Microbial Sciences

Explorations of the microbial sciences and a look at the many ways microbiology touches the world around us.
Articles are written by a volunteer team of ASM members.

It is striking how many ways there are to move virulence genes between bacteria. However, the bacteria that inhabit and infect us are not entirely themselves. They contain alien genes from multiple species, strains, and the bacteriophages that infect them.
Just as humans have a complex relationship with microorganisms, some make us sick while others aid our health, plants too coexist with a mixture of mostly helpful but sometimes harmful microbes. While geosmin may overwhelm our noses, plants are able to detect a number of compounds produced by their neighboring microorganisms.
Thursday, 05 May 2016 18:21

Mystery of the Spring-Smelling Microbes

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There is an incubator on the top floor of the Harvard Institutes of Medicine building where I work that continuously smells like dirt. And I am not complaining. It’s that refreshing aroma of garden soil, spring rain and deep forest. Everyone in the department can smell it, even halfway down the hall. But why would a medical school smell like the forest? What mysterious molecules float between the walls here and where are they coming from? Not to mention, why do they smell so good, compared with, let’s be honest, the pungent array of odors from the microbial world?
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