• ABO Blood Groups Do Not Predict Schistosoma mansoni Infection Profiles in Highly Endemic Villages of Uganda

      Francoeur, Rachel; Atuhaire, Alon; Arinaitwe, Moses; Adriko, Moses; Ajambo, Diana; Nankasi, Andrina; Babayan, Simon A.; Lamberton, Poppy H. L.; University of Glasgow; University of Chester; Ministry of Health, Uganda
      Schistosoma mansoni is a parasite which causes significant public-health issues, with over 240 mil-lion people infected globally. In Uganda alone, approximately 11.6 million people are affected. Despite over a decade of mass drug administration in this country, hyper-endemic hotspots persist, and individuals who are repeatedly heavily and rapidly reinfected are observed. Human blood-type antigens are known to play a role in the risk of infection for a variety of diseases, due to cross-reactivity between host antibodies and pathogenic antigens. There have been conflicting results on the effect of blood type on schistosomiasis infection and pathology. Moreover, the ef-fect of blood type as a potential intrinsic host factor on S. mansoni prevalence, intensity, clearance, and reinfection dynamics and on co-infection risk remains unknown. Therefore, the epidemio-logical link between host blood type and S. mansoni infection dynamics was assessed in three hyper-endemic communities in Uganda. Longitudinal data incorporating repeated pretreatment S. mansoni infection intensities and clearance rates were used to analyse associations between blood groups in school-aged children. Soil-transmitted helminth coinfection status and biometric parameters were incorporated in a generalised linear mixed regression model including age, gender, and body mass index (BMI), which have previously been established as significant factors influencing the prevalence and intensity of schistosomiasis. The analysis revealed no associations between blood type and S. mansoni prevalence, infection intensity, clearance, reinfection, or coinfection. Variations in infection profiles were significantly different between the villages, and egg burden significantly decreased with age. While blood type has proven to be a predictor of several diseases, the data collected in this study indicate that it does not play a significant role in S. mansoni infection burdens in these high-endemicity communities.
    • Reconciling egg- and antigen-based estimates of Schistosoma mansoni clearance and reinfection: a modelling study

      Clark, Jessica; Arinatawe, Moses; Nankasi, Andrina; Faust, Christina L.; Moses, Adriko; Ajambo, Diana; Besigye, Fred; Atuhare, Alon; Carruthers, Lauren V.; Francoeur, Rachel; et al.
      Background Despite decades of interventions, 240 million people have schistosomiasis. Infections cannot be directly observed, and egg-based Kato-Katz thick smears lack sensitivity, affected treatment efficacy and reinfection rate estimates. The point-of-care circulating cathodic antigen (referred to from here as POC-CCA+) test is advocated as an improvement on the Kato-Katz method, but improved estimates are limited by ambiguities in the interpretation of trace results. Method We collected repeated Kato-Katz egg counts from 210 school-aged children and scored POC-CCA tests according to the manufacturer’s guidelines (referred to from here as POC-CCA+) and the externally developed G score. We used hidden Markov models parameterized with Kato-Katz; Kato-Katz and POC-CCA+; and Kato-Katz and G-Scores, inferring latent clearance and reinfection probabilities at four timepoints over six-months through a more formal statistical reconciliation of these diagnostics than previously conducted. Our approach required minimal but robust assumptions regarding trace interpretations. Results Antigen-based models estimated higher infection prevalence across all timepoints compared with the Kato-Katz model, corresponding to lower clearance and higher reinfection estimates. Specifically, pre-treatment prevalence estimates were 85% (Kato-Katz; 95% CI: 79%–92%), 99% (POC-CCA+; 97%–100%) and 98% (G-Score; 95%–100%). Post-treatment, 93% (Kato-Katz; 88%–96%), 72% (POC-CCA+; 64%–79%) and 65% (G-Score; 57%–73%) of those infected were estimated to clear infection. Of those who cleared infection, 35% (Kato-Katz; 27%–42%), 51% (POC-CCA+; 41%–62%) and 44% (G-Score; 33%–55%) were estimated to have been reinfected by 9-weeks. Conclusions Treatment impact was shorter-lived than Kato-Katz–based estimates alone suggested, with lower clearance and rapid reinfection. At 3 weeks after treatment, longer-term clearance dynamics are captured. At 9 weeks after treatment, reinfection was captured, but failed clearance could not be distinguished from rapid reinfection. Therefore, frequent sampling is required to understand these important epidemiological dynamics.
    • Effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on cardiometabolic disease risk among overweight/obese adult males in United Kingdom- A pilot randomised controlled trial

