Article

Initial Evidence of the Relationships between the Human Postmortem Microbiome and Neighborhood Blight and Greening Efforts

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Abstract

The microbiome is important in human health, yet its connection to the built environment remains understudied. Little is known about the potential influence of neighborhood environments on the bacterial and archaea communities that live in and on the human body, henceforth the microbiome. Thus, we examined relationships between the microbiome and features of the urban environment. To do this, we first quantified neighborhood levels of blight (e.g., abandoned buildings) and green remediation (e.g., tree plantings) using parcel data in Detroit, Michigan, and then compared neighborhood status to the composition and diversity of the human postmortem microbiome. The postmortem microbiome served as a surrogate for biological signatures and lifestyles of living neighborhood residents. We observed significant clustering of microbial composition by neighborhood blight, with significantly higher abundances of potential pathogens associated with unhealthy living conditions. We also observed significant clusters between high and low green remediation for the mouth and eye communities only, with high levels of commensals (or nonharmful bacteria) in green remediation neighborhoods. Microbial biodiversity was significantly and positively correlated with green remediation and negatively correlated with blight. Regression models yielded the largest positive effects of green remediation on microbial richness (rectum) and diversity (nose) for women; the largest negative effects of blight were observed for evenness (eyes) among women and richness and diversity (mouth and nose) among men. These results provide evidence of a relationship between the human microbiome and neighborhood conditions, establishing the foundation for novel research opportunities into the effects of green remediation and urban blight on health.

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... However, the accessibility of high-throughput sequencing technologies combined with promising research showcases the potential that nontraditional microbial evidence (including bacteria and fungi) can be used for death investigation, in both terrestrial [5][6][7][8] and aquatic circumstances [9][10][11][12]. ...
... The external environment, or the conditions of exposed remains, can affect the postmortem microbial community that colonize and change on and within bone over time. Several terrestrial decomposition studies of human and nonhuman remains in anthropogenic facilities [16,17,[50][51][52] have included laboratory environments [5,18,53], grave soils [54,55], death scenes [56,57], agricultural fields [8,18], and routine autopsies [6,7,32,58,59]. While important to the development of understanding microbial community succession in forensic contexts, terrestrial studies cannot directly apply to aquatic settings as the environmental factors are different (water flow, oxygen, temperature, pH, salinity, etc.). For aquatic decomposition, many previous studies used nonhuman surrogates. ...
... Despite differences among study location and design, the predominate phyla identified here were similar among other decomposition studies. Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Proteobacteria were predominate taxa in this study, but were also prevalent in terrestrial decomposition [7,50,53], other aquatic decomposition [9,10,20,21,61], and bone postmortem microbiomes [16,17]. ...
Article
After death, microbes (including bacteria and fungi) colonize carrion from a variety of sources during the decomposition process. The predictable succession of microbes could be useful for forensics, such as postmortem submersion interval estimation (PMSI) for aquatic deaths. However, gaps exist in our understanding of microbial succession on submerged bone, particularly regarding longer-term decomposition (>1 year), fungal composition, and differences between internal and external microbial communities. To further explore this potential forensic tool, we described the postmortem microbial communities (bacteria and fungi) on and within submerged bones using targeted amplicon sequencing. We hypothesized predictable successional patterns of microbial colonization would be detected on the surface and within submerged bones, which would eventually converge to a similar microbial community. To best replicate forensic contexts, we sampled bones from replicate swine (Sus scrofa domesticus) carcasses submerged in a freshwater pond, every three months for nearly two years. Microbial bone (internal vs. external) community structure (taxa abundance and diversity) of bones differed for both bacteria and fungi, but internal and external communities did not converge to a similar structure. PMSI estimation models built with random forest regression of postmortem microbiomes were highly accurate (>80% variation explained in PMSI) and showed promise for forensic purposes. Overall, we provide further evidence that internal and external bone microbial communities submerged in an aquatic habitat are distinct and each community undergoes predictable succession, demonstrating potential utility in forensics for modeling PMSI in unattended deaths and/or cold cases.
... Effects of microbial presence in the atmosphere on respiratory tract colonization is currently unknown; however, it is suggested to be largely determined by processes including birth, death, immigration, and emigration (Whiteson et al., 2014;Willis et al., 2020). Recent studies have also observed relationships between post-mortem microbial biodiversity on the human body (e.g., nose, rectum, and eyes) that suggest urban inhabitants are influenced by their local atmospheric microbiome (Pearson et al., 2019(Pearson et al., , 2020 and population demographics (Pechal et al., 2018). Likewise, black carbon (Janssen et al., 2011), particulate matter (Dockery et al., 1993), and other pollutants may play a role in counteracting the benefits of microbial exposure. ...
... Likewise, understanding the biogeography of microbial communities in cities offers a way to investigate colonization of urban residents by microbes. Recent studies investigating these relationships have shown that microbial diversity of deceased individuals is significantly and positively correlated with greenness (Pearson et al., 2019(Pearson et al., , 2020. While this study does not investigate individual human microbiomes, we do find the opposite relationships with classes that host greenness, specifically tgbpl and tgplmh. ...
... For example, significant positive correlations between inferred functional diversity and STURLA class tgplm were observed while a negative relationship was found with tgplmh. This research provides further evidence that biodiversity is influenced by urban structure composed of the built and natural environment (Pearson et al., 2019). It should be noted that the sampling was heterogenous as samples were collected while stationary (e.g., stoplight) as well as when moving (e.g., city streets and highways) as well as the density of cars and people on the streets. ...
Article
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Microbes are abundant inhabitants of the near-surface atmosphere in urban areas. The distribution of microbial communities may benefit or hinder human wellbeing and ecosystem function. Surveys of airborne microbial diversity are uncommon in both natural and built environments and those that investigate diversity are stationary in the city, thus missing continuous exposure to microbes that covary with three-dimensional urban structure. Individuals in cities are generally mobile and would be exposed to diverse urban structures outdoors and within indoor-transit systems in a day. We used mobile monitoring of microbial diversity and geographic information system spatial analysis, across Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA in outdoor and indoor-transit (subways and train cars) environments. This study identifies to the role of the three-dimensional urban landscape in structuring atmospheric microbiomes and employs mobile monitoring over ~1,920 kilometers to measure continuous biodiversity. We found more diverse communities outdoors that significantly differ from indoor-transit air in microbial community structure, function, likely source environment, and potentially pathogenic fraction of the community. Variation in the structure of the urban landscape was associated with diversity and function of the near-surface atmospheric microbiome in outdoor samples.
... These dynamic, yet predictable (Belk et al., 2018;Pechal et al., 2018), microbial community profile changes after death make the postmortem microbiome a potential forensic resource for postmortem interval (PMI) estimation. PMI estimation is indeed the most studied forensic application of the postmortem microbiome (Metcalf et al., 2013;Pechal et al., 2014); but, this community has additional potential for other forensic applications as well, like indicating antemortem health conditions (e.g., cardiovascular disease or violent death) (Pechal et al., 2018) and the living environment (e.g., neighborhood blight) (Pearson et al., 2019). ...
... The postmortem microbiome is structured in part by a decedents' antemortem health condition and the suite of stressors that impact the human host. These stressors include drug/alcohol abuse or high stress lifestyle conditions like neighborhood blight (e.g., abandoned building, inactivity, and dumping), that are associated with certain manners of death (e.g., homicide) (Pechal et al., 2018;Pearson et al., 2019;Zhang et al., 2019). Importantly, the adult human postmortem microbiome does not significantly change from the antemortem microbiome for approximately 48 h after death when tested in a single geographic region (Pechal et al., 2018). ...
... Due to the stability of the postmortem microbiome within 48 h of death, and the potential connection to lifestyle condition, microbial community metrics (e.g., diversity) were associated with certain manners of deaths (MOD) or causes of deaths (COD) (Pechal et al., 2018;Zhang et al., 2019). However, fewer studies have tested associations of postmortem microbial community variability with MOD or COD (Pechal et al., 2018;Pearson et al., 2019;Zhang et al., 2019). ...
