By Amy Kullas | There have been many important contributions by females across the diverse scientific fields. Those listed below are a handful of the women who have made major contributions to the microbial sciences.
Bitter tasting yogurt or cheese may not make it to your refrigerator, but it is produced and the result of pesky bacteria. The microbial composition of raw milk impacts the quality, shelf life, and safety of processed milk and other dairy products. Controlling the quality of these products is tricky—bacteria can enter milk on the farm, during transport, storage, and processing. While pathogens are destroyed by pasteurization, not all bacteria are eliminated and some can cause defects, such as bad tastes or holes in cheese, which can lead to food waste.
On Monday, August 1, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that pregnant women not travel to Wynwood, a neighborhood north of downtown Miami, because health officials in Florida had found that mosquitoes there are actively transmitting Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects. (It can also be spread through sexual contact.) The recommendation also included guidance on mosquito avoidance for pregnant women who live in the area, as well as people planning to conceive a baby.
One of the important tasks of Public Health England’s Mycology Reference Laboratory is to identify any newly emerging fungal pathogens that could become a public health risk. In recent months, the lab had tracked several clusters of Candida auris infections in British hospitals. The multidrug-resistant C. auris yeast, first described in 2009 after being isolated from external ear discharge of a patient in Japan, has caused bloodstream infections, wound infections and ear infections (including some fatal infections in hospitalized patients) in South Korea, India, South Africa and Kuwait, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organism also has been identified in Colombia, Venezuela and Pakistan.
Clostridium difficile is a dangerous bug. Infections with this bacterium can cause life-threatening diarrhea, and they are most likely to affect the elderly or people with health problems who spend a lot of time in hospitals (where C. difficile flourishes). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2011 alone, hundreds of thousands of people were infected and 29,000 died from C. difficile infections or CDIs.
In some individuals, an influenza A virus infection can cause asymptomatic Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) to travel to the lungs where it can trigger severe, sometimes deadly, secondary pneumonia. S. aureus is one of the most common causes of secondary bacterial pneumonia in cases of seasonal influenza. Just how the influenza virus causes asymptomatic S. aureus infection to transition to invasive disease, however, has been unclear. A new mouse model designed by scientists at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York is helping scientists put together the pieces of this puzzle.
As part of its Microbiology of the Built Environment initiative, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation started funding projects a few years ago that touched on the interaction of microbiology with architecture, buildings or, in the case of Curtis Huttenhower, PhD, an associate professor of computational biology and bioinformatics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, transit.
Microbiome research has revealed that there are good guy and bad guy bacteria living together in complex communities on our skin, in our mouths, throughout our guts and pretty much everywhere in between. But what do you call a good guy bacterium that is aiding and abetting a disease culprit?
For years, researchers have struggled to get a handle on Group B streptococcus (GBS), in the hopes of improving neonatal outcomes. GBS are a bacteria commonly found in the vagina, rectum, and urinary tract of women. In healthy women, the bacteria are commensal, simply living without causing disease; however, when a woman is pregnant, there is concern that GBS will travel to the uterus, where it can harm the fetus.
Leonilde M. Moreira, PhD, has been studying the Burkholderia complex for 15 years. The bacteria, known for causing pneumonia or septicemia in some individuals, can survive for prolonged periods in moist environments. During the last 10 years, it has become one of the more predominant bacteria seen in cystic fibrosis patients.