      Mushtaq, Sohail; Agbalalah, Tarimoboere; University of Chester; Baze University (Wiley, 2022-04-22)
      Background Observational studies suggest links between reduced serum 25(OH)D concentration and increased cardiometabolic disease risk. However, these studies provide limited evidence of causation, with few conclusive randomised controlled trials (RCT) having been carried out to date. This RCT investigated the effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on vascular function and cardiometabolic disease risk markers, in fifty-five healthy males aged 18-65 years with plasma 25(OH)D concentration <75nmol/L and BMI ≥24.9kg/m2. Method Participants were assigned to consume 125µg/day (5,000 IU/day) vitamin D3 or placebo for 8-weeks. Blood samples and vascular function measures were obtained at baseline, week 4 and week 8. The primary outcome was arterial stiffness, an indicator of cardiovascular diseases risk (CVD), assessed by pulse wave velocity. Biomarkers of CVD risk, insulin resistance and endothelial function were measured using enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. Results Daily oral intake of 125µg supplemental vitamin D3 led to a significant improvement in plasma 25(OH)D concentrations over the 8-week intervention in the vitamin D group compared to the change in the placebo group (P ˂ 0.001). In the vitamin D group the baseline mean (±SD) 25(OH)D concentration was 38.4 ± 15.9 and this increased to 72.8 ± 16.1 nmol/L after 8 weeks of supplementation. The intervention had no effect on arterial stiffness, as measured by pulse wave velocity (PWV) but vitamin D3 supplementation did lead to a decrease in mean (±SD) brachial pulse pressure from baseline to 8 weeks, by − 2.9 ± 3.4 mmHg, (P = 0.027) in the vitamin D group compared to the same period in the placebo group. The intervention had no effect on the remaining cardiometabolic parameters. Conclusion Overall, treatment significantly improved brachial pulse pressure but no other cardiometabolic disease risk markers. To follow on from this pilot RCT, future large-scale clinical trials over longer durations may offer further insights. Clinical trial registration http://www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT02359214.
    • A figurational analysis of employees’ experiences of organizational change within NGBs

      Bloyce, Daniel; Thompson, Anne (University of Chester, 2022-04-28)
      National governing bodies of sport (NGBs) are intrinsically and dependably aligned to delivering the UK government’s sport policies of increasing participation in sport and winning medals. NGBs operate within an environment characterized by social processes shaped by dynamic interdependent relationships, a results-orientated approach, and intense scrutiny of performance. Change has become an integral part of the organizational life for employees. Yet, the existing literature has overemphasized the structural characteristics of organizations by being preoccupied with the treatment of organizations as rational and static objects. This thesis aims to make an original contribution to the literature by employing a figurational analysis to understand the meanings constructed by employees as they responded to the government’s deliberate, overtly prescriptive, and task-orientated strategy of modernization. This study employed a mixed method ‘lite’ approach, comprising semi-structured interviews and an e-survey. Initially, semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior administrators from five National Sport Organizations (NSOs) and seven NGBs to establish context on the external processes influencing change within NGBs. Two case study NGBs were selected, and 25 semi-structured interviews and an e-survey (n=52) conducted to gather data on the experiences and realities of employees in responding to and managing internal changes. The study draws attention to a constant, top-down process of change reinforced by the four-yearly cycle of funding administrated by Sport England and UK Sport. Employees increasingly focused upwardly to align their goal orientation to that of their funding partners, constraining the ability of employees to balance the needs of their other partners across their wider network. These processes have shaped the formation of extreme power imbalances, in favour of the government, Sport England, and UK Sport, through strategies to centralize power and to influence a strong functional and resource dependency by NGBs. The process of change created unintentional consequences as NGBs moved away from their traditional voluntary sport clubs (VSC) network, to concentrate on easy targets to ensure delivery of their contractual obligations. The process of habitus formation mediated the way in which employees made sense of internal changes, and in managing the hostilities that employees experienced from those board members and club officials deeply embedded within the traditional sporting ethos and philosophy of NGBs. It concludes that the adoption of a figurational analysis to organizational change, with employees positioned at the centre of the investigation, has provided a more adequate understanding of the interweaving of social processes of change and human action. As the UK government continues to modernize NGBs, policy-makers, and particularly NGB senior managers, should consider readdressing the levels of interdependency and extreme power imbalances between NGBs, government, Sport England, and UK Sport, to enable the longer-term sustainability of NGBs, through more effectively balancing their role as member-led organizations and strategic deliverers of government sport policies.
    • Weight loss practices and eating behaviours among female physique athletes: Acquiring the optimal body composition for competition