Article
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The postmortem microbiome plays an important functional role in host decomposition after death. Postmortem microbiome community successional patterns are specific to body site, with a significant shift in composition 48 h after death. While the postmortem microbiome has important forensic applications for postmortem interval estimation, it also has the potential to aid in manner of death (MOD) and cause of death (COD) determination as a reflection of antemortem health status. To further explore this association, we tested beta-dispersion, or the variability of microbiomes within the context of the “Anna Karenina Principle” (AKP). The foundational principle of AKP is that stressors affect microbiomes in unpredictable ways, which increases community beta-dispersion. We hypothesized that cases with identified M/CODs would have differential community beta-dispersion that reflected antemortem conditions, specifically that cardiovascular disease and/or natural deaths would have higher beta-dispersion compared to other deaths (e.g., accidents, drug-related deaths). Using a published microbiome data set of 188 postmortem cases (five body sites per case) collected during routine autopsy in Wayne County (Detroit), MI, we modeled beta-dispersion to test for M/COD associations a priori. Logistic regression models of beta-dispersion and case demographic data were used to classify M/COD. We demonstrated that beta-dispersion, along with case demographic data, could distinguish among M/COD – especially cardiovascular disease and drug related deaths, which were correctly classified in 79% of cases. Binary logistic regression models had higher correct classifications than multinomial logistic regression models, but changing the defined microbial community (e.g., full vs. non-core communities) used to calculate beta-dispersion overall did not improve model classification or M/COD. Furthermore, we tested our analytic approach on a case study that predicted suicides from other deaths, as well as distinguishing MOD (e.g., homicides vs. suicides) within COD (e.g., gunshot wound). We propose an analytical workflow that combines postmortem microbiome indicator taxa, beta-dispersion, and case demographic data for predicting MOD and COD classifications. Overall, we provide further evidence the postmortem microbiome is linked to the host’s antemortem health condition(s), while also demonstrating the potential utility of including beta-dispersion (a non-taxon dependent approach) coupled with case demographic data for death determination.
... A seminal study shows positive relationships between environmental biodiversity, as measured by native flowering plants and land use, and diversity of city residents' skin microbiomes (Hanski et al., 2012). Our research in Detroit positively correlated ears, eyes, nose and rectum microbial diversity with neighborhood 'green remediation' (e.g., tree plantings, urban gardens within 400 m of home) (Pearson et al., 2019). Thus, the hypothesis is that contact with our surroundings (Mills et al., 2020), including a diversity of plants found in green spaces, influences our microbiomes. ...
... For a description of the DNA extraction, 16S rRNA targeted gene amplicon sequencing, original bioinformatic analyses, and data archive information (see Pechal et al., 2018). The following data were recorded for each case: sex, race/ethnicity, age, date of birth, date of death, manner of death (natural, accident, suicide, homicidefor more details see (Pearson et al., 2019)), body mass index (BMI: kg/m 2 ), and the latitude and longitude of the location of death and location of residence. ...
... While not statistically significant, there was a consistent, positive association between diversity and NDVI sd for the mouth microbiome. In a similar vein, previously we found that neighborhood conditions were associated with microbial diversity wherein microbiome biodiversity was significantly and positively correlated with neighborhood greening efforts and negatively correlated with blighted structures and lots (often composed of turf grass, and sometimes contaminated by dumping) in Detroit (Pearson et al., 2019). We found that greening efforts yielded the largest positive effects on microbial diversity of the rectum and nose for women and the largest negative effects of blight were observed on nose microbiome diversity among men. ...
Article
While emerging research suggests urban green space revegetation increases soil microbiota diversity and native plant species affect skin microbiome diversity, there is still a paucity of knowledge on relationships between neighborhood environmental conditions and the human microbiome. This study leveraged data on human microbiome samples (nose, mouth, rectum) taken at autopsy at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office (2014–2015). We evaluated relationships between the microbiome and five measures of environmental conditions (NDVI standard deviation, NDVI mean, percent trees, percent grassland and soil type) near the home of 126 decedents. For the rectum microbiome, NDVI sd had negative, significant associations with diversity (ASVs β = −0.20, p = 0.045; Faith PD β = −0.22, p = 0.026). In contrast, while insignificant, there were consistent, positive associations between diversity and NDVI sd for the mouth microbiome (ASVs β = 0.09, p = 0.337, Faith PD β = 0.14, p = 0.149, Shannon diversity β = 0.14, p = 0.159, Heip's evenness β = 0.11, p = 0.259) and a significant association for the nose microbiome (eigenvalues 3 β = 0.18, p = 0.057). We found consistent, significant, negative associations between percent grassland and diversity of the nose microbiome (ASVs β = −0.25, p = 0.008, Faith PD β = −0.25, p = 0.009, Shannon diversity β = −0.17, p = 0.062). For the mouth microbiome, we found a small effect of percent trees on diversity (eigenvalues 1 β = −0.08, p = 0.053). Clay loam soil was negatively (eigenvalues 2 β = −0.47, p = 0.053) and positively associated (eigenvalues 3 β = 0.65, p = 0.008) with rectum microbiome diversity, compared to loam soil. There was no potential indicator taxon among NDVI quartiles. These findings may be relevant for urban planning and management of urban outdoor spaces in ways that may support healthy human microbiomes. Still, future research is needed to link variation in NDVI, vegetation, plant and/or soil microbe diversity and to confirm or negate our findings that environmental conditions may have contrasting influence on the microbiome of the rectum versus the nose and mouth and that grasslands affect the nose microbiome.
... Especially in blighted built environments, abandoned buildings, backward economic levels, and filthy streets elevate the possibility of violence and compromise their security (Loukaitou-Sideris, 2011;Pope et al., 2015;Zavadskas, Cavallaro, Podvezko, Ubarte, & Kaklauskas, 2017). The residents living there are prone to negative emotions such as anxiety and depression (Pearson et al., 2019). The human perceptions of the blighted built environment can also reflect the developers' willingness to invest and landowners' willingness to "sell" their apartments from the landowners (Xu, Xue, & Huang, 2022). ...
... In terms of emotional perceptions, there are similarities in the composition of the scores depicting the blighted built environment, mainly in the form of lower scores for safety and lively and higher scores for boring and depressing. The reason for this composition is that the poor environment and decaying building structures are uninhabitable and can also reduce the human sense of security and raise anxiety, which is eventually presented as high or low values of emotional perceptions (Pearson et al., 2019). The similarity in the composition of emotional perceptions for the blighted built environment should also account for the high accuracy of urban renewal assessment compared to visual perceptions, indicating their more contribution to urban renewal assessment. ...
Article
Accurate and efficient assessment of large-scale urban renewal potential is an indispensable prerequisite for managing and facilitating projects. However, few studies consider the built environment when assessing urban renewal potential because it is difficult to measure. Street view images can show the physical setting of a place for humans to perceive the built environment. Hence, we separately extracted emotional and visual perceptions from street view images to construct a new comprehensive indicator set to assess multi-class urban renewal potentials. To establish the assessment model, we applied a backpropagation neural network based on the presence and background learning (PBL-BPNN). The renewal potential assessment based on the proposed indicator set can reach the highest accuracy. Emotional perceptions contribute more to assessing renewal potential than visual perceptions because they are more consistent in portraying the blighted built environment. Emotionally, the ratings of safety, boring, depression, and lively are stable in the blighted built environment. Visually, greenness and imageability often remain at lower values, highlighting the importance of greenspace and urban furniture in determining urban renewal. Furthermore, multi-class renewal potentials can be used for scenario analysis by assuming different renewal intentions. The results can support governments and planners in making efficient urban renewal decisions.
... Showed that TIF has the potential to provide tax-neutral financing for blighted areas Confirmed that economic stability must be achieved in blighted areas TIF does not have an absolute rate of return, and this approach is strongly dependent on both local and macroeconomic market conditions Pearson et al. (2019) Regression model ...
... Residents of blighted areas have lower qualities of life, including malaise and insecurity. They often find themselves in situations of greater physical and mental stress (Hosseini et al., 2017;Pearson et al., 2019;Picard, 1939;Valasik et al., 2019;Wagner, 2018). Therefore, it is not surprising that urban blight is increasingly being addressed by more recent studies, adding fuel to the debate around the blight phenomenon (Branas et al., 2016;Jones-Farmer & Hoerl, 2019;Mohamed et al., 2017;Wagner, 2018). ...
Article
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Blight is a concept not commonly discussed. However, blight is a problem that exists in the lives of many people, especially if they reside in urban areas. Blight originates whenever properties are neglected, contributing to both a functional and social depreciation process and ultimately leading to uninhabitable dwellings. Despite being blighted, these properties and surrounding neighborhoods often are occupied by families who fail to have sufficient income to afford residences that meet minimum standards or to live in neighborhoods free from drug trafficking and prostitution or other forms of crime. Blight may spread rapidly, thus, experts must, in a timely manner, analyze its causes, which are essential to preventing and mitigating blight problems. The purpose of this study is to seek an understanding of blight and identify its causal factors. The generic methods commonly applied in previous blight research present limitations that this study aims to overcome by using cognitive mapping and the decision making trial and evaluation laboratory (DEMATEL) technique. This dual methodology provides a more transparent and less restrictive approach for analyzing and complying with the dynamics of cause-and-effect relationships among variables. Group debate involving a panel of specialists in this field identified six causation clusters based on the experts’ experience and knowledge. The resulting framework and its application were validated both by these specialists and the head of the Territorial and Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Division of Cascais City Council Strategic Planning Department, Portugal.
... Studies are also critically questioning the explanatory potential of pathways such as attention restoration theory (188), as well as addressing questions of equity and the distribution of resource and benefit (221,(232)(233)(234). Qualitative studies are revealing the meanings of greenspace to individuals and communities (192,200,232,235) and adding depth to intervention evaluations (220). New explanatory theories, such as the role of biodiverse environmental microbiomes in promoting positive human health, are being explored (236)(237)(238)(239). Involvement of ecological specialists is improving the ways in which we consider the types and states of environments to which people are exposed, clarifying the role of biodiversity and environmental complexity (240). ...
