University of Stirling
  • Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom
Recent publications
Globally, there has been a significant rise in cholera cases and deaths, with an increase in the number of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) reporting outbreaks. In parallel, plastic pollution in LMICs is increasing, and has become a major constituent of urban dump sites. The surfaces of environmental plastic pollution can provide a habitat for complex microbial biofilm communities; this so-called 'plastisphere' can also include human pathogens. Under conditions simulating a peri-urban environmental waste pile, we determine whether toxigenic V. cholerae (O1 classical; O1 El Tor; O139) can colonise and persist on plastic following a simulated flooding event. Toxigenic V. cholerae colonized and persisted on plastic and organic waste for at least 14 days before subsequent transfer to either fresh or brackish floodwater, where they can further persist at concentrations sufficient to cause human infection. Taken together, this study suggests that plastics in the environment can act as significant reservoirs for V. cholerae, whilst subsequent transfer to floodwaters demonstrates the potential for the wider dissemination of cholera. Further understanding of how diseases interact with plastic waste will be central for combating infection, educating communities, and diminishing the public health risk of plastics in the environment.
A prominent hypothesis in ecology is that larger species ranges are found in more variable climates because species develop broader environmental tolerances, predicting a positive range size-temperature variability relationship. However, this overlooks the extreme temperatures that variable climates impose on species, with upper or lower thermal limits more likely to be exceeded. Accordingly, we propose the ‘temperature range squeeze’ hypothesis, predicting a negative range size-temperature variability relationship. We test these contrasting predictions by relating 88,000 elevation range sizes of vascular plants in 44 mountains to short- and long-term temperature variation. Consistent with our hypothesis, we find that species’ range size is negatively correlated with diurnal temperature range. Accurate predictions of short-term temperature variation will become increasingly important for extinction risk assessment in the future.
Salmonid aquaculture is an important source of nutritious food with more than 2 million tonnes of fish produced each year (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 2019). In most salmon producing countries, sea lice represent a major barrier to the sustainability of salmonid aquaculture. This issue is exacerbated by widespread resistance to chemical treatments on both sides of the Atlantic. Regulation for sea lice management mostly involves reporting lice counts and treatment thresholds, which depending on interpretation may encourage preemptive treatments. We have developed a stochastic simulation model of sea lice infestation including the lice life-cycle, genetic resistance to treatment, a wildlife reservoir, salmon growth and stocking practices in the context of infestation, and coordination of treatment between farms. Farms report infestation levels to a central organisation, and may then cooperate or not when coordinated treatment is triggered. Treatment practice then impacts the level of resistance in the surrounding sea lice population. Our simulation finds that treatment drives selection for resistance and coordination between managers is key. We also find that position in the hydrologically-derived network of farms can impact individual farm infestation levels and the topology of this network can impact overall infestation and resistance. We show how coordination and triggering of treatment alongside varying hydrological topology of farm connections affects the evolution of lice resistance, and thus optimise salmon quality within socio-economic and environmental constraints. Network topology drives infestation levels in cages, treatments, and hence treatment-driven resistance. Thus farmer behaviour may be highly dependent on hydrologically position and local level of infestation.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) can be useful in guiding conservation planning because of its influence on immunity, fitness, and reproductive ecology in vertebrates. The mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is a threatened primate endemic to central Africa. Considerable research in this species has shown that the MHC is important for disease resistance, mate choice, and reproductive success. However, all previous MHC research in mandrills has focused on an inbred semi-captive population, so their genetic diversity may have been underestimated. Here we expand our current knowledge of mandrill MHC variation by performing next-generation sequencing of non-invasively collected fecal samples from a large wild horde in central Gabon. We observe MHC lineages and alleles shared with other primates, and we uncover 45 putative new class II MHC DRB alleles, including representatives of the DRB9 pseudogene, which has not previously been identified in mandrills. We also document methodological challenges associated with fecal samples in NGS-based MHC research. Even with high read depth, the replicability of alleles from fecal samples was lower than that of tissue samples, and allele assignments are inconsistent between sample types. Further, the common assumption that variants with very high read depth should represent true alleles does not appear to be reliable for fecal samples. Nevertheless, the use of degraded DNA in the present study still enabled significant progress in quantifying immunogenetic diversity and its evolution in wild primates.