      Alwan, Nura; Moss, Samantha; Davies, Ian; Elliott-Sale, Kirsty; Enright, Kevin; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Chester; Nottingham Trent University (Public Library of Science, 2022-01-14)
      Little is known about weight loss practices and eating behaviours in female physique athletes. This study investigated the weight loss history, practices, and key influences during the pre-competition period in a large cohort of female physique athletes stratified by division and experience level. Eating attitudes and behaviours were assessed to identify whether athletes were at risk of developing an eating disorder. Using a cross-sectional research design, female physique athletes (n = 158) were recruited and completed an anonymous online self-reported survey consisting of two validated questionnaires: Rapid Weight Loss Questionnaire and Eating Attitudes Test-26. Irrespective of division or experience, female physique athletes used a combination of weight loss practices during the pre-competition phase. Gradual dieting (94%), food restriction (64%) and excessive exercise (84%), followed by body water manipulation via water loading (73%) were the most commonly used methods. Overall, 37% of female physique athletes were considered at risk of developing an eating disorder. Additionally, 42% of female physique athletes used two pathogenic weight control methods with 34% of Figure novice athletes indicating binge eating once a week or more. The coach (89%) and another athlete (73%) were identified as key influences on athletes' dieting practices and weight loss. The prevalence of athletes identified with disordered eating symptoms and engaging in pathogenic weight control methods is concerning. In future, female physique athletes should seek advice from registered nutritionists to optimise weight management practices and minimise the risk of developing an eating disorder.
    • ‘If you haven’t got the contacts… you have no choice’: A figurational examination of unpaid work in football scouting in men’s professional football in England.

      Griffiths, Jacob; Bloyce, Daniel; University of Chester (Sage, 2022-03-09)
      Association football has been viewed as an industry with considerable lucrative career prospects; however, this has not prevented the use of unpaid staff throughout football in the UK. There has been increasing academic research regarding the professionalisation and commercialisation of football, yet there has been little acknowledgement of the role of those working in football in an unpaid capacity. Therefore, this paper examines the culture of unpaid work in football scouting, by exploring the motivations of 12 unpaid scouts at professional clubs, from a figurational perspective. Our findings suggest that scouts want to work in the industry because of their ‘love of the game’, in a ‘quest for excitement’ in their career. Unpaid work was in the pursuit of experience and contacts, the latter of which was highly valued in the industry. Football clubs are enclosed figurations and the scouts placed importance on developing interdependent social relations to gain entry to the industry, demonstrating how football may be perceived nepotistic. The likelihood of gaining a paid role directly from an unpaid position was low and therefore the decisions to continually accept unpaid work represented the notion of fantasy-laden thinking.
    • An Investigation of Interactions between Heat Shock Proteins and the Immune System

      Williams, John; Michelangeli, Frank; Jones, Christopher; Seabra, Laurence; Ogbodo, Emmanuel (University of Chester, 2021-03)
      The human body initiates an inflammatory immune response following exposure to certain danger signals. The Danger Model proposes that Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) can be activated by danger or alarm signals. These danger signals come from exogenous molecules such as pathogens, toxins, or even mechanical cell damage. Damage due to cellular stress can initiate the extracellular release of endogenous molecules, such as heat shock proteins (HSPs) into the extracellular environment. HSPs can act as danger signals triggering the immune response. This immune response is based on antigen recognition by specific cell surface receptor proteins, and T-cells, which then determine the type of inflammatory (pro or anti-inflammatory) cytokines produced or expressed. This thesis investigates the effects of Hsp72 and Hsp27 in the activation of immune cells to secrete cytokines, which are upregulated during inflammatory responses. In determining the role of HSPs in affecting inflammatory immune responses, U937 cells, U937 macrophages, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were used. To determine whether the effects observed with recombinant HSPs used in these studies, were due to bacterial contamination: U937 macrophages were exposed either to denatured HSPs, polymyxin B (which can neutralise bacterial lipopolysaccharides), anti-HSPs antibodies, or receptor proteins blocking peptides, and their ability to induce cytokine (ie IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-10) secretion were analysed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Western blotting was used to confirm the presence of Hsp72, Hsp27, and Hsp60 in U937 cells and U937 macrophage. Flow cytometry was used to identify the expression of immune responsive receptor proteins such as CD14, CD36, CD11b, TLR2, TLR4, TLR5, and TLR7, on U937 cells and U937 macrophages. The result presented in this thesis also showed that Hsp72 and Hsp27 can stimulate immune responses independent of bacterial contamination. These HSPs are able to induce an inflammatory immune response, possibly through interactions with a number of immune responsive receptor proteins, which were identified in U937 cells and U937 macrophages. Further evidence using CD14, CD36, CD11b, TLR2, TLR4, TLR5, and TLR7 blocking peptides, also confirmed that an interaction between cytokine secretion caused by, Hsp72 and Hsp27 were likely due to their interactions with specific immune responsive receptor proteins. Interestingly, some of the receptor proteins identified are not activated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS), again highlighting the fact that the results presented in this thesis, are unlikely to be artifacts caused by bacterial contamination. Furthermore, it is clear that HSPs are interacting with numerous receptor proteins, and possibly more than even demonstrated in this thesis. This therefore highlights the promiscuous nature of HSPs interaction with different signalling pathways through the different receptor proteins. The promiscuous property of HSPs could thus be used for the treatment of diseases, since HSPs have been linked with many diseases, including cancer. Therefore, understanding the full relationship between HSPs and these signalling pathways, may prove promising in using HSPs for therapeutic purposes in future.
    • Translating From Egg- to Antigen-Based Indicators for Schistosoma mansoni Elimination Targets: A Bayesian Latent Class Analysis Study