... Outcomes were found to be strongest for groups with lower socioeconomic status and for those living in the most deprived areas (33). Individual studies have found associations between increased greenness or biodiversity of the living environment and immune-regulatory related health outcomes such as reduced rates of atopic conditions (allergies) and 'healthier' microbiomes post mortem (238,255). ...
Technical Report
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Greenspace, such as parks, woodland, fields and allotments as well as natural elements including green walls, roofs and incidental vegetation, are increasingly being recognised as an important asset for supporting health and wellbeing. This ‘natural capital’ can help local authorities address local issues that they face, including improving health and wellbeing, managing health and social care costs, reducing health inequalities, improving social cohesion and taking positive action to address climate change. Evidence shows that living in a greener environment can promote and protect good health, and aid in recovery from illness and help with managing poor health. People who have greater exposure to greenspace have a range of more favourable physiological outcomes. Greener environments are also associated with better mental health and wellbeing outcomes including reduced levels of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and enhanced quality of life for both children and adults. Greenspace can help to bind communities together, reduce loneliness, and mitigate the negative effects of air pollution, excessive noise, heat and flooding. Disadvantaged groups appear to gain a larger health benefit and have reduced socioeconomic-related inequalities in health when living in greener communities, so greenspace and a greener urban environment can also be used as an important tool in the drive to build a fairer society. However, population growth and consequent urbanisation combined with competing demands for land use and budgetary constraints, are putting much of our existing local, accessible greenspace under threat. This report makes the case that we must not lose sight of our growing population’s need for it. It is intended to provide Local Authorities, particularly public health teams, with the tools to make the case for maintaining or even increasing provision of and equitable access to greenspace and growing the wider network of green infrastructure, especially through the planning system. In supporting the delivery of local health, social, environmental and economic priorities, good quality greenspace has the potential to deliver substantial benefits for public health and for wider local priorities at a relatively low cost. Despite this, it can be challenging to make a compelling case, and often greenspace is still seen as a liability rather than an asset. The full extent of the benefits can be unrealised because they are difficult to measure, cross local authority boundaries, or are accumulated over an extended time period. Natural capital accounting methodology and tools have now evolved to support local government to understand the true value of their green estate. Improving access to greenspace: A new review for 2020 Some recent valuations have estimated that: • £2.1 billion per year could be saved in health costs if everyone in England had good access to greenspace, due to increased physical activity in those spaces • in Birmingham, the annual net benefit to society of their parks and greenspace is nearly £600 million, which includes £192 million in health benefits • in Sheffield, for every £1 spent on maintaining parks, there is a benefit of £34 in health costs saved, with local residents being the primary beneficiaries • in England and Wales, houses and flats within 100 metres of public greenspace are an average of £2,500 more expensive than they would be if they were more than 500 metres away – an average premium of 1.1% in 2016, suggesting that the public places a value on being near to greenspace Local authorities play a vital role in: • providing new, good quality greenspace that is inclusive and equitable • improving, maintaining and protecting existing greenspace • increasing green infrastructure within public spaces and promoting healthy streets • improving transport links, pathways and other means of access to greenspace, and providing imaginative routes linking areas of greenspace for active travel Achieving these outcomes requires concerted effort and close partnership with other agencies, bringing public health and local healthcare and social care providers together with planning departments, parks and leisure management, transport providers, architects, developers, and the communities who will be using these spaces. Local policies and strategies that include requirements for greenspace based on local needs, will help councils and the local NHS deliver on ambitions for healthy communities, whilst contributing to wider local priorities such as tackling climate change, reducing social isolation and improving the local economy. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/904439/Improving_access_to_greenspace_2020_review.pdf
... "Neighborhood Inequalities: How Where We Live Influences our Health", Dr. Amber Pearson, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University and an Adjunct Fellow in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, focuses on health geography with a focus on social justice [18]. ...
Article
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The Microbes and Social Equity working group was formed in 2020 to foster conversations on research, education, and policy related to how microorganisms connect to personal, societal, and environmental health, and to provide space and guidance for action. In 2021, we designed our first virtual symposium to convene researchers already working in these areas for more guided discussions. The symposium organizing team had never planned a research event of this scale or style, and this perspective piece details that process and our reflections. The goals were to (1) convene interdisciplinary audiences around topics involving microbiomes and health, (2) stimulate conversation around a selected list of paramount research topics, and (3) leverage the disciplinary and professional diversity of the group to create meaningful agendas and actionable items for attendees to continue to engage with after the meeting. Sixteen co-written documents were created during the symposium which contained ideas and resources, or identified barriers and solutions to creating equity in ways which would promote beneficial microbial interactions. The most remarked-upon aspect was the working time in the breakout rooms built into the schedule. MSE members agreed that in future symposia, providing interactive workshops, training, or collaborative working time would provide useful content, a novel conference activity, and allow attendees to accomplish other work-oriented goals simultaneously.
... This provided reliable, replicable observational data of sights and sounds, and a sense of everyday street life, which could be generalised according to forms and processes (Sampson, 2012: 88-90). Street-level images have been similarly applied in other studies to validate key built environment parameters manually (Pearson et al., 2019). When official statistics are unavailable or inaccessible, street-view images may serve as the only alternative data source for the built environment (Rambaldi et al., 2013). ...
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This article uses big data from images captured by Google Street View (GSV) to analyse the extent to which the built environment impacts the survival rate of neighbourhood-based social organisations in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. These organisations are important building blocks for social life in urban neighbourhoods. Examining these organisations' relationships with their environment has been a useful way to study their vitality. To extract data on built environment features from GSV images, we applied a deep learning model, DeepLabv3 +. We then used elastic net regression to test the relationship between the built environment empirically-distinguishing between car-related, walking-related and mixed-use land infrastructure-and the survival of neighbourhood organisations. This testing approach is novel, to our knowledge not yet having been applied in Urban Studies. Besides revealing the effects of built environment features on the social life between buildings, our study points to the value of easily applicable observational big data. Data captured by GSV and other recently developed methods offer researchers the opportunity to conduct detailed yet relatively swift and inexpensive studies without resorting to overly coarse or common subjective measurements.
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Population growth and rapid urbanization have consequences that are reflected in the economic, environmental, and social stability of city-residential neighborhoods. These impacts directly affect not only residents but also real estate markets and local governments. The professionals working in the latter entities have become increasingly concerned about urban sustainability and its strategic integration into their plans. Strategies have been implemented that focus on both addressing negative aspects of residential neighborhoods and enhancing positive features that can contribute to the continuous improvement of locals’ living conditions. This study applies the multiple-criteria decision analysis approach and a combination of cognitive mapping and the best-worst method (BWM) to identify the most relevant criteria and use these to rank residential neighborhoods according to their sustainability. To apply the selected techniques, two group meetings were held with a panel of decision makers. The results were validated by the panel members and the Funchal City Council councilor for urbanism, who concurred that the proposed ranking system facilitates the identification of the most sustainable residential neighborhoods. The contributions and limitations of the methodological approach are also discussed.
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Background A growing body of studies have reported the health benefits of greenness. However, less is known about the potential beneficial effects of residential greenness on gut microbiota, which is essential to human health. In this study, we aim to examine the association between residential greenness and gut microbiota in a population-based cohort study. Methods We included 1758 participants based on the China Multi-Ethnic Cohort (CMEC) study and collected their stool samples for 16S sequencing to derive gut microbiota data. Residential greenness was estimated using the satellite-based data on enhanced vegetation index (EVI) and the normalized differential vegetation index (NDVI) in circular buffers of 250 m, 500 m, and 1000 m. The relationships between residential greenness levels and the composition of gut microbiota, measured by standardized α-diversity and taxonomic composition, were assessed using linear regression and Spearman correlation weighted by generalized propensity scores. Results Higher greenness levels were significantly positively associated with standardized α-diversity. Per interquartile range (IQR) increase of EVI and NDVI in the circular buffer of 250 m were associated with the increments of 0.995(95% confidence interval (CI): 0.212–1.778) and 0.653(95% CI: 0.160–1.146) in the standardized Shannon index. For the taxonomic composition of gut microbiota, higher greenness levels were significantly correlated with 29 types of microbial taxonomic composition. NDVI in the circular buffer of 250 m was associated with increased Firmicutes (r = 0.102, adjusted p value = 0.004), which was the dominant composition in the gut microbiota. Conclusions Increased amounts of residential greenness may support healthy gut microbiota by benignly altering their composition. These findings suggested that green spaces should be designed to support diverse gut microbiota and ultimately optimize health benefits.
