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Richmond fit and ready to fire: Hardwick

Every AFL side can claim to be in form at this stage of the year.

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But few coaches would be as excited about their charges’ fitness as Damien Hardwick.

Richmond stormed into finals last year with nine consecutive wins, however it was preceded by a woeful start to the season.

Ivan Maric, Brett Deledio and Alex Rance – three of the club’s most important players – were all sidelined for much of that stretch.

This time around, Nathan Foley has undergone foot surgery but Hardwick otherwise expects all of his senior players to have a pre-season game under their belt before the serious stuff starts on April 2.

“I think so,” Hardwick said, when asked if the Tigers would be better equipped for round one compared to 2014.

“We’ve pretty much got all our players up and going.

“We only had five guys have operations (after the 2014 season), compared to 15 or 16 the year before.”

One of those to benefit from a full block of pre-season training is spearhead Jack Riewoldt.

“It’s the first time he hasn’t had any form of operation over the course of summer,” Hardwick said.

“He’s in as good a physical nick as I’ve seen him.

“He’s going to have an outstanding year, he’s moving freely and destroying our defenders at the moment.

“His body shape has significantly improved. We’re really excited.”

Riewoldt and Deledio will be among a handful of stars playing their first game of 2015 on the weekend, when the Tigers face Port Adelaide at the Lavington Sports Ground.

Deledio (achilles) and captain Trent Cotchin (hamstring) have both been restricted at training, but Hardwick was confident both would be ready to face Carlton in round one of the season proper.

“If we wanted to push the envelope and it was the regular season, he (Cotchin) could possibly play this week,” he said.

“We’ll make sure he plays some minutes (before round one).

“He (Deledio) will always be a management issue. He’ll only train once or twice a week at various stages, but he’s ready to go.”

The Tigers have already signed up more than 64,000 members, with Hardwick hoping his side will live up to lofty expectations.

“We’re capable of beating any side on our day,” Hardwick said.

“But I think 17 other sides can say the same thing. The competition is incredibly even.”

Suns learning AFL rise isn’t smooth

Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade says his young group is quickly learning going from AFL finals pretenders to contenders isn’t as smooth as they may have thought.

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The Suns had their first real crack at making the finals in 2014 before a second-half of the season fadeout ended in a 12th place finish.

That finish was still the best in the club’s four-season history but Eade says it shows cracking the top eight will be a lot tougher than rising through the bottom-half of the ladder.

“It’s like the tennis rankings. It’s easier to go from 150 to 50 than it is from 20 to 10 and from 10 to 5,” Eade told AAP.

“It’s just tougher once you get to the pointy end.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. People don’t realise it’s just not a natural evolution that the next step is we’ll just make finals.

“We’re a bit behind in quite a few areas and we need to nail them down before we take a step forward.”

Despite the admission the club still has work to do, Eade says an inaugural finals appearance has to be the goal in 2015.

Suns’ president John Witheriff’s 2012 claim that the club would win the premiership by the end of 2015 may seem far-fetched but Eade has no problem with aiming high.

“The expectations from within, from us, and the aims, are to make finals,” he said.

“14-16 teams are going to have the same. That’s the way it should be.

“There’s eight teams who made the finals last year who are not going to let it slip easy and there’s probably another six who didn’t make it, including us, who want to get there.

“If you don’t aim there you’re never going to get it.”

How antibiotic pollution of waterways creates superbugs

By Michael Gillings

Humans pollute the world with many chemicals and some of these affect living things, even at very low concentrations.

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Endocrine-disrupting compounds, which interfere with hormones, are a good example, but recently more concern has been raised about pollution with antibiotics.

The problem is that up to 80% of an antibiotic dose passes straight through the body. So most of the antibiotics used in medical treatment or during animal production may end up in waste water. And waste treatment plants generally don’t remove antibiotics very well.

Antibiotic pollution also comes from spreading manure on crop land, or using sewage as fertiliser. Waste water released from hospitals and antibiotic production plants is another major source.

We would like to know how much antibiotic pollution there is, but the diversity of antibiotic compounds makes it difficult to measure all of them at once. It’s also hard to estimate the amount of antibiotics used globally each year. But most researchers agree that total agricultural and medical use exceeds 250,000 tonnes per year.

How much pollution?

Using this number, we can make a very rough calculation about the extent of antibiotic pollution. If, say, 50% of an antibiotic dose is subsequently excreted, then 125,000 tonnes of antibiotics are released into the environment each year. This of course does not count release from pharmaceutical plants, which are very significant. Antibiotics are then likely to find their way into rivers, lakes and dams.

 

Antibiotic-resistant Golden Staph (Staphylococcus aureus) cells against a dead human white blood cell (false colour image). NIAID/Flickr, CC BY-SA

 

In total, such freshwater sources contain 90,000 cubic kilometres of liquid water. This makes 12.5 x 1016 micrograms of antibiotic released into 9 x 1016 litres of freshwater each year. This results in a final concentration of about 1.4 micrograms per litre. This back-of-the-envelope calculation agrees surprisingly well with a growing number of reports on concentrations of particular antibiotics in waterways.

