot lately about superbugs – bacteria that are resistant to current antibiotics.

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But as the threat of superbugs continues to rise, the number of new treatments available has flatlined. This has placed us dangerously close to the edge of a return to the pre-antibiotic era, when even simple infections caused death.

We’ve developed antibiotics in the past, so why it is now so difficult to discover and develop new antibiotics? To find out, let’s look back to the “golden age” of antibiotic discovery from the 1940 to 1970s.

How we found antibiotics in the past

The majority of antibiotics we use at home or in hospitals today have their origins in natural products.

The penicillins, cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, rifamycins, tetracyclines and glycopeptide-based antibiotics all came from bacteria or fungi. They were made by nature in response to selective evolutionary pressure over eons of “chemical warfare”, in which microorganisms battled to survive by killing off their competitors with antibiotics.

 

In the past, the toolkit to develop new antibiotics was simple. Matej Kastelic/Flickr

Of course, they also co-evolved resistance mechanisms to avoid being killed by their own compounds, so antibiotic resistance is equally ancient. Scientists have found antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria isolated from 30,000-year-old permafrost, long before antibiotics were discovered and used by humans.

Most antibiotics found during the “golden age” were from micro-organisms themselves, isolated from soil or plants and then cultured in the laboratory. They were easily screened on agar culture plates or liquid culture broths to see if they could kill pathogenic bugs.

The toolkit required was pretty simple: some dirt, a culture flask to grow the antibiotic-producing bacteria or fungi, a column to separate and isolate the potential new antibiotic, and a culture plate and incubator to test if the compound could kill a disease-causing pathogenic bacteria.

Chemists were then able to “tweak” these new structures to extend their activity against different bacteria and improve their ability to treat infection in the clinic. Most of the antibiotics we have are derived from just one soil-dwelling bacterial order – the Actinomycetales.

 

Most antibiotics we use were derived from soil-dwelling bacteria. whitaker/Shutterstock

The problem is that by using this tried and trusted method over and over again, we have found all of the low-hanging fruit antibiotics. So scientists have been forced to look further afield, turning to coral reefs, deep oceans and cave-dwelling bacteria to search for new promising molecules.

Key challenges

Philosopher Sun Tzu said “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”. We are now in a protracted war against superbugs, as we have overplayed a key weapon against disease. Our unfortunate misuse and abuse of antibiotics means that bacteria have developed new ways to inactivate the drugs, to stop them getting to their targets within the bacteria cells, and to pump them back out of the cell when they do get in.

The cost and time required to bring new drugs to market are staggering. Estimates for the time to bring a new antibiotic through the preclinical, clinical and regulatory approval process are in the order of 13 to 15 years and around US$1.2 billion. If the costs of failures are factored in, it is closer to US$2.5 billion.

Because we expect to pay $20 or at most $200 for a course of antibiotics (compared to more than $20,000 for many cancer treatments), and because we only take antibiotics for a week or two, almost all of the companies that were active in antibiotic discovery have left the field over the last 20 years.

What are scientists doing?

It’s not all doom and gloom. Scientists have developed many innovative approaches to the search for new antibiotics, such as one recently reported in Nature, in which bacteria from soil are sealed into 10,000 separate miniature culture cells in a chip device, then buried in the soil they came from again to grow in their natural environment. The chip device is then dug up, and each cell screened for compounds that can kill pathogenic bacteria.

 

Developing new antibiotics is a long and expensive process. Jenni Konrad/Flickr, CC BY-NC

This type of approach led to the discovery of one of the very few new candidate antibiotics in the last 30 years, teixobactin.

This type of innovation illustrates an important maxim: with good people, the right motivation, perseverance, and sufficient funding we can start to fix some of problems we face in this area.

What are governments doing?

Fortunately, governments around the world have started to respond.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis have been consistent vocal supporters of a cross-government strategy and action plan against superbugs. In fact, Dame Davies recognised that the threat from infections resistant to frontline antibiotics was so serious that she called for the issue to be added to the UK government’s national risk register of civil emergencies, alongside pandemic influenza and terrorism.

The European Union has stepped up with the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), Europe’s largest public-private initiative aiming to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients. They have pledged more than €680 million (A$985 million) to fund drug-discovery platforms for antibiotics; new treatments for cystic fibrosis; hospital-acquired pneumonia and urinary tract infections; understanding how drugs get into, and then stay inside bacteria; and new ways of designing and implementing efficient clinical trials for novel antibiotics.

 

Scientists have been forced to look to coral reefs, deep oceans and cave-dwelling bacteria to search for promising new molecules. ©UCAR/Flickr, CC BY-NC

In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invest more than US$5 billion (17% of total funds) into infectious diseases research, making it second only to cancer research at US$5.4 billion (18%). In a further show of support, US President Barack Obama also announced an Executive Order commanding a dozen government agencies to action a comprehensive action plan against superbugs.

So how are we doing in Australia? Infectious disease research for new antibiotics and diagnostic methods to identify superbugs is not yet an Australian national health priority area. In 2014, the Australian government, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, invested A$13.4 million into antibiotic development and resistance research, less than half of which was directed to discovery of new compounds. This equates to around 2% of the 2014 research budget.

We need better stewardship of existing antibiotics, better diagnostic methods and new antibiotics that we can take better care of this time around.

Unfortunately, we are dragging our feet in dealing with the superbug threat. This year, after more than 20 years of reviews and white papers, the Australian ministers for health and agriculture will be presented with comprehensive recommendations from leading clinicians, health-care workers, scientists, and policymakers about how we can work together to finally overcome the challenges of combating bacterial infections.