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Exposure to green space has been proposed to be beneficially associated with cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Many studies have explored this topic, but the results remain conflicting. We aimed to evaluate the epidemiological evidence on this topic by performing a systematic review with meta-analysis. We searched PubMed, Web of Science and Embase for studies on the association between green space and cardiovascular disease (CVD) that were published till January 2022. Two authors independently performed study selection, data extraction, quality assessment, and risk of bias assessment. For studies providing detailed numeric data, we also conducted quantitative meta-analyses and calculated the pooled odd ratios (ORs) for associations between the most commonly used exposure estimate (normalized difference vegetative index [NDVI]) and five CVD events: CVD mortality, ischemic heart disease (IHD) mortality, cerebrovascular disease (CBVD) mortality, and stroke incidence/prevalence. Additional analyses were conducted to explore the geographical scale effects of NDVI. Publication bias tests were also conducted. Of the 6787 records identified, 53 studies were eligible for inclusion. These studies covered 18 countries and included data from more than 100 million persons. Meta-analyses showed that a 0.1 increase in NDVI was significantly associated with 2–3% lower odds of CVD mortality (OR: 0.97, 95% CI: 0.96–0.99), IHD mortality (OR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.96–1.00), CBVD mortality (OR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.97–1.00), and stroke incidence/prevalence (OR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.96–0.99). There was no significant difference between the pooled estimates for different buffer sizes. No evidence of publication bias was detected. We provide strong and robust evidence for the beneficial effects of green space exposure on cardiovascular health. More prospective studies and mechanistic studies, especially that conducted in low- and middle-income countries, are merited to strengthen our conclusions.
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Importance Neighborhood physical conditions have been associated with mental illness and may partially explain persistent socioeconomic disparities in the prevalence of poor mental health. Objective To evaluate whether interventions to green vacant urban land can improve self-reported mental health. Design, Setting, and Participants This citywide cluster randomized trial examined 442 community-dwelling sampled adults living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, within 110 vacant lot clusters randomly assigned to 3 study groups. Participants were followed up for 18 months preintervention and postintervention. This trial was conducted from October 1, 2011, to November 30, 2014. Data were analyzed from July 1, 2015, to April 16, 2017. Interventions The greening intervention involved removing trash, grading the land, planting new grass and a small number of trees, installing a low wooden perimeter fence, and performing regular monthly maintenance. The trash cleanup intervention involved removal of trash, limited grass mowing where possible, and regular monthly maintenance. The control group received no intervention. Main Outcomes and Measures Self-reported mental health measured by the Kessler-6 Psychological Distress Scale and the components of this scale. Results A total of 110 clusters containing 541 vacant lots were enrolled in the trial and randomly allocated to the following 1 of 3 study groups: the greening intervention (37 clusters [33.6%]), the trash cleanup intervention (36 clusters [32.7%]), or no intervention (37 clusters [33.6%]). Of the 442 participants, the mean (SD) age was 44.6 (15.1) years, 264 (59.7%) were female, and 194 (43.9%) had a family income less than $25 000. A total of 342 participants (77.4%) had follow-up data and were included in the analysis. Of these, 117 (34.2%) received the greening intervention, 107 (31.3%) the trash cleanup intervention, and 118 (34.5%) no intervention. Intention-to-treat analysis of the greening intervention compared with no intervention demonstrated a significant decrease in participants who were feeling depressed (−41.5%; 95% CI, −63.6% to −5.9%; P = .03) and worthless (−50.9%; 95% CI, −74.7% to −4.7%; P = .04), as well as a nonsignificant reduction in overall self-reported poor mental health (−62.8%; 95% CI, −86.2% to 0.4%; P = .051). For participants living in neighborhoods below the poverty line, the greening intervention demonstrated a significant decrease in feeling depressed (−68.7%; 95% CI, −86.5% to −27.5%; P = .007). Intention-to-treat analysis of those living near the trash cleanup intervention compared with no intervention showed no significant changes in self-reported poor mental health. Conclusions and Relevance Among community-dwelling adults, self-reported feelings of depression and worthlessness were significantly decreased, and self-reported poor mental health was nonsignificantly reduced for those living near greened vacant land. The treatment of blighted physical environments, particularly in resource-limited urban settings, can be an important treatment for mental health problems alongside other patient-level treatments. Trial Registration isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN92582209
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The microbiome plays many roles in human health, often through the exclusive lens of clinical interest. The inevitable end point for all living hosts, death, has its own altered microbiome configurations. However, little is understood about the ecology and changes of microbial communities after death, or their potential utility for understanding the health condition of the recently living. Here we reveal distinct postmortem microbiomes of human hosts from a large-scale survey of death cases representing a predominantly urban population, and demonstrated these microbiomes reflected antemortem health conditions within 24–48 hours of death. Our results characterized microbial community structure and predicted function from 188 cases representing a cross-section of an industrial-urban population. We found strong niche differentiation of anatomic habitat and microbial community turnover based on topographical distribution. Microbial community stability was documented up to two days after death. Additionally, we observed a positive relationship between cell motility and time since host death. Interestingly, we discovered evidence that microbial biodiversity is a predictor of antemortem host health condition (e.g., heart disease). These findings improve the understanding of postmortem host microbiota dynamics, and provide a robust dataset to test the postmortem microbiome as a tool for assessing health conditions in living populations.
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Our growing awareness of the microbial world’s importance and diversity contrasts starkly with our limited understanding of its fundamental structure. Despite recent advances in DNA sequencing, a lack of standardized protocols and common analytical frameworks impedes comparisons among studies, hindering the development of global inferences about microbial life on Earth. Here we present a meta-analysis of microbial community samples collected by hundreds of researchers for the Earth Microbiome Project. Coordinated protocols and new analytical methods, particularly the use of exact sequences instead of clustered operational taxonomic units, enable bacterial and archaeal ribosomal RNA gene sequences to be followed across multiple studies and allow us to explore patterns of diversity at an unprecedented scale. The result is both a reference database giving global context to DNA sequence data and a framework for incorporating data from future studies, fostering increasingly complete characterization of Earth’s microbial diversity.
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Intestinal microbiota changes are associated with the development of obesity. However, studies in humans have generated conflicting results due to high inter-individual heterogeneity in terms of diet, age, and hormonal factors, and the largely unexplored influence of gender. In this work, we aimed to identify differential gut microbiota signatures associated with obesity, as a function of gender and changes in body mass index (BMI). Differences in the bacterial community structure were analyzed by 16S sequencing in 39 men and 36 post-menopausal women, who had similar dietary background, matched by age and stratified according to the BMI. We observed that the abundance of the Bacteroides genus was lower in men than in women (P<0.001, Q = 0.002) when BMI was > 33. In fact, the abundance of this genus decreased in men with an increase in BMI (P<0.001, Q<0.001). However, in women, it remained unchanged within the different ranges of BMI. We observed a higher presence of Veillonella (84.6% vs. 47.2%; X2 test P = 0.001, Q = 0.019) and Methanobrevibacter genera (84.6% vs. 47.2%; X2 test P = 0.002, Q = 0.026) in fecal samples in men compared to women. We also observed that the abundance of Bilophila was lower in men compared to women regardless of BMI (P = 0.002, Q = 0.041). Additionally, after correcting for age and sex, 66 bacterial taxa at the genus level were found to be associated with BMI and plasma lipids. Microbiota explained at P = 0.001, 31.17% variation in BMI, 29.04% in triglycerides, 33.70% in high-density lipoproteins, 46.86% in low-density lipoproteins, and 28.55% in total cholesterol. Our results suggest that gut microbiota may differ between men and women, and that these differences may be influenced by the grade of obesity. The divergence in gut microbiota observed between men and women might have a dominant role in the definition of gender differences in the prevalence of metabolic and intestinal inflammatory diseases.
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The microbiome of the built environment (MoBE) is a relatively new area of study. While some knowledge has been gained regarding impacts of the MoBE on the human microbiome and disease vulnerability, there is little knowledge of the impacts of the MoBE on mental health. Depending on the specific microbial species involved, the transfer of microorganisms from the built environment to occupant's cutaneous or mucosal membranes has the potential to increase or disrupt immunoregulation and/or exaggerate or suppress inflammation. Preclinical evidence highlighting the influence of the microbiota on systemic inflammation supports the assertion that microorganisms, including those originating from the built environment, have the potential to either increase or decrease the risk of inflammation-induced psychiatric conditions and their symptom severity. With advanced understanding of both the ecology of the built environment, and its influence on the human microbiome, it may be possible to develop bioinformed strategies for management of the built environment to promote mental health. Here we present a brief summary of microbiome research in both areas and highlight two interdependencies including the following: (1) effects of the MoBE on the human microbiome and (2) potential opportunities for manipulation of the MoBE in order to improve mental health. In addition, we propose future research directions including strategies for assessment of changes in the microbiome of common areas of built environments shared by multiple human occupants, and associated cohort-level changes in the mental health of those who spend time in the buildings. Overall, our understanding of the fields of both the MoBE and influence of host-associated microorganisms on mental health are advancing at a rapid pace and, if linked, could offer considerable benefit to health and wellness.