      Clark, Jessica; Moses, Arinaitwe; Nankasi, Andrina; Faust, Christina L.; Adriko, Moses; Ajambo, Diana; Besigye, Fred; Atuhaire, Arron; Wamboko, Aidah; Rowel, Candia; et al. (Frontiers Media S.A., 2022-02-18)
      Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease affecting over 240-million people. World Health Organization (WHO) targets for Schistosoma mansoni elimination are based on Kato-Katz egg counts, without translation to the widely used, urine-based, point-of-care circulating cathodic antigen diagnostic (POC-CCA). We aimed to standardize POC-CCA score interpretation and translate them to Kato-Katz-based standards, broadening diagnostic utility in progress towards elimination. A Bayesian latent-class model was fit to data from 210 school-aged-children over four timepoints pre- to six-months-post-treatment. We used 1) Kato-Katz and established POC-CCA scoring (Negative, Trace, +, ++ and +++), and 2) Kato-Katz and G-Scores (a new, alternative POC-CCA scoring (G1 to G10)). We established the functional relationship between Kato-Katz counts and POC-CCA scores, and the score-associated probability of true infection. This was combined with measures of sensitivity, specificity, and the area under the curve to determine the optimal POC-CCA scoring system and positivity threshold. A simulation parametrized with model estimates established antigen-based elimination targets. True infection was associated with POC-CCA scores of ≥ + or ≥G3. POC-CCA scores cannot predict Kato-Katz counts because low infection intensities saturate the POC-CCA cassettes. Post-treatment POC-CCA sensitivity/specificity fluctuations indicate a changing relationship between egg excretion and antigen levels (living worms). Elimination targets can be identified by the POC-CCA score distribution in a population. A population with ≤2% ++/+++, or ≤0.5% G7 and above, indicates achieving current WHO Kato-Katz-based elimination targets. Population-level POC-CCA scores can be used to access WHO elimination targets prior to treatment. Caution should be exercised on an individual level and following treatment, as POC-CCAs lack resolution to discern between WHO Kato-Katz-based moderate- and high-intensity-infection categories, with limited use in certain settings and evaluations.
    • Regucalcin ameliorates doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity in Cos-7 kidney cells and translocates from the nucleus to the mitochondria.

      Mohammed, Noor A; Hakeem, Israa J; Hodges, Nikolas; Michelangeli, Francesco; orcid: 0000-0002-4878-046X (2022-01-01)
      Doxorubicin (DOX) is a potent anticancer drug, which can have unwanted side-effects such as cardiac and kidney toxicity. A detailed investigation was undertaken of the acute cytotoxic mechanisms of DOX on kidney cells, using Cos-7 cells as kidney cell model. Cos-7 cells were exposed to DOX for a period of 24 h over a range of concentrations, and the LC50 was determined to be 7 µM. Further investigations showed that cell death was mainly via apoptosis involving Ca2+ and caspase 9, in addition to autophagy. Regucalcin (RGN), a cytoprotective protein found mainly in liver and kidney tissues, was overexpressed in Cos-7 cells and shown to protect against DOX-induced cell death. Subcellular localization studies in Cos-7 cells showed RGN to be strongly correlated with the nucleus. However, upon treatment with DOX for 4 h, which induced membrane blebbing in some cells, the localization appeared to be correlated more with the mitochondria in these cells. It is yet to be determined whether this translocation is part of the cytoprotective mechanism or a consequence of chemically induced cell stress.
    • Raising the bar in sports performance research.

