Flu season is once again here and many South Africans will be turning to their trusted dose of antibiotics to resolve the outbreak as effectively as possible. Despite this ongoing routine, South Africa is facing a huge problem.
A study led by Julia Gasson of the Western Cape Department of Health has revealed that local clinics are ignoring the guidelines on prescribing those antibiotics, and formal procedures are followed only 45% of the time.
Another global study, by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), Princeton University, ETH Zurich and the University of Antwerp, analysed human antibiotic consumption in 76 countries and found it has increased worldwide from 11.3 to 15.7 defined daily doses (DDDs) per 1,000 inhabitants per day between 2000 and 2015.
The results of these actions are far-reaching. Antibiotics have begun to lose their effectiveness and we are developing a resistance to them. And the problem is more complicated than we had first thought. In one case, it was found that antibiotic resistant patients with infections such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumonia had contracted a specific gene that had its origins on Chinese pig farms.
A crucial step in combatting antibiotic resistance lies in technological evolution
As a solution, scientists are now looking towards the field of bacterial genomics to tackle the global issue of antibiotic resistance. Genomics refers to the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of our genes. This process can provide clarity around resistance mechanisms and even the evolution of various strains of disease. Today the process of genomics has also become highly automated, which has been greatly accelerated through a combination of parallel processing and the advancement in data management processes.
Due these advancements, we are now entering a world of personalised medicine, whereby individual patients can be sequenced and comparative genomic analysis can provide vital information around the progression of resistant strains of disease. Within this context, technology plays a pivotal role in allowing bioinformaticians to work with and transfer data to clinicians in an efficient and timely manner.
NetApp is assisting to achieve this through our ONTAP Cloud storage software, which allows for the protection of genomic data whilst adding the flexibility to simplify the use of public cloud. We are currently seeing this process in action through our work with PetaGene – a team which originated from Cambridge University PHDs who required a novel approach to the problem of storing data associated genomics. Additionally, we are deploying the new and improved NetApp StorageGRID which now automates tamper proof retention of critical personal data. With an increased focus on data analytics, StorageGRID customers retain and manage an unlimited amount of rich media, which is particularly useful for the field of genomics.
The key benefits of applying technology to scientific research
Unlike generic data reduction techniques, there are a few key benefits of applying the process of data management to the pursuit of tackling antibiotic resistance:
o Increased collaborative efficiency, with smaller more portable files transferable over the NetApp data fabric
o Use less storage capacity and lower costs
o Leverage the flexibility of the cloud. With the NetApp data fabric, files can be seamlessly and securely moved to and from the cloud
o Maintain interoperability with existing workflows and formats
The field of genomics, underpinned by efficient data management, is the way forward in combatting the global issue of antibiotic resistance. This of course needs to be coupled with the necessary behavioural changes where prescription guidelines are followed to the tee. Within South Africa, a country marred by drug resistant infectious diseases ranging from HIV through to malaria, the need to simplify collaboration in genomics with improved data management has never been more crucial.
Meet the ambassador to the future
Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.
It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.
That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.
That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.
“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia.
“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.
“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”
The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.
Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.
How Tilly Lockey became a Hero
Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.
This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.
Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.
Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.
Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”
That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.
“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.
“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”
The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.
“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”
It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.
“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “
Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school
“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”
What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.
In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.
“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”
Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.