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Gut microbiota plays an important role in mammalian host metabolism and physiological functions. The functions are particularly important in young children where rapid mental and physical developments are taking place. Nevertheless, little is known about the gut microbiome and the factors that contribute to microbial variation in the gut of South East Asian children. Here, we compared the gut bacterial richness and composition of pre-adolescence in Northern Malaysia. Our subjects covered three distinct ethnic groups with relatively narrow range of socioeconomic discrepancy. These included the Malays (n = 24), Chinese (n = 17) and the Orang Asli (indigenous) (n = 20). Our results suggested a strong ethnicity and socioeconomic-linked bacterial diversity. Highest bacterial diversity was detected from the economically deprived indigenous children while the lowest diversity was recorded from the relatively wealthy Chinese children. In addition, predicted functional metagenome profiling suggested an over-representation of pathways pertinent to bacterial colonisation and chemotaxis in the former while the latter exhibited enriched gene pathways related to sugar metabolism.
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This paper explores how members of a neighbourhood association in a post-industrial blighted community in Flint, Michigan are working to reduce disorder conditions in their neighbourhood. We seek to understand how members are impacted by disorder, what they perceive to be the cause of disorder, and how they respond to disorder conditions. We argue that a disordered physical environment characterised by abandoned buildings and neglected properties is viewed by association members as giving rise to fear and incidences of crime and the impression of the loss of social control by formal authorities. As a result, association members focus their attention on interventions specifically geared toward controlling environmental factors such as neighbourhood greenspace. Our findings suggest that residents are deeply and negatively impacted by the presence of disorder, and that they view such neighbourhood greening initiatives as an effective way to mobilise neighbourhood residents against disorder-producing conditions.
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Studies have shown that natural environments can enhance health and here we build upon that work by examining the associations between comprehensive greenspace metrics and health. We focused on a large urban population center (Toronto, Canada) and related the two domains by combining high-resolution satellite imagery and individual tree data from Toronto with questionnaire-based self-reports of general health perception, cardio-metabolic conditions and mental illnesses from the Ontario Health Study. Results from multiple regressions and multivariate canonical correlation analyses suggest that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors). We find that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger. We also find that having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.
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Environmental epigenetics is a hot' new field of post-genomic science investigating mechanisms that influence how genes are expressed. It offers a dynamic and non-dualistic understanding of the relationship between environments, genes, bodies, and health. We ask how this new science of biological plasticity is changing existing concepts of normality and abnormality. We find that epigenetics is contributing to a new biological (yet non-determinist) ontology of race and that the fetus and reproductive women are emerging as the central figures in this new epigenetic model of race and bodily plasticity. We find that epigenetics is a science of variation in which biological difference is figured as both normal (inevitable) and abnormal (a sign of disruption); it then seeks to improve life by identifying therapies to cure epigenetic abnormalities'. In this way, epigenetics emerges as a reproductive science, in which the uterine environment' is figured as the key space-time of epigenetic becoming. We argue that in this focus on abnormality and improvement, epigenetics is tied to a eugenic logic, even as it rejects notions of genetic determinism. While it might seem that epigenetic models of plastic life should eliminate race by eliminating notions of discrete kinds given in nature, it appears that epigenetics offers a new form of racialization based on reproductive processes of becoming rather than on pre-given nature.
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A strategy to understand the microbial components of the human genetic and metabolic landscape and how they contribute to normal physiology and predisposition to disease.
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The panoply of microorganisms and other species present in our environment influence human health and disease, especially in cities, but have not been profiled with metagenomics at a city-wide scale. We sequenced DNA from surfaces across the entire New York City (NYC) subway system, the Gowanus Canal, and public parks. Nearly half of the DNA (48%) does not match any known organism; identified organisms spanned 1,688 bacterial, viral, archaeal, and eukaryotic taxa, which were enriched for harmless genera associated with skin (e.g., Acinetobacter). Predicted ancestry of human DNA left on subway surfaces can recapitulate U.S. Census demographic data, and bacterial signatures can reveal a station’s history, such as marine-associated bacteria in a hurricane-flooded station. Some evidence of pathogens was found (Bacillus anthracis), but a lack of reported cases in NYC suggests that the pathogens represent a normal, urban microbiome. This baseline metagenomic map of NYC could help long-term disease surveillance, bioterrorism threat mitigation, and health management in the built environment of cities.
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There is growing recognition of the role of diet and other environmental factors in modulating the composition and metabolic activity of the human gut microbiota, which in turn can impact health. This narrative review explores the relevant contemporary scientific literature to provide a general perspective of this broad area. Molecular technologies have greatly advanced our understanding of the complexity and diversity of the gut microbial communities within and between individuals. Diet, particularly macronutrients, has a major role in shaping the composition and activity of these complex populations. Despite the body of knowledge that exists on the effects of carbohydrates there are still many unanswered questions. The impacts of dietary fats and protein on the gut microbiota are less well defined. Both short- and long-term dietary change can influence the microbial profiles, and infant nutrition may have life-long consequences through microbial modulation of the immune system. The impact of environmental factors, including aspects of lifestyle, on the microbiota is particularly poorly understood but some of these factors are described. We also discuss the use and potential benefits of prebiotics and probiotics to modify microbial populations. A description of some areas that should be addressed in future research is also presented.
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The changes that occur in the microbiome of aging individuals are unclear, especially in light of the imperfect correlation of frailty with age. Studies in older human subjects have reported subtle effects, but these results may be confounded by other variables that often change with age such as diet and place of residence. To test these associations in a more controlled model system, we examined the relationship between age, frailty, and the gut microbiome of female C57BL/6 J mice. The frailty index, which is based on the evaluation of 31 clinical signs of deterioration in mice, showed a near-perfect correlation with age. We observed a statistically significant relationship between age and the taxonomic composition of the corresponding microbiome. Consistent with previous human studies, the Rikenellaceae family, which includes the Alistipes genus, was the most significantly overrepresented taxon within middle-aged and older mice. The functional profile of the mouse gut microbiome also varied with host age and frailty. Bacterial-encoded functions that were underrepresented in older mice included cobalamin (B12) and biotin (B7) biosynthesis, and bacterial SOS genes associated with DNA repair. Conversely, creatine degradation, associated with muscle wasting, was overrepresented within the gut microbiomes of the older mice, as were bacterial-encoded β-glucuronidases, which can influence drug-induced epithelial cell toxicity. Older mice also showed an overabundance of monosaccharide utilization genes relative to di-, oligo-, and polysaccharide utilization genes, which may have a substantial impact on gut homeostasis. We have identified taxonomic and functional patterns that correlate with age and frailty in the mouse microbiome. Differences in functions related to host nutrition and drug pharmacology vary in an age-dependent manner, suggesting that the availability and timing of essential functions may differ significantly with age and frailty. Future work with larger cohorts of mice will aim to separate the effects of age and frailty, and other factors.
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Background: Green spaces have been associated with improved mental health in children; however, available epidemiological evidence on their impact on child behavioral development is scarce. Objectives: We investigated the impact of contact with green spaces and blue spaces (beaches) on indicators of behavioral development and symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in schoolchildren. Methods: This study was based on a sample of 2,111 schoolchildren (7-10 years of age) from 36 schools in Barcelona in 2012. We obtained data on time spent in green spaces and beaches and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) from parents, and ADHD/DSM-IV questionnaires from teachers. Surrounding greenness was abstracted as the average Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in buffers of 100 m, 250 m, and 500 m around each home address. Proximity to green spaces was defined as living within 300 m of a major green space (≥ 0.05 km2). We applied quasi-Poisson mixed-effects models (with school random effect) to separately estimate associations between indicators of contact with green spaces and SDQ and ADHD total and subscale scores. Results: We generally estimated beneficial associations between behavioral indicators and longer time spent in green spaces and beaches, and with residential surrounding greenness. Specifically, we found statistically significant inverse associations between green space playing time and SDQ total difficulties, emotional symptoms, and peer relationship problems; between residential surrounding greenness and SDQ total difficulties and hyperactivity/inattention and ADHD/DSM-IV total and inattention scores; and between annual beach attendance and SDQ total difficulties, peer relationship problems, and prosocial behavior. For proximity to major green spaces, the results were not conclusive. Conclusion: Our findings support beneficial impacts of contact with green and blue spaces on behavioral development in schoolchildren.
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The bacteria that colonize humans and our built environments have the potential to influence our health. Microbial communities associated with seven families and their homes over 6 weeks were assessed, including three families that moved their home. Microbial communities differed substantially among homes, and the home microbiome was largely sourced from humans. The microbiota in each home were identifiable by family. Network analysis identified humans as the primary bacterial vector, and a Bayesian method significantly matched individuals to their dwellings. Draft genomes of potential human pathogens observed on a kitchen counter could be matched to the hands of occupants. After a house move, the microbial community in the new house rapidly converged on the microbial community of the occupants’ former house, suggesting rapid colonization by the family’s microbiota.