      Abt, Grant; orcid: 0000-0002-4079-9270; Jobson, Simon; orcid: 0000-0002-1377-2128; Morin, Jean-Benoit; orcid: 0000-0003-3808-6762; Passfield, Louis; orcid: 0000-0001-6223-162X; Sampaio, Jaime; orcid: 0000-0003-2335-9991; Sunderland, Caroline; orcid: 0000-0001-7484-1345; Twist, Craig; orcid: 0000-0001-6168-0378 (2022-01-06)
    • Preliminary investigation of the effects of a concert on the behavior of zoo animals

      Harley, Jessica J.; Rowden, Lewis J.; Clifforde, Lisa M.; Power, Aisling; Stanley, Christina; University of Chester; Knowsley Safari Park, ZSL; Tayto Park (Wiley, 2022-02-09)
      To increase visitor footfall and engagement, zoos may host public events which may extend outside of typical opening hours. With plans to hold a 2-day concert at Tayto Park, Ireland, this study aimed to identify the behavioral response to the music event of a selected group of species in the zoo. Twenty-two species were observed across three Phases of the event (pre-, during and post-event). Specific behaviors of interest were categorized as active, resting, asleep, abnormal, and out of sight, with repeated observations being made at each enclosure during each Phase. Alongside these behavioral data, Sound Pressure Levels (SPLs) were concurrently recorded at the observation locations in terms of both dB(A) and dB(C). The median dB(C) levels during the event were found to be significantly higher (mdn = 64.5dB) when compared with both pre- (mdn = 60.7dB) and post-event Phases (mdn = 59.4dB), whilst dB(A) levels were only significantly higher during the event (51.7dB) when compared with the pre-event Phase (mdn = 49.8dB). We found some species-specific behavioral changes (mainly associated with active and resting behaviors) correlated with increased SPLs and/or event itself. However, the behavioral responses varied between species and there were numerous species which did not respond with any change in behavior to the increased SPLs or the event itself. This variation in response across species reinforces the need for monitoring of behavioral changes as well as consideration of their natural behavioral ecology when implementing appropriate mitigation strategies. Further research should be encouraged to provide evidence-based assessment of how music events may affect animal welfare and behavior and to test the efficacy of mitigation strategies that are implemented to safeguard animal welfare.
    • Human-controlled reproductive experience may contribute to incestuous behavior observed in reintroduced semi-feral stallions (Equus caballus)

      Stanley, Christina; Górecka-Bruzda, Alexandra; Jaworska, Joanna; Siemieniuch, Marta; Jaworski, Zbigniew; Wocławek-Potocka, Izabela; Lansade, Lea; University of Chester; Polish Academy of Sciences; University of Warmia and Mazury; Centre INRAE Val-de-Loire (Elsevier, 2021-12-17)
      Equine reproductive behavior is affected by many factors, some remaining poorly understood. This study tested the hypothesis that a period of captivity during the juvenile period and human-controlled reproduction may potentially be involved in the disruption of the development of incestuous mating avoidance behavior in sanctuary-reintroduced male Konik polski horses. Between 1986 and 2000, cases of incestuous behavior in harem stallions born and reared until weaning in the sanctuary were studied. Eight males lived in the sanctuary’s feral herd for the rest of their lives (the non-captive group; nC). They gained their own harem of mares without human intervention (no human-controlled reproductive activity, nHC). Another five stallions were removed as weanlings, reared in captivity and then reintroduced as adults (captive, C). Three of these C stallions were used as in-hand breeding stallions, one as a “teaser” (human-controlled reproductive activity, HC) and one was not used for reproduction in captivity (nHC). Reproductive records for 46 mares, daughters of all 13 harem stallions, were scrutinized and cases of incestuous breeding were recorded by interrogation of foal parentage records. C stallions failed to expel more daughters than nC stallions (33% vs. 18%, P = 0.045), and mated with significantly more of them (28% vs. 11%, P = 0.025). Interestingly, HC stallions expelled fewer (60%) and successfully mated with more (33%) daughters that nHC stallions (84% expelled, P = 0.013, and 10% successful mating with daughters, P = 0.010). All HC stallions bred incestuously at least once. We propose that human intervention during a critical period of development of social and reproductive behavior in young stallions, by enforced separation from their natal herd and in-hand breeding, may contribute to their later aberrant behavior and disruption of inbreeding avoidance mechanisms in these stallions. The previous occurrence of human-controlled breeding may be one of the factors promoting incestuous behavior of stallions in natural conditions. The uninterrupted presence of stallions in their harems and herd member recognition may also play important roles in inbreeding avoidance in horses.
    • Bi-exponential modelling of W' reconstitution kinetics in trained cyclists