Yes, we’ve heard a lot lately about superbugs.

Now it’s time to act.

Matthew Cooper receives funding from the NHMRC for antibiotic research. He is on the scientific advisory board of Adenium Biotech, Denmark.

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Sep 30

AFC president backs referees despite criticism

The Bahraini, accompanied by Asian Football Confederation general secretary Alex Soosay, met with officials in Sydney on Tuesday, a day after Japan’s Keisuke Honda slammed the performance of the Qatari referee in their 4-0 win over Palestine.

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“Shaikh Salman relayed his trust in the referees’ ability and his hope that they would continue their positive contributions to the tournament, something which would greatly help further enhance the reputation of referees in Asia,” the AFC posted in a release.

Honda had described Abdulrahman Hussain style of officiating as “basketball like” after what he felt was another substandard performance by Asian referees at the show piece.

Hussain dished out five yellow and one red card to the Palestinians, who produced some rough and tumble tackles in Newcastle with Ismail Al Amour fortunate not to also be sent off after a studs in the chest challenge.

“I don’t want to complain but they have to change something about the level of referees,” Honda was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

“During the game I don’t want to say that because I don’t want to waste my energy but it was like basketball, right? If we touched their bodies it was a foul.”

Honda’s compatriot Ryuji Sato also had a poor game officiating Australia’s 4-0 win over Oman on Tuesday.

The Japanese referee only booked Ahmed Mubarak for a dangerous two-footed lunge on Tim Cahill in the first half, while he questionably pulled back play for a penalty to the hosts despite Mark Milligan already putting the ball in the net.

Iran boss Carlos Queiroz also voiced his complaints that Australian official Ben Williams, the 2013 AFC referee of the year, allowed too many strong tackles in the 2-0 win over Bahrain.

“I was not happy because after nine, 10, 12 fouls, stopping the game systematically. The referee must take action,” the former Portugal and Real Madrid boss said.

“For a referee so quick to show a yellow card when one of my players didn’t hear the whistle, I was completely surprised that, when he sees Bahrain’s negative game, after 10 fouls in a row, he didn’t give them a single yellow.”

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston; Editing by John O’Brien)

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Sep 30

Chiefs assistant Coventry packing for London

The former Waikato loose forward will replace Australian Brian Smith, who left the club this week.

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“I have a job to do with the Chiefs this season and will concentrate on the next phase of my career with London Irish at the end of the Super Rugby season,” Coventry said in a statement on Wednesday.

“I have enjoyed my time with the Chiefs and will continue to do so until it is time to go, but I think to stay fresh as a coach it is important to immerse yourself in new environments, new challenges and experiences which is what I am going to do.”

One of Coventry’s first recruits is expected to be All Blacks prop Ben Franks, with New Zealand media reporting earlier this week the 41-test veteran will leave to link up with the club after this year’s World Cup in England.

Franks’ 30-year-old’s All Blacks team mate Jeremy Thrush has confirmed he will leave New Zealand rugby after the global tournament, having signed a contract with Gloucester.

The lock, who will be 30 in April, was a late bloomer to international rugby and only made his test debut in 2013. He has played 11 tests for the team since and was man of the match in their narrow win over Scotland last November.

“Signing a player of Jeremy’s ability further highlights Gloucester’s ambition to compete with the best clubs in Europe,” Gloucester coach David Humphreys said in a statement.

“He has been a standout performer in Super Rugby … and the experience he has gained being part of a successful All Blacks squad will be a key element in establishing Gloucester as one of the dominant forward packs in England.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Sep 30

No excuses for slow NRL start: Cowboys

Another controversial NRL finals exit would cause a riot in Townsville, North Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper joked.

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But the Maroons hopeful was deadly serious when he claimed there would be no excuses if the Cowboys did not start their 20th anniversary season with a bang.

A third straight finals campaign ended in 2014 with North Queensland again on the wrong end of an officials’ call.

However, it did not stop Cooper finishing an injury-hit season on a high with a call-up to the extended Kangaroos’ Four Nations squad.

And the honours look set to continue in 2015.

Cooper, 29, is on track to fill a Queensland backrow vacancy created by Ben Te’o (rugby) after a debut appearance in Wayne Bennett’s Emerging Maroons squad last weekend.

But the late bloomer’s sole focus was helping North Queensland hit the ground running in 2015.

He said the stage was set to give long-suffering Cowboys fans something to smile about early after co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott (both shoulder) skipped the Four Nations and with coach Paul Green well established.

“We always seem to start a season slowly,” Cooper told AAP.

“Last year we might have had some excuses with the World Cup being on and didn’t have anyone there for pre-season training or having a new coach learning his new systems.

“But we have no excuses this year.

“JT (Thurston) and Matt Scott stayed home from the Four Nations and everyone knows how Greeny wants the Cowboys to play.

“We always finish well but there are no excuses to start slowly this year.”

The “no excuses” approach has also been applied to yet another finals campaign that ended after an official’s call that had the Cowboys fans up in arms.

Fighting back from 30-0 down, Thurston looked to have crossed for the matchwinner in their NRL semi-final against Sydney Roosters only to be disallowed for a touch-and-go knock on in the lead-up.

“We have shrugged it off but there would be a big riot if it happened again,” Cooper laughed.

“It is something we won’t drag into next year.

“We have to try and take the refs out of the game.”

Cooper is also not trying to dwell on his Emerging Maroons call-up despite Te’o’s departure and Queensland backrower Chris McQueen under pressure.

“It’s a little pat on the back knowing you are in the back of their minds,” he said.

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