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Life History Theory is a powerful framework for understanding how evolved functional adaptations to environmental conditions influence variation in significant life outcomes. Features indicating relatively high extrinsic mortality rates and unpredictability of future outcomes are associated with relatively faster life history strategies. Regulatory mechanisms that facilitated reproductive success in ancestral environments may contribute to adverse birth outcomes in modern technologically advanced populations. Adverse local environmental conditions may reduce maternal somatic investment in gestating offspring, consistent with long-term maternal interests. In this study, we demonstrated a relationship between neighborhood structural deterioration and adverse birth outcomes in Flint, Michigan, USA. We used Geographical Information Systems software to calculate the density of highly dilapidated structures, premature births, and low birth weight births in .25 mi² areas. Controlling for parental education and type of health coverage, the degree of structural deterioration was associated with the concentration of premature births and low birth weight births. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder and the leading cause of cognitive and behavioral impairment in industrialized societies. The cause of AD is unknown and the major risk factor for AD is age. About 5% of all AD cases have a genetic or familial cause however the vast majority of all AD cases (~95%) are of sporadic origin. Both the familial and the sporadic forms of AD share a common disease phenotype involving at least eight characteristic features including (i) evidence of uncontrolled oxidative stress; (ii) up-regulated pro-inflammatory signaling; (iii) changes in innate-immune signaling; (iv) the progressive accumulation of lesions including neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and amyloid beta (Aβ)-containing senile plaques (SP); (v) significant synaptic signaling deficits; (vi) neurite and brain cell atrophy; (vii) progressively altered gene expression patterns that are different from healthy brain aging; and (viii) progressive cognitive impairment and dementia in the host. There is currently no cure or adequate clinical treatment for AD, and it remains unclear how AD originates and propagates throughout the brain and central nervous system (CNS). Results from recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) indicate that a significant portion of AD-relevant gene signals are not located within gene coding regions suggesting the contribution of epigenetic or environmental factors to AD risk. The potential contribution of pathogenic microbes to aging and AD is becoming increasingly recognized (Miklossy, 2011; Cho and Blaser, 2012; Bhattacharjee and Lukiw, 2013; Poole et al., 2013; Heintz and Mair, 2014; Huang et al., 2014; Mancuso et al., 2014). Importantly, most of the changes seen in AD, such as inflammation, brain cell atrophy, immunological aberrations, amyloidogenesis, altered gene expression and cognitive deficits are also seen as a consequence of microbial infection (Cho and Blaser, 2012; Yatsunenko et al., 2012; Bhattacharjee and Lukiw, 2013; Foster and McVey Neufeld, 2013; Kim et al., 2013; Heintz and Mair, 2014; Mancuso et al., 2014). This brief communication will review some recent observations on the potential contribution of pathogens to neurological dysfunction, with specific reference to AD wherever possible.
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Background Depression is a chronic syndrome with a pathogenesis linked to various genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Several links between gut microbiota and depression have been established in animal models. In humans, however, few correlations have yet been demonstrated. The aim of our work was therefore to identify potential correlations between human fecal microbiota (as a proxy for gut microbiota) and depression.Methods We analyzed fecal samples from 55 people, 37 patients, and 18 non-depressed controls. Our analyses were based on data generated by Illumina deep sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons.Key ResultsWe found several correlations between depression and fecal microbiota. The correlations, however, showed opposite directions even for closely related Operational Taxonomic Units (OTU's), but were still associated with certain higher order phylogroups. The order Bacteroidales showed an overrepresentation (p = 0.05), while the family Lachnospiraceae showed an underrepresentation (p = 0.02) of OTU's associated with depression. At low taxonomic levels, there was one clade consisting of five OTU's within the genus Oscillibacter, and one clade within Alistipes (consisting of four OTU's) that showed a significant association with depression (p = 0.03 and 0.01, respectively).Conclusions & InferencesThe Oscillibacter type strain has valeric acid as its main metabolic end product, a homolog of neurotransmitter GABA, while Alistipes has previously been shown to be associated with induced stress in mice. In conclusion, the taxonomic correlations detected here may therefore correspond to mechanistic models.
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Green space is now widely viewed as a health-promoting characteristic of residential environments, and has been linked to mental health benefits such as recovery from mental fatigue and reduced stress, particularly through experimental work in environmental psychology. Few population level studies have examined the relationships between green space and mental health. Further, few studies have considered the role of green space in non-urban settings. This study contributes a population-level perspective from the United States to examine the relationship between environmental green space and mental health outcomes in a study area that includes a spectrum of urban to rural environments. Multivariate survey regression analyses examine the association between green space and mental health using the unique, population-based Survey of the Health of Wisconsin database. Analyses were adjusted for length of residence in the neighborhood to reduce the impact of neighborhood selection bias. Higher levels of neighborhood green space were associated with significantly lower levels of symptomology for depression, anxiety and stress, after controlling for a wide range of confounding factors. Results suggest that "greening" could be a potential population mental health improvement strategy in the United States.
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Background Obesity and abdominal obesity are independently associated with morbidity and mortality. Physical activity attenuates these risks. We examined trends in obesity, abdominal obesity, physical activity, and caloric intake in U.S. adults from 1988 to 2010. Methods Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. Results Average body-mass index (BMI) increased by 0.37% (95% CI, 0.30-0.44%) per year in both women and men. Average waist circumference increased by 0.37% (95% CI, 0.30-0.43%) and 0.27% (95% CI, 0.22-0.32%) per year in women and men, respectively. The prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity increased substantially, as did the prevalence of abdominal obesity among overweight adults. Younger women experienced the greatest increases. The proportion of adults who reported no leisure-time physical activity increased from 19.1% (95% CI, 17.3-21.0%) to 51.7% (95% CI, 48.9-54.5%) in women, and from 11.4% (95% CI, 10.0-12.8%) to 43.5% (95% CI, 40.7-46.3%) in men. Average daily caloric intake did not change significantly. BMI and waist circumference trends were associated with physical activity level, but not caloric intake. The associated changes in adjusted BMIs were 8.3% (95% CI, 6.9-9.6%) higher among women and 1.7% (95% CI, 0.68-2.8%) higher among men with no leisure-time physical activity compared to those with an ideal level of leisure-time physical activity. Conclusions Our analyses highlight important dimensions of the public health problem of obesity, including trends in younger women and in abdominal obesity, and lend support to the emphasis placed on physical activity by the Institute of Medicine.
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The emergent field of environmental epigenetics, which studies health effects of ‘xenobiotic’ chemicals, fundamentally challenges standard models of the biochemical pathways that shape bodies and human health. This article explores the implications of these discoveries for geographic knowledge in the nature-society and spatial traditions of human health, both of which have tended to black-box the material, biochemical body and treat the environment as an inert setting. Discoveries in epigenetics suggest that the environment is a biochemically active inducer of phenotypical development. In addition, understandings of the delayed temporality and intergenerational effects of epigenetic mechanisms challenge methodologies that privilege space.
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Epidemiological studies suggest that living close to the natural environment is associated with long-term health benefits including reduced death rates, reduced cardiovascular disease, and reduced psychiatric problems. This is often attributed to psychological mechanisms, boosted by exercise, social interactions, and sunlight. Compared with urban environments, exposure to green spaces does indeed trigger rapid psychological, physiological, and endocrinological effects. However, there is little evidence that these rapid transient effects cause long-term health benefits or even that they are a specific property of natural environments. Meanwhile, the illnesses that are increasing in high-income countries are associated with failing immunoregulation and poorly regulated inflammatory responses, manifested as chronically raised C-reactive protein and proinflammatory cytokines. This failure of immunoregulation is partly attributable to a lack of exposure to organisms ("Old Friends") from mankind's evolutionary past that needed to be tolerated and therefore evolved roles in driving immunoregulatory mechanisms. Some Old Friends (such as helminths and infections picked up at birth that established carrier states) are almost eliminated from the urban environment. This increases our dependence on Old Friends derived from our mothers, other people, animals, and the environment. It is suggested that the requirement for microbial input from the environment to drive immunoregulation is a major component of the beneficial effect of green space, and a neglected ecosystem service that is essential for our well-being. This insight will allow green spaces to be designed to optimize health benefits and will provide impetus from health systems for the preservation of ecosystem biodiversity.
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Contact with green space in the environment has been associated with mental health benefits, but the mechanism underpinning this association is not clear. This study extends an earlier exploratory study showing that more green space in deprived urban neighbourhoods in Scotland is linked to lower levels of perceived stress and improved physiological stress as measured by diurnal patterns of cortisol secretion. Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured at 3, 6 and 9 h post awakening over two consecutive weekdays, together with measures of perceived stress. Participants (n = 106) were men and women not in work aged between 35-55 years, resident in socially disadvantaged districts from the same Scottish, UK, urban context as the earlier study. Results from linear regression analyses showed a significant and negative relationship between higher green space levels and stress levels, indicating living in areas with a higher percentage of green space is associated with lower stress, confirming the earlier study findings. This study further extends the findings by showing significant gender differences in stress patterns by levels of green space, with women in lower green space areas showing higher levels of stress. A significant interaction effect between gender and percentage green space on mean cortisol concentrations showed a positive effect of higher green space in relation to cortisol measures in women, but not in men. Higher levels of neighbourhood green space were associated with healthier mean cortisol levels in women whilst also attenuating higher cortisol levels in men. We conclude that higher levels of green space in residential neighbourhoods, for this deprived urban population of middle-aged men and women not in work, are linked with lower perceived stress and a steeper (healthier) diurnal cortisol decline. However, overall patterns and levels of cortisol secretion in men and women were differentially related to neighbourhood green space and warrant further investigation.