      Chorley, Alan; Bott, Richard P.; Marwood, Simon; Lamb, Kevin L.; University of Chester; Liverpool Hope University (Springer, 2021-12-18)
      Purpose The aim of this study was to investigate the individual W′ reconstitution kinetics of trained cyclists following repeated bouts of incremental ramp exercise, and to determine an optimal mathematical model to describe W′ reconstitution. Methods Ten trained cyclists (age 41 ± 10 years; mass 73.4 ± 9.9 kg; V˙O2max 58.6 ± 7.1 mL kg min−1) completed three incremental ramps (20 W min−1) to the limit of tolerance with varying recovery durations (15–360 s) on 5–9 occasions. W′ reconstitution was measured following the first and second recovery periods against which mono-exponential and bi-exponential models were compared with adjusted R2 and bias-corrected Akaike information criterion (AICc). Results A bi-exponential model outperformed the mono-exponential model of W′ reconstitution (AICc 30.2 versus 72.2), fitting group mean data well (adjR2 = 0.999) for the first recovery when optimised with parameters of fast component (FC) amplitude = 50.67%; slow component (SC) amplitude = 49.33%; time constant (τ)FC = 21.5 s; τSC = 388 s. Following the second recovery, W′ reconstitution reduced by 9.1 ± 7.3%, at 180 s and 8.2 ± 9.8% at 240 s resulting in an increase in the modelled τSC to 716 s with τFC unchanged. Individual bi-exponential models also fit well (adjR2 = 0.978 ± 0.017) with large individual parameter variations (FC amplitude 47.7 ± 17.8%; first recovery: (τ)FC = 22.0 ± 11.8 s; (τ)SC = 377 ± 100 s; second recovery: (τ)FC = 16.3.0 ± 6.6 s; (τ)SC = 549 ± 226 s). Conclusions W′ reconstitution kinetics were best described by a bi-exponential model consisting of distinct fast and slow phases. The amplitudes of the FC and SC remained unchanged with repeated bouts, with a slowing of W′ reconstitution confined to an increase in the time constant of the slow component.
    • ‘I didn’t realise the variety of people that are climbers’: A sociological exploration of young women’s propensities to engage in indoor rock climbing

      Hewitt, Jack R.; McEvilly, Nollaig; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-12-02)
      This paper focuses on the increasingly popular leisure pursuit of indoor rock climbing amongst young women in the UK. Adopting a Bourdieusian perspective, we draw on the concepts of field, habitus and capital to explore the factors associated with young women’s propensities to start, and continue, engaging in this activity. Data were generated through semi-structured interviews with 12 women (aged 18-25), who had been regularly engaging in indoor climbing for at least six months. Thematic analysis of the transcripts led to the construction of three themes: preconceptions of a masculine field; habitual feelings of intimidation and inferiority; and deploying and accruing ‘climbing capital’. The findings indicate that climbing’s deep-rooted classification as a ‘man’s sport’ initially facilitated feelings of intimidation and inferiority amongst the women, inhibiting their propensity to participate. However, having been introduced to climbing (often by men, such as their boyfriends or brothers), the women found that the social aspects of the activity, along with the sense of achievement they felt when participating, meant they re-evaluated their preconceptions of the field. Their access to various forms of capital facilitated their continued engagement in the field.
    • Assessment of serum total 25-hydroxyvitamin D assays for Vitamin D External Quality Assessment Scheme (DEQAS) materials distributed at ambient and frozen conditions