The neural correlates that help us understand the challenges that Parkinson’s patients face when negotiating their environment remain under-researched. This deficit in knowledge reflects the methodological constraints of traditional neuroimaging techniques, which include the need to remain still. As a result, much of our understanding of motor disorders is still based on animal models. Daily-life challenges such as tripping and falling over obstacles represent one of the main causes of hospitalisation for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Here, we report the neural correlates of naturalistic ambulatory obstacle avoidance in Parkinson’s disease patients using mobile EEG. We examined 14 medicated patients with Parkinson’s disease and 17 neurotypical control participants. Brain activity was recorded while participants walked freely, and while they walked and adjusted their gait to step over expected obstacles (preset adjustment) or unexpected obstacles (online adjustment) displayed on the floor. EEG analysis revealed attenuated cortical activity in Parkinson’s patients compared to neurotypical participants in theta (4-7 Hz) and beta (13-35 Hz) frequency bands. The theta power increase when planning an online adjustment to step over unexpected obstacles was reduced in Parkinson’s patients compared to neurotypical participants, indicating impaired proactive cognitive control of walking that updates the online action plan when unexpected changes occur in the environment. Impaired action planning processes were further evident in Parkinson’s disease patients’ diminished beta power suppression when preparing motor adaptation to step over obstacles, regardless of the expectation manipulation, compared to when walking freely. In addition, deficits in reactive control mechanisms in Parkinson’s disease compared to neurotypical participants were evident from an attenuated beta rebound signal after crossing an obstacle. Reduced modulation in the theta frequency band in the resetting phase across conditions also suggests a deficit in the evaluation of action outcomes in Parkinson’s disease. Taken together the neural markers of cognitive control of walking observed in Parkinson’s disease reveal a pervasive deficit of motor-cognitive control, involving impairments in the proactive and reactive strategies used to avoid obstacles while walking. As such, this study identified neural markers of the motor deficits in Parkinson’s disease, and revealed patients’ difficulties in adapting movements both before and after avoiding obstacles in their path.
In the fourth industrial revolution, achieving sustainable agricultural development while feeding a growing world population and maintaining a balanced interrelationship between the economy, society, and the environment has been a significant challenge. However, COVID-19 disrupted agricultural extension and advisory systems, affecting all market participants. The complexity of the pandemic has impacted the private sector, public sector, extension staff, donor funding, education, and research systems, subsequently affecting human nutrition. This paper aims to expertly review COVID-19's effects on the sustainability of gender-specific agricultural extension service systems. Demand and supply market stakeholders in the extension system are thematically discussed. The findings reveal various consequences of COVID-19 for market actors on both the demand and supply sides of the extension system. Private-sector players often support expansion directly or indirectly, with multi-sectorial support and funding strategies existing for sustainability. In many developing nations, the comprehensive extension system was disrupted by COVID-19, impacting household incomes and nutrition. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in many developing nations, transitioning from a centralized to a decentralized and pluralistic extension model. Multi-sector coordination and execution, especially from health and other sectors, are crucial in managing complex crises that disrupt the market system.