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Globally, rapid urbanisation has substantially reduced the amount of viable agricultural land – a food security issue. Food security is bringing a renewed scholarly interest in community gardens. This paper reviews the extent of English academic literature on community gardens, including: who has undertaken the research, where it has been published, the geographical location of the gardens studied, and the various methods used to undertake the research. The characteristics of the community gardens are summarised, including what types of plants are grown, who is involved in the gardens, and who owns the land. The motivations, benefits and limitations of community gardening are also examined. Finally, potential directions for research into community gardens are highlighted. Academic literature on community gardens is dominated by studies investigating gardens in low-income areas with diverse cultural backgrounds. Research based in cities in the USA also dominates the literature. Scholars from a wide diversity of disciplines have examined community gardens but research is mostly concentrated in the social sciences. The natural sciences are notably under-represented, yet they have much to offer including assessing gardening practices to better understand the agro-biodiversity conservation potential of community gardens.
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Background An altered gut microbiota composition has recently been linked to obesity. The principal aim of this study is to investigate and compare the gut microbiota composition in obese and lean children. Secondly, associations between analysed gut bacterial species, dietary compounds, energy intake and biochemical blood parameters are evaluated. Methods In this prospective cross-sectional study, 26 overweight/obese (mean BMI: 28.7 ± 6.5) and 27 lean (mean BMI: 16.5 ± 2.1) children aged 6 to 16 were included. Faecal samples were collected and subjected to selective plating and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) in order to determine the concentrations of bacterial species belonging to the genera: Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, Clostridium, Staphylococcus and Lactobacillus. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) was applied for an in-depth identification of species of Bacteroides fragilis group. Differences in the concentrations of gut bacterial species between obese and lean children were statistically analysed using Mann Whitney U test. Subsequently, random forest analysis and multiple linear regression analysis were performed in order to test associations between gut bacterial species, dietary compounds and blood parameters. Results Obese children showed an elevated Firmicutes-to-Bacteroidetes ratio compared with lean children. Furthermore, low relative proportions of B. vulgatus and high concentrations of Lactobacillus spp. were observed in the obese microbiota. In all children, Staphylococcus spp. were positively associated with energy intake. Additionally, in obese children, Lactobacillus spp. were positively associated with plasma hs-CRP. Conclusions Our findings corroborate a significant difference in the gut microbiota composition of important bacterial species between obese and lean children. In future, non-invasive manipulation of gut microbiota composition in early infancy could offer a new approach to manage childhood obesity and associated disorders.
Article
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Objectives: We examined and compared the changing neighborhood characteristics of a group of homeless adults over time. Methods: We collected the addresses of previous housing and sleep locations from a longitudinal study of 400 homeless adults in the St. Louis, Missouri, region and compared census measures of housing and economic opportunities at different points along individual pathways from housing to homelessness and at 1- and 2-year follow-up interviews. Results: Sleep locations of homeless adults were much more concentrated in the urban core at baseline than were their previous housed and follow-up locations. These core areas had higher poverty, unemployment, and rent-to-income ratios and lower median incomes. Conclusions: The spatial concentration of homeless adults in areas with fewer opportunities and more economic and housing distress may present additional barriers to regaining stable housing and employment. A big-picture spatial and time-course viewpoint is critical for both policymakers and future homelessness researchers.
Article
Introduction: Defining the boundary of children's 'neighborhoods' has important implications for understanding the contextual influences on child health. Additionally, insight into activities that occur outside people's neighborhoods may indicate exposures that place-based studies cannot detect. This study aimed to 1) extend current neighborhood research, using data from wearable cameras and GPS devices that were worn over several days in an urban setting; 2) define the boundary of children's neighborhoods by using leisure time activity space data; and 3) determine the destinations visited by children in their leisure time, outside their neighborhoods. Method: One hundred and fourteen children (mean age 12y) from Wellington, New Zealand wore wearable cameras and GPS recorders. Residential Euclidean buffers at incremental distances were paired with GPS data (thereby identifying time spent in different places) to explore alternative definitions of neighborhood boundaries. Children's neighborhood boundary was at 500 m. A newly developed software application was used to identify 'destinations' visited outside the neighborhood by specifying space-time parameters. Image data from wearable cameras were used to determine the type of destination. Results: Children spent over half of their leisure time within 500 m of their homes. Children left their neighborhood predominantly to visit school (for leisure purposes), other residential locations (e.g. to visit friends) and food retail outlets (e.g. convenience stores, fast food outlets). Children spent more time at food retail outlets than at structured sport and in outdoor recreation locations combined. Conclusion: Person-centered neighborhood definitions may serve to better represent children's everyday experiences and neighborhood exposures than previous methods based on place-based measures. As schools and other residential locations (friends and family) are important destinations outside the neighborhood, such destinations should be taken into account. The combination of image data and activity space GPS data provides a more robust approach to understanding children's neighborhoods and activity spaces.
Article
Care of vacant properties in urban environments is of particular interest to planners and residents alike. We report on a photovoice project completed by community leaders, researchers, and residents in two Detroit neighborhoods experiencing longtime systemic disinvestment. Participants photographed and discussed examples of care in a series of three focus groups in each neighborhood. Analyses highlight how acts of landscape care and visible cues to care contribute to changes in physical and social environments, and explore various links to health. We suggest theoretical and practical applications of residents’ perspectives on landscape care and identify implications for well-being and neighborhood stability.
Article
Over the past few years, microbiome research has dramatically reshaped our understanding of human biology. New insights range from an enhanced understanding of how microbes mediate digestion and disease processes (e.g., in inflammatory bowel disease) to surprising associations with Parkinson's disease, autism, and depression. In this review, we describe how new generations of sequencing technology, analytical advances coupled to new software capabilities, and the integration of animal model data have led to these new discoveries. We also discuss the prospects for integrating studies of the microbiome, metabolome, and immune system, with the goal of elucidating mechanisms that govern their interactions. This systems-level understanding will change how we think about ourselves as organisms. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics Volume 18 is August 31, 2017. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Article
This paper reports on inter-disciplinary research designed to investigate the stress-buffering effects of green exercise, and the importance of the context in which exercise takes place. This investigation of context effects examines both individual physiological responses (salivary cortisol) and the phenomenological interpretation of lived experiences of the intervention, reported by a subsample of participants in a randomized, controlled trial, in which healthy, physically inactive university students were randomly allocated to three activities: walking on a treadmill in a gym, walking in semi-natural recreational area, and sitting and watching nature-based videos on TV. The study found clear indications of context effects, notably in the connections between positive appraisals of perceived circumstances, enjoyment in the enacted context, and physiological stress-reduction.
Article
While greenery in the city provide a number of important functions, the prevention of illegal dumping of household garbage (IDHG) has rarely been mentioned. Literature review on IDHG implied that greening on dumping sites can be understood as an effort to prevent such behaviour by modifying the physical characteristics of the site, in which case the physical characteristics of the greenery itself (i.e. the physical design) is also a potential factor. Therefore, this exploratory study attempts to answer (1) whether urban street greenery can function as a prevention against IDHG and (2) what relationship exists between the physical design elements of street greenery and its effectiveness. The study examined a recent IDHG-preventive greening project implemented in Suwon, a South Korean city. A quasi-experiment comparing the street greenery sites with non-street greenery sites and a binary logistic regression among the street greenery sites was conducted respectively to analyse the above questions. Results suggest that while street greenery does appear to function as a preventive method against IDHG, certain physical design elements notably related to the greenery's spatial features also tend to influence its effectiveness. A possible explanation may be that these elements might contribute to its effectiveness by reducing the actual space available for dumping garbage. It is hoped that this exploratory study could provide insight and universal implications regarding the relationship among urban greenery, its physical design, and its function as a prevention against IDHG.
Article
The rise of high-throughput sequencing technologies and culture-independent microbial surveys has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of how microbes colonize, move about, and evolve in hospital environments. Genome analysis of individual organisms, characterization of population dynamics, and microbial community ecology are facilitating the identification of novel pathogens, the tracking of disease outbreaks, and the study of the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Here we review the recent applications of these methods to microbial ecology studies in hospitals and discuss their potential to influence hospital management policy and practice and to reduce nosocomial infections and the spread of antibiotic resistance. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Article
We measured dynamic stress responses using ambulatory heart rate monitoring as participants in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania walked past vacant lots before and after a greening remediation treatment of randomly selected lots. Being in view of a greened vacant lot decreased heart rate significantly more than did being in view of a nongreened vacant lot or not in view of any vacant lot. Remediating neighborhood blight may reduce stress and improve health. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 19, 2015: e1-e5. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302526).
