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.

Friday, 09 December 2016 15:02

I "Flu" in for the Holidays

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Each year, millions across the globe travel for the holidays. But with the increase in human travel, what microbial gifts are we bringing home with us?
When you gain weight, you gain changes in microbes and metabolism too. But they’re harder to get rid of than those last five pounds ever were.
Friday, 18 November 2016 20:58

No Democracy for Tardigrades

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Are you worried about the presidential election? Here's one way of putting it all in perspective—look into the beauty and biodiversity of the microbial world.
All cellular microbes thus far investigated release vesicles to their extracellular environment. These formations remain incompletely understood and are in many ways mysterious, but a recent flurry of research focused on gram-negative vesicles has shed a bit of light on their function and formation.
Friday, 04 November 2016 15:26

It’s electric! The bacterial X-men superpower

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Ever wished you had an X-man like superpower? Like flying, telepathy, or even… shooting lightning? Learn about the microbes that do!  
Be afraid, be very afraid. Meet the microbes that make Zombies, Vampires, Witches and Ghosts real.
Friday, 21 October 2016 14:03

The Nose Knows Beneficial Bacteria

Complex bacterial communities live within our nasal passages. But what are these nasal bacteria actually doing? One step towards addressing this question is to mine bacterial community composition surveys for clues as to which bacteria might be interacting with each other or which bacteria are associated with disease. Hypotheses formulated from these datasets can then be tested in the laboratory.
What’s your gut feeling on microbiome research?  It seems like nearly every day a new connection between the human gut microbiome and a feature of our health is learned. While the advancements are exciting we need to balance enthusiasm with patience to avoid the spread of misconceptions.  
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 17:21

After Hurricane Matthew, Cholera Becomes a Concern

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Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on October 4, 2016, and the southeast United States two days later, leaving tens of thousands without power, transportation, and in the worst cases, homes. Because of its extreme poverty, and its continuing recovery from previous natural disasters, Haiti is looking at a potential uptick in what had been a slight decline in its cholera epidemic. What is cholera and how might the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew affect the spread of its disease? Read below for a brief overview and more resources from ASM:
Research on the human microbiome has captured the public imagination. Data showing that gut bacteria could be involved in protection against everything from malnutrition to obesity to anxiety and sleep disorders has led to the hope that perhaps the answers to what ails us have literally been inside us all along. With this hope, however, have come calls for caution and moderation from a number of researchers.
The Nobel Prize for Medicine this year went to Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute for Technology for his work on autophagy, the process of digesting unneeded or damaged cellular components. This process plays a role in many central cellular activities, with applications ranging from genetic to infectious diseases in microbes, plants, and animals. Dr. Ohsumi’s work to uncover the genes required for autophagy has relied on many model organisms, including the model microbe Saccharomyces cerevisiae. His work was published broadly, including in journals published by ASM. Some of these publications uncovered novel mechanisms or interactions. We spoke with…
Friday, 30 September 2016 02:39

Food for Thought: Microbes and Fermented Food

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We might not always think about them when we sit down to eat a meal, but microbes are responsible for many of our favorite foods.  Are you ready to try some homemade microbiology?    
It appears that an imbalance of microbes in the GI tract can adversely affect how the immune system functions. In fact, we are learning more and more how normal human development is dependent on the microbes that have coevolved with us
Written by Ada Hagan and Amber Gourley | Ever been dared to eat worms before? Would you consider it if they could help improve your autoimmune disease? Some researchers think that might be the case.
Monday, 12 September 2016 14:06

Frequently Asked Questions about Pneumonia

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Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi
Friday, 09 September 2016 15:50

Microbes Down on the Farm

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Just 20 years after the classic, well-reasoned argument addressing the question “What is a Pathogen?” by Stanley Falkow, we are now confronting a similarly persuasive case against the very word “pathogen”!   A thoughtful argument against “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” microbiomes has also been made.
Written by Lori R. Shapiro | Because of high genetic and physiological homogeneity that characterize modern industrial agro-ecosystems, microbial pathogens and insect pests have the evolutionary potential to quickly invade these populations. One pathosystem that offers insight into rapid evolution of microbes in agricultural systems is the phytopathogenic bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila, its plant hosts, and