Aims/hypothesis Impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia (IAH) in type 1 diabetes may develop through a process referred to as habituation. Consistent with this, a single bout of high intensity interval exercise as a novel stress stimulus improves counterregulatory responses (CRR) to next-day hypoglycaemia, referred to as dishabituation. This longitudinal pilot study investigated whether 4 weeks of high intensity interval training (HIIT) has sustained effects on counterregulatory and symptom responses to hypoglycaemia in adults with type 1 diabetes and IAH. Methods HIT4HYPOS was a single-centre, randomised, parallel-group study. Participants were identified using the Scottish Diabetes Research Network (SDRN) and from diabetes outpatient clinics in NHS Tayside, UK. The study took place at the Clinical Research Centre, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK. Participants were aged 18–55 years with type 1 diabetes of at least 5 years’ duration and HbA1c levels <75 mmol/mol (<9%). They had IAH confirmed by a Gold score ≥4, modified Clarke score ≥4 or Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating [DAFNE] hypoglycaemia awareness rating of 2 or 3, and/or evidence of recurrent hypoglycaemia on flash glucose monitoring. Participants were randomly allocated using a web-based system to either 4 weeks of real-time continuous glucose monitoring (RT-CGM) or RT-CGM+HIIT. Participants and investigators were not masked to group assignment. The HIIT programme was performed for 20 min on a stationary exercise bike three times a week. Hyperinsulinaemic–hypoglycaemic (2.5 mmol/l) clamp studies with assessment of symptoms, hormones and cognitive function were performed at baseline and after 4 weeks of the study intervention. The predefined primary outcome was the difference in hypoglycaemia-induced adrenaline (epinephrine) responses from baseline following RT-CGM or RT-CGM+HIIT. Results Eighteen participants (nine men and nine women) with type 1 diabetes (median [IQR] duration 27 [18.75–32] years) and IAH were included, with nine participants randomised to each group. Data from all study participants were included in the analysis. During the 4 week intervention there were no significant mean (SEM) differences between RT-CGM and RT-CGM+HIIT in exposure to level 1 (28 [7] vs 22 [4] episodes, p=0.45) or level 2 (9 [3] vs 4 [1] episodes, p=0.29) hypoglycaemia. The CGM-derived mean glucose level, SD of glucose and glucose management indicator (GMI) did not differ between groups. During the hyperinsulinaemic–hypoglycaemic clamp studies, mean (SEM) change from baseline was greater for the noradrenergic responses (RT-CGM vs RT-CGM+HIIT: −988 [447] vs 514 [732] pmol/l, p=0.02) but not the adrenergic responses (–298 [687] vs 1130 [747] pmol/l, p=0.11) in those participants who had undergone RT-CGM+HIIT. There was a benefit of RT-CGM+HIIT for mean (SEM) change from baseline in the glucagon CRR to hypoglycaemia (RT-CGM vs RT-CGM+HIIT: 1 [4] vs 16 [6] ng/l, p=0.01). Consistent with the hormone response, the mean (SEM) symptomatic response to hypoglycaemia (adjusted for baseline) was greater following RT-CGM+HIIT (RT-CGM vs RT-CGM+HIIT: −4 [2] vs 0 [2], p<0.05). Conclusions/interpretation In this pilot clinical trial in people with type 1 diabetes and IAH, we found continuing benefits of HIIT for overall hormonal and symptomatic CRR to subsequent hypoglycaemia. Our findings also suggest that HIIT may improve the glucagon response to insulin-induced hypoglycaemia. Trial registration ISRCTN15373978. Funding Sir George Alberti Fellowship from Diabetes UK (CMF) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Graphical Abstract
Online communication can often seem different to offline talk. Structural features of social media sites can shape the things we do with words. In this paper, I argue that the practice of ‘quote-tweeting’ can cause a single utterance that originally performed just one speech act to later perform several different speech acts. This describes a new type of illocutionary pluralism—the view that a single utterance can perform multiple illocutionary acts. Not only is this type more plural than others (if one utterance can acquire many kinds of illocutionary force), but it also shows how illocutionary forces can be accumulated over time. This is not limited to online utterances—some offline contexts are similarly structured, and so offline utterances can also come to perform many different speech acts.
Background One underexamined factor in the study of lay views of socioeconomic health inequalities is occupation-related health. Examining health by occupational social class has a long history in the UK but has been comparatively overlooked in US public health literatures, where the relationship between health and work has attended more to hazard exposure. Methods Representative samples of the UK and US indicated the perceived and ideal lifespan of people working in “higher managerial/professional” and “routine” occupations. We examine perceptions of inequality and desires for equality across occupation groups as a function of country and key socio-demographic variables. Results 67.8% of UK and 53.7% of US participants identified that professionals live longer than routine workers. Multivariate models indicated that US participants were markedly less likely to be aware of occupation-related inequalities after controlling for age, gender, and education. Awareness was negatively related to age (in the US) and recent voting behaviours (both samples). Desiring equal life expectancy was less likely in the US sample, and less likely across both samples among older participants and those with lower levels of education. Conclusion Employing a novel approach to measuring perceived and ideal life expectancy inequality, this is the first study to examine perceptions of lifespan inequality by occupational groups. It reports widespread understanding of the occupation-related gradient in lifespan and a desire that these inequalities be eliminated in the UK, but considerably less awareness and desire for equality in the US. Greater tolerance for social status inequalities in the US than other similar countries appear to also extend to differences in life expectancy.