Article
Diet-induced obesity is associated to an imbalance in the normal gut microbiota composition. Resveratrol and quercetin, widely known for their health beneficial properties, have low bioavailability, and when they reach the colon, they are targets of the gut microbial ecosystem. Hence, the use of these molecules in obesity might be considered as a potential strategy to modulate intestinal bacterial composition. The purpose of this study was to determine whether trans-resveratrol and quercetin administration could counteract gut microbiota dysbiosis produced by high-fat sucrose diet (HFS) and, in turn, improve gut health. Wistar rats were randomised into four groups fed an HFS diet supplemented or not with trans-resveratrol [15 mg/kg body weight (BW)/day], quercetin (30 mg/kg BW/day) or a combination of both polyphenols at those doses. Administration of both polyphenols together prevented body weight gain and reduced serum insulin levels. Moreover, individual supplementation of trans-resveratrol and quercetin effectively reduced serum insulin levels and insulin resistance. Quercetin supplementation generated a great impact on gut microbiota composition at different taxonomic levels, attenuating Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio and inhibiting the growth of bacterial species previously associated to diet-induced obesity (Erysipelotrichaceae, Bacillus, Eubacterium cylindroides). Overall, the administration of quercetin was found to be effective in lessening HFS-diet-induced gut microbiota dysbiosis. In contrast, trans-resveratrol supplementation alone or in combination with quercetin scarcely modified the profile of gut bacteria but acted at the intestinal level, altering the mRNA expression of tight-junction proteins and inflammation-associated genes. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Article
The discovery of the size and complexity of the human microbiome has resulted in an ongoing reevaluation of many concepts of health and disease, including diseases affecting the CNS. A growing body of preclinical literature has demonstrated bidirectional signaling between the brain and the gut microbiome, involving multiple neurocrine and endocrine signaling mechanisms. While psychological and physical stressors can affect the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiota, experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behavior and related brain systems. These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Ongoing large-scale population-based studies of the gut microbiome and brain imaging studies looking at the effect of gut microbiome modulation on brain responses to emotion-related stimuli are seeking to validate these speculations. This article is a summary of emerging topics covered in a symposium and is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the subject.
Article
Common human experience shows that stress and anxiety may modulate gut function. Such observations have been combined with an increasing experimental evidence base have culminated in the concept of the brain-gut axis. Nevertheless, it has not been until recently that the gut and its attendant components, have been considered to influence higher cerebral function and behaviour per se. Moreover, the proposal that the gut and the bacteria contained therein (collectively referred to as the microbiota) can modulate mood and behaviours, has an increasing body of supporting evidence, albeit largely derived from animal studies. The gut microbiota is a dynamic and diverse ecosystem and forms a symbiotic relationship with the host. Herein we describe the components of the gut microbiota and mechanisms by which it can influence neural development, complex behaviours and nociception. Furthermore, we propose the novel concept of a ‘state of gut’ rather than a state of mind, particularly in relation to functional bowel disorders. Finally, we address the exciting possibility that the gut microbiota may offer a novel area of therapeutic intervention across a diverse array of both affective and GI disorders.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Article
This article develops a conceptual framework of neighborhood crime dynamics based on a synthesis of criminology and neighborhood change literatures which suggests that neighborhood decline can produce a nonlinear response in crime rates. The authors probe this relationship using a rich Detroit data set containing detailed, block-level information about housing, land, abandonment, population, schools, liquor outlets, and crime reports of various categories. Negative binomial models reveal that several neighborhood attributes are consistently associated with all types of crime (renter occupancy, population density, establishments with liquor licenses) while other attributes are only associated with particular types of crime. A simulation using estimated parameters suggests that processes of disinvestment and abandonment can generate a nonlinear pattern in the rate of growth in neighborhood crimes that vary in intensity by crime type. The authors explore the implications of their findings for anticrime strategies focusing on demolishing abandoned housing, “right-sizing” urban footprints, and regulating liquor-selling establishments.
Article
Neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are defined by core behavioral impairments; however, subsets of individuals display a spectrum of gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities. We demonstrate GI barrier defects and microbiota alterations in the maternal immune activation (MIA) mouse model that is known to display features of ASD. Oral treatment of MIA offspring with the human commensal Bacteroides fragilis corrects gut permeability, alters microbial composition, and ameliorates defects in communicative, stereotypic, anxiety-like and sensorimotor behaviors. MIA offspring display an altered serum metabolomic profile, and B. fragilis modulates levels of several metabolites. Treating naive mice with a metabolite that is increased by MIA and restored by B. fragilis causes certain behavioral abnormalities, suggesting that gut bacterial effects on the host metabolome impact behavior. Taken together, these findings support a gut-microbiome-brain connection in a mouse model of ASD and identify a potential probiotic therapy for GI and particular behavioral symptoms in human neurodevelopmental disorders.
Article
This study aims to find whether proximity to urban green spaces is associated with human mental health. A cross-sectional examination of the relationship between access to urban green spaces and counts of anxiety/mood disorder treatments amongst residents (aged 15 years and over) in Auckland City, New Zealand. Anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts by three age groups were aggregated to 3149 small area units in Auckland. Six measures of green space access were derived using GIS techniques involving total green spaces and useable green spaces. Negative binomial regression models have been fitted to test the relationship between access to green space and area-level anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts, adjusted for age and area-level deprivation. Anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts were associated with three green space measures. The proportion of both total and useable green space within 3 km and distance to nearest useable green space all indicated a protective effect of increased access to green space against anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts. Access to total and useable green space within 300 m did not exhibit significant associations. This study found that decreased distance to useable green space and increased proportion of green space within the larger neighbourhood were associated with decreased anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts in an urban environment. This suggests the benefits of green space on mental health may relate both to active participation in useable green spaces near to the home and observable green space in the neighbourhood environment.
Article
Urban studies literature suggests that anti-blight resources are frequently deployed in arbitrary fashions for short-term political objectives, rather than in concentrated, empirically-driven ways intended to manage complex urban problems. This creates an ambiguous and subjective conceptualization of blight in practice, which often leads to mismatches between actual urban conditions and codified public policy targets. Therefore, this research points to the practical need for an operational definition of blight. It is reasonable to assume that focusing anti-blight efforts in spaces identified using empirical data will increase the efficiency of a city's policy efforts. To that end this paper quantifies blight with an approach that is replicable by virtually any city in the United States. We then examine blight patterns for a selected city using spatial clustering methods that highlight areas where policy intervention might be warranted. The findings demonstrate how spatial analysis combined with contextual urban geographic information can assist local policymakers in identifying and understanding the geographies of blight in their municipalities.
Article
Programs of land development may adversely affect health when human ecology is not adequately included in economic planning. Studying the interaction of a population with the hazards of particular environments offers a way to assess the potential for disease and to identify critical groups and conditions for further research or preventive interference. Health conditions on the land schemes of the Federal Land Development Authority in Malaysia generally have improved as a result of environmental alterations, but there is a wide range of conditions associated with age of settlement and accessibility. Infectious, nutritional, and psychosocial hazards are most characteristic of new and remote settlement schemes. Diseases maintained by individual behavior and hazards such as vehicular accidents characterize developed and accessible schemes.
Article
This article analyzes an overlooked innovative experience led by black women activists, who participate in urban agriculture as a way of reassessing their cultural roots and reclaiming personal power, freed from the constraints imposed by consumerism and marketing, on the supply of food in the city of Detroit. By farming, they demonstrate agency and self-determination in their efforts to build a sense of community. Using an ecofeminist perspective, this article examines the relationship between women's resistance and the environment. By focusing on women's urban gardening, the article broadens the definition to include less formal, but no less important, forms of resistance. The article is divided into two parts. The first deals with the implementation of the project launched by the members of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN). Government statistics and secondary research provide the backdrop to the economic problems in the City of Detroit that triggered the community response. The second part presents women farmers' attempts to transform vacant land to create a community-based food system. These activists construct the farm as a community safe space, which operates as a creative, public outdoor classroom where they nurture activism and challenge the racial and class-based barriers to accessing healthy food. In addition to improving access to healthy food by repurposing vacant land, they are transforming their communities into safe and green spaces.
Article
Within the first few days of life, humans are colonized by commensal intestinal microbiota. Here, we review recent findings showing that microbiota are important in normal healthy brain function. We also discuss the relation between stress and microbiota, and how alterations in microbiota influence stress-related behaviors. New studies show that bacteria, including commensal, probiotic, and pathogenic bacteria, in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can activate neural pathways and central nervous system (CNS) signaling systems. Ongoing and future animal and clinical studies aimed at understanding the microbiota-gut-brain axis may provide novel approaches for prevention and treatment of mental illness, including anxiety and depression.