Of course, concentrations vary depending on how close you are to sources of antibiotic pollution. On the low end, Lake Baikal in Russia contains about one fifth of the world’s freshwater, but has little or no input of antibiotics.

At the other extreme, waste waters downstream from antibiotic production plants may contain antibiotics at levels hundreds of times higher than those found in the bloodstreams of people on antibiotic therapy.

Pollution and resistance

The consequences of this pollution are potentially very serious. Where the concentration of antibiotics is enough to inhibit bacterial growth, it’s almost certain to result in the appearance of antibiotic-resistant strains.

This happens because microorganisms in the environment collectively carry and share enormous numbers of genes for resistance, virulence and other general nastiness. These genes can hop from one bacterial species to another, and the presence of antibiotics favours cells that have acquired these genes for resistance.

 

Lake Baikal in Russia contains about one fifth of the world’s freshwater, but has little or no input of antibiotics. neverbutterfly/Flickr, CC BY

 

This allows existing pathogens to gain new forms of resistance, making them “super bugs” that are immune to all current antibiotics. Also, previously benign bacteria can acquire genes that transform them into emerging pathogens.

Even very low antibiotic concentrations have significant biological and evolutionary effects. Low, “sub-clinical” concentrations of antibiotics fall well below the concentrations used in antibiotic therapy. These concentrations do not kill bacteria. But they do induce bacteria to increase their rates of mutation, DNA recombination, and the rate at which genes hop from cell to cell.

Each of these changes at the DNA level can give advantages to bacteria, such as survival in the presence of heavy metals, disinfectants or antibiotics. So antibiotic pollution makes it vastly more likely that bacteria will become resistant or colonise new hosts, including humans.

Both the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control have identified antibiotic resistance as a high priority for research. We can help prevent resistance by using antibiotics wisely, by not dumping unused antibiotics in drains or toilets, and by improving water treatment.

We can also call for restrictions on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal production, which actually accounts for the majority of antibiotic use worldwide. Australia has stringent regulations on the use of antibiotics in farm animals, but this cannot be said of elsewhere in the world. And in the modern age of rapid transport, a superbug in the United States, China or India will inevitably make its way to Australian shores.

Resistance is everyone’s problem.

Michael Gillings receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Homeopathy doesn’t work: study

It has divided doctors for decades while those who use it claims it works wonders.

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 Now a major Australian study has delivered a definitive verdict on homeopathy.

It found it’s no more effective than placebos when it comes to treating common medical conditions. But supporters of the practice claim the review didn’t examine all the evidence.

After reviewing 1800 studies on the health effects of homeopathy, National Health and Medical Research Council scientists say there is no reliable evidence to back its effectiveness.

“There is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy works better than a placebo,” the NHMRC report said.

The report said homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are serious or could become serious.

Homeopathy is based on the idea that the body’s own healing response to disease can be stimulated by using specially prepared, highly diluted substances.

A World Health Organisation review in 2009 estimated Australians spend $US7.3 million ($A9.58 million) a year on homeopathic medicines.

Paul Glasziou, chair of the NHMRC homeopathy working committee, said health funds should not offer rebates for homoeopathic therapies.

“In the current financial constraints, I would think that health insurers … should be looking at what is effective versus ineffective treatments,” says Prof Glasziou.

“Things that haven’t been shown to be effective, I wouldn’t want to see those funded either public or privately.”

Only 225 of the 1800 studies met the criteria to be included in the NHMRC’s examination of homeopathy.

Studies were only included if they compared a group of people who were given homeopathic treatment with a similar group who did not receive treatment.

The Australian Homeopathic Association said it was in the process of preparing a formal response to the NHMRC report.

Tauqir challenges bowlers to get it right against S.Africa

Tauqir had said prior to the Pool B game that he did not expect South Africa to post a score in excess of 400 at Wellington Regional Stadium, as they had done against West Indies and Ireland in earlier matches.

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South Africa, one of the pre-tournament favourites, have still not qualified for the knockout stages after an inconsistent tournament.

The matches where they posted in excess off 400 runs have been book-ended by losses to India and Pakistan and questions have been asked whether the side had truly shaken off the tag of World Cup chokers.

De Villiers, however, said while the game was ‘must win’, it was also obvious he wanted the team to use it as a tune up for the quarter-finals, and they went in with a strong line-up despite the temptation to test their depth.

“It’s a very important game,” he said. “It’s not a maybe we’ll win it kind of game. It’s a must-win for us, very important.

“A couple of guys need to get into form. I’d like to see a few players score some runs.

“It’s good exercise for everyone to go out there, to have a nice bowl, maybe for one or two of the part-timers to get an extra bowl.

“We might need it in the knockout stages.”

South Africa – Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, AB de Villiers (captain), David Miller, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir

UAE – Amjad Ali, Andri Berenger, Khurram Khan, Shaiman Anwar, Swapnil Patel, Saqlain Haider, Amjad Javed, Mohammad Naveed, Mohammad Tauqir (captain), Fahad Alhashmi, Kamran Shazad

(This version of the story filed to correct the UAE team)

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)