Objectives Health and care resources are under increasing pressure, partly due to the ageing population. Physical activity supports healthy ageing, but motivating exercise is challenging. We aimed to explore staff perceptions towards a virtual reality (VR) omnidirectional treadmill (MOTUS), aimed at increasing physical activity for older adult care home residents. Design Interactive workshops and qualitative evaluation. Settings Eight interactive workshops were held at six care homes and two university sites across Cornwall, England, from September to November 2021. Participants Forty-four staff participated, including care home, supported living, clinical care and compliance managers, carers, activity coordinators, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. Interventions Participants tried the VR treadmill system, followed by focus groups exploring device design, potential usefulness or barriers for care home residents. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. We subsequently conducted a follow-up interview with the technology developer (September 2022) to explore the feedback impact. Results The analysis produced seven key themes: anticipated benefits, acceptability, concerns of use, concerns of negative effects, suitability/unsuitability, improvements and current design. Participants were generally positive towards VR to motivate care home residents’ physical activity and noted several potential benefits (increased exercise, stimulation, social interaction and rehabilitation). Despite the reported potential, staff had safety concerns for frail older residents due to their standing position. Participants suggested design improvements to enhance safety, usability and accessibility. Feedback to the designers resulted in the development of a new seated VR treadmill to address concerns about falls while maintaining motivation to exercise. The follow-up developer interview identified significant value in academia–industry collaboration. Conclusion The use of VR-motivated exercise holds the potential to increase exercise, encourage reminiscence and promote meaningful activity for care home residents. Staff concerns resulted in a redesigned seated treadmill for those too frail to use the standing version. This novel study demonstrates the importance of stakeholder feedback in product design.
Background Urinary incontinence (UI) is prevalent in more than half of residents of nursing and residential care homes and can have a detrimental impact on dignity and quality of life. Care homes predominantly use absorbent pads to contain UI rather than actively treat the condition. Transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (TTNS) is a non-invasive, safe, low-cost intervention with demonstrated effectiveness for reducing UI in adults. We examined the costs and consequences of delivering TTNS to care home residents in comparison to sham (inactive) electrical stimulation. Methods A cost consequence analysis approach was used to assemble and present the resource use and outcome data for the ELECTRIC trial which randomised 406 residents with UI from 37 care homes in the United Kingdom to receive 12 sessions of 30 min of either TTNS or sham (inactive) TTNS. TTNS was administered by care home staff over 6 weeks. Health state utility was measured using DEMQOL-U and DEMQOL-PROXY-U at baseline, 6 weeks and 18 weeks follow-up. Staff completed a resource use questionnaire at baseline, 6 weeks and 18 weeks follow-up, which also assessed use of absorbent pads. Results HRQoL did not change significantly in either randomised group. Delivery of TTNS was estimated to cost £81.20 per participant, plus training and support costs of £121.03 per staff member. 85% of participants needed toilet assistance as routine, on average requiring one or two staff members to be involved 4 or 5 times in each 24 h. Daily use of mobility aids and other assistive devices to use the toilet were reported. The value of staff time to assist residents to use the toilet (assuming an average of 5 min per resident per visit) was estimated as £19.17 (SD 13.22) for TTNS and £17.30 (SD 13.33) for sham (per resident in a 24-hour period). Conclusions Use of TTNS to treat UI in care home residents did not lead to changes in resource use, particularly any reduction in the use of absorbent pads and no cost benefits for TTNS were shown. Managing continence in care homes is labour intensive, requiring both high levels of staff time and use of equipment aids. Trial registration ISRCTN98415244, registered 25/04/2018. NCT03248362 (Clinical number), registered 14/08//2017.
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10,251 members
Peter Hunter
  • Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Liz Forbat
  • Faculty of Applied Social Sciences
Anna Kirpichnikova
  • Department of Computing Science and Mathematics
Line Caes
  • Department of Psychology
Elena Gheorghiu
  • Department of Psychology
University of Stirling, FK9 4LA, Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom
Head of institution
Professor Gerry McCormac
+44 (0)1786 473171