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How Fevers Help Our Immune System Hunt Down Infections

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(Credit: Aleksandra Suzi/Shutterstock)

It’s an ironic fact of life that the symptoms of a cold or fever are actually our bodies’ attempts at a cure. Runny noses, high temperatures and vomiting are all strategies aimed at forcing dangerous microbes from our bodies so we can feel better again. But, how the elevated temperatures that so often accompany an infection help us recuperate has been something of a mystery.

“In spite of the fact that they are important to us, there remains very little understanding of what it is that fevers do to improve survival,” said JianFeng Chen, a cell biologist at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in China.“Understanding this could be important for people to fight against infections, allergy, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer.”

Now, Chen and colleagues have figured out how fevers unleash the immune system to fight off infections. The team’s work could mean new treatments that not only combat infection but also curb inflammation during allergic reactions.

Febrile Fighter

Fevers raise body temps anywhere from 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Fever’s protective effects may be in part because ratcheting temps up is sometimes more uncomfortable for pathogens than it is for us. Poliovirus’ ability to multiply plummets in the face of a fever’s heat, for example. But some research has suggested the scorching conditions might also flush out infections by setting immune cells in action. Chen and colleagues wanted to find out how.

Heat Shocked

The researchers isolated immune cells from mice and then put them in incubators set to a normal body temperature (about 98.6 degrees F) or a feverish temp of 104 degrees F. They found the immune cells that grew in the febrile environment produced a suite of molecules called heat shock proteins. One of these proteins, known as Hsp90, quickly set in motion a cascade of events that eventually directed the immune cells to the infection, Chen and team report today in the journal Immunity.

“During infection, this mechanism can enhance the [movement of immune] cells to… sites of infection and facilitate the clearance of pathogens,” Chen said.

“This pathway is critical for animal survival during infection,” he added. Indeed, disrupting the pathway with a mutation in Hsp90 impaired the ability of mice infected with Salmonella to fight off the infection, the researchers found.

The discovery suggests that therapies to raise Hsp levels could help fight infections, while lowering them could help those with allergies or autoimmune diseases by slowing down inflammation, Chen said.

It also points to some new advice for people with a fever.

“People should avoid using fever-reducing drugs immediately once they have a fever,” Chen added. Instead he recommends taking a fever-reducing drug only after several hours with a high temperature. That way Hsp90 has had a chance to mobilize the immune system to clear the infection.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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