Canada briefs – July 18

Federal safety investigators were busy Sunday collecting aircraft data and interviewing the crew of a Purolator cargo jet that overshot the runway at St. John’s International Airport.

Cargo jet overshoots runway in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Federal safety investigators were busy Sunday collecting aircraft data and interviewing the crew of a Purolator cargo jet that overshot the runway at St. John’s International Airport.

No one was hurt in Saturday’s mishap, which caused airport officials to shut down flight operations for over an hour and switch traffic to the second of the facility’s two main runways.

The Transportation Safety Board’s lead investigator at the site said a four-person team had travelled to St. John’s.

Doug McEwen said the investigation would be extensive in scope.

“We typically look at maintenance-related issues … as well as the runway, weather at the time, crew performance and company operations,” said McEwen.

He said the three-person flight crew was in the process of being interviewed by investigators.

McEwen couldn’t say how long it would take to determine the cause.

“It’s going to be a little while yet,” he said. “The data collection … can be quite lengthy at times and it’s certainly too early to tell at this point.”


Elderly patient with C. difficile dies

WELLAND, Ont. — Another death has been linked to C. difficile in Ontario as six hospitals in the province continue to battle outbreaks of the infection.

The Niagara Health System said an elderly patient with the illness died Saturday at a hospital in Welland, Ont., which has been battling an outbreak of the infectious bacteria.

The hospital said it is investigating the role the illness played in the death of the patient, who had multiple health issues.

There have been at least 24 deaths connected to C. difficile since outbreaks emerged at hospitals across the province in late May.

The Niagara region currently has 47 confirmed cases of C. difficile spread over six hospitals, including 19 cases at St. Catharines General, where public health officials declared the area’s first outbreak on May 28.

Four hospitals in the Niagara region, one in Guelph and one in Orangeville are still struggling to contain outbreaks of the bug.

Clostridium difficile causes severe diarrhea and is typically spread in hospitals through contact with fecal matter.

Vulnerable patients taking antibiotics are generally the most susceptible to the bacterial disease.

On Thursday health officials also declared an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a superbug known as MRSA, at a Niagara Falls hospital already fighting C. difficile.

Hospitals can only declare an outbreak over once there are no new hospital-acquired cases for 30 days.


UBC experts find disorders clue

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — A technical break-through in gene splicing by experts at the University of Northern B.C. may lead to better understanding of genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy and certain types of dwarfism.

UNBC chemistry professor Stephen Rader says it’s a puzzle researchers have been trying to piece together for about 30 years.

Gene splicing involves cutting out part of the DNA in a gene and adding new DNA in its place, changing and repairing the function of the gene.

The UNBC team discovered that a region of the molecule, known as U4, is essential for assembling the splicing machinery.

Up until now, experts had thought the molecule played no role in the splicing process.

The research will be presented at a Western Canada conference on RNA, or ribonucleic acid, being held Monday and Tuesday at the Prince George, B.C., university.

The discovery stems from a component of a master’s project of recent UNBC graduate Amy Hayduk.

Rader noted that they have also discovered a new way to study what the molecule is doing in the test tube.

“We found mutations in U4 that make it better than normal at assembling the splicing machinery, but worse at the actual splicing reaction,” he said in a news release.

“It leaves before the actual splicing happens, so it is apparently only there to help put things together.”

Rader said they didn’t don’t understand how or why the molecule acts that way.

“This is as if you were tinkering with the ignition on your car and managed to make the ignition work better, but then discovered that, even though the car starts better, it no longer runs.”