      Sempos, Christopher T.; Williams, Emma L.; Carter, Graham D.; Jones, Julia; Camara, Johanna E.; Burdette, Carolyn Q.; Hahm, Grace; Nalin, Federica; Duewer, David L.; Kuszak, Adam J.; et al. (Springer, 2021-11-09)
      The Vitamin D External Quality Assessment Scheme (DEQAS) distributes human serum samples four times per year to over 1000 participants worldwide for the determination of total serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D)]. These samples are stored at −40 °C prior to distribution and the participants are instructed to store the samples frozen at −20 °C or lower after receipt; however, the samples are shipped to participants at ambient conditions (i.e., no temperature control). To address the question of whether shipment at ambient conditions is sufficient for reliable performance of various 25(OH)D assays, the equivalence of DEQAS human serum samples shipped under frozen and ambient conditions was assessed. As part of a Vitamin D Standardization Program (VDSP) commutability study, two sets of the same nine DEQAS samples were shipped to participants at ambient temperature and frozen on dry ice. Twenty-eight laboratories participated in this study and provided 34 sets of results for the measurement of 25(OH)D using 20 ligand binding assays and 14 liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) methods. Equivalence of the assay response for the frozen versus ambient DEQAS samples for each assay was evaluated using multi-level modeling, paired t-tests including a false discovery rate (FDR) approach, and ordinary least squares linear regression analysis of frozen versus ambient results. Using the paired t-test and confirmed by FDR testing, differences in the results for the ambient and frozen samples were found to be statistically significant at p < 0.05 for four assays (DiaSorin, DIAsource, Siemens, and SNIBE prototype). For all 14 LC–MS/MS assays, the differences in the results for the ambient- and frozen-shipped samples were not found to be significant at p < 0.05 indicating that these analytes were stable during shipment at ambient conditions. Even though assay results have been shown to vary considerably among different 25(OH)D assays in other studies, the results of this study also indicate that sample handling/transport conditions may influence 25(OH)D assay response for several assays.
    • Recommendations for Transdisciplinary Professional Competencies and Ethics for Animal-Assisted Therapies and Interventions

      Trevathan-Minnis, Melissa; email: drtrevathanminnis@gmail.com; Johnson, Amy; orcid: 0000-0003-3536-9193; email: dramyjohnsonlpc@gmail.com; Howie, Ann R.; email: humananimalsolutions@comcast.net (MDPI, 2021-12-02)
      AAI is a transdisciplinary field that has grown exponentially in recent decades. This growth has not always been synergistic across fields, creating a need for more consistent language and standards, a call for which many professionals in the field have made. Under the umbrella of human−animal interactions (HAI) is animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), which have a more goal-directed intention with animals who have been assessed for therapeutic, educational, or vocational work. The current article offers a brief history and efficacy of HAI, describes the limitations and gaps within the field and recommends a new set of competencies and guidelines that seek to create some of the needed common language and standards for AAI work to address these limitations.
    • ABO Blood Groups Do Not Predict Schistosoma mansoni Infection Profiles in Highly Endemic Villages of Uganda

      Francoeur, Rachel; Atuhaire, Alon; orcid: ; email: aaronatuhaire@gmail.com; Arinaitwe, Moses; orcid: ; email: moses0772359814@gmail.com; Adriko, Moses; orcid: 0000-0001-9748-1207; email: adrikomoses@gmail.com; Ajambo, Diana; orcid: ; email:; Nankasi, Andrina; orcid: ; email: n1andrina@gmail.com; Babayan, Simon; orcid: ; email: simon.babayan@glasgow.ac.uk; Lamberton, Poppy; orcid: 0000-0003-1048-6318; email: poppy.lamberton@glasgow.ac.uk (MDPI, 2021-11-27)
      Schistosoma mansoni is a parasite which causes significant public-health issues, with over 240 million people infected globally. In Uganda alone, approximately 11.6 million people are affected. Despite over a decade of mass drug administration in this country, hyper-endemic hotspots persist, and individuals who are repeatedly heavily and rapidly reinfected are observed. Human blood-type antigens are known to play a role in the risk of infection for a variety of diseases, due to cross-reactivity between host antibodies and pathogenic antigens. There have been conflicting results on the effect of blood type on schistosomiasis infection and pathology. Moreover, the effect of blood type as a potential intrinsic host factor on S. mansoni prevalence, intensity, clearance, and reinfection dynamics and on co-infection risk remains unknown. Therefore, the epidemiological link between host blood type and S. mansoni infection dynamics was assessed in three hyper-endemic communities in Uganda. Longitudinal data incorporating repeated pretreatment S. mansoni infection intensities and clearance rates were used to analyse associations between blood groups in school-aged children. Soil-transmitted helminth coinfection status and biometric parameters were incorporated in a generalised linear mixed regression model including age, gender, and body mass index (BMI), which have previously been established as significant factors influencing the prevalence and intensity of schistosomiasis. The analysis revealed no associations between blood type and S. mansoni prevalence, infection intensity, clearance, reinfection, or coinfection. Variations in infection profiles were significantly different between the villages, and egg burden significantly decreased with age. While blood type has proven to be a predictor of several diseases, the data collected in this study indicate that it does not play a significant role in S. mansoni infection burdens in these high-endemicity communities.
    • Behavioural Indicators of Intra- and Inter-Specific Competition: Sheep Co-Grazing with Guanaco in the Patagonian Steppe

      Fernandez, Tomas; Lancaster, Alex; Moraga, Claudio A.; Radic-Schilling, Sergio; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Corti, Paulo; Universidad Austral de Chile; University of Chester; Fundacion CEQUA; Universidad de Magallanes (MDPI, 2021-11-22)
      In extensive livestock production, high densities may inhibit regulation processes, main- taining high levels of intraspecific competition over time. During competition, individuals typically modify their behaviours, particularly feeding and bite rates, which can therefore be used as indicators of competition. Over eight consecutive seasons, we investigated if variation in herd density, food availability, and the presence of a potential competitor, the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), was related with behavioural changes in domestic sheep in Chilean Patagonia. Focal sampling, instantaneous scan sampling, measures of bite and movement rates were used to quantify behavioural changes in domestic sheep. We found that food availability increased time spent feeding, while herd density was associated with an increase in vigilant behaviour and a decrease in bite rate, but only when food availability was low. Guanaco presence appeared to have no impact on sheep behaviour. Our results suggest that the observed behavioural changes in domestic sheep are more likely due to intraspecific competition rather than interspecific competition. Consideration of intraspecific competition where guanaco and sheep co-graze on pastures could allow management strategies to focus on herd density, according to rangeland carrying capacity.
    • Marginal habitats provide unexpected survival benefits to the Alpine marmot

      Ferrari, Caterina; Zanet, Stefania; Rolando, Antonio; Bertolino, Sandro; Bassano, Bruno; von Hardenberg, Achaz; University of Turin; Alpine Wildlife Research Centre, Gran Paradiso National Park; University of Chester (Wiley, 2022-01-06)
      Age-specific survival trajectories can vary significantly among wild populations. Identifying the environmental conditions associated with such variability is of primary importance to understand the dynamics of free-ranging populations. In this study, we investigated survival variations among alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) families living in areas with opposite environmental characteristics: the typical habitat of the species (alpine meadow) and a marginal area bordering the forest. We used data collected during an 11-year study in the Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy) and performed a Bayesian survival trajectory analysis on marked individuals. Furthermore, we investigated, at a territorial level, the relationships among demographic parameters and habitat variables by using a path analysis approach. Contrary to our expectations, for most of the marmot’s lifespan, survival rate was higher in the marginal site closer to the forest and with lower visibility than in the alpine meadow site. Path analysis indicated that the number of families living close to each other negatively affected the stability of the dominant couple, which in turn affected both juvenile survival and reproduction. Given the lower number of neighbouring families which inhabited the marginal site and the potentially different predation pressure by the most effective predator in the area (Aquila chrysaetos), our results suggest that species adapted to live in open habitats may benefit from living in a marginal habitat. This study highlights the importance of habitats bordering the forest in the conservation of alpine marmots.
    • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Potential Links to Depression, Anxiety, and Chronic Stress

      Shea, Sue; Lionis, Christos; Kite, Chris; Atkinson, Lou; Chaggar, Surinderjeet; Randeva, Harpal S; Kyrou, Ioannis; University of Warwick; University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust; University of Crete; University of Chester; Coventry University; Aston University; Forum Health Centre; Agricultural University of Athens (MDPI, 2021-11-16)
      Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) constitutes the most common liver disease worldwide, and is frequently linked to the metabolic syndrome. The latter represents a clustering of related cardio-metabolic components, which are often observed in patients with NAFLD and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, growing evidence suggests a positive association between metabolic syndrome and certain mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, and chronic stress). Given the strong overlap between metabolic syndrome and NAFLD, and the common underlying mechanisms that link the two conditions, it is probable that potentially bidirectional associations are also present between NAFLD and mental health comorbidity. The identification of such links is worthy of further investigation, as this can inform more targeted interventions for patients with NAFLD. Therefore, the present review discusses published evidence in relation to associations of depression, anxiety, stress, and impaired health-related quality of life with NAFLD and metabolic syndrome. Attention is also drawn to the complex nature of affective disorders and potential overlapping symptoms between such conditions and NAFLD, while a focus is also placed on the postulated mechanisms mediating associations between mental health and both NAFLD and metabolic syndrome. Relevant gaps/weaknesses of the available literature are also highlighted, together with future research directions that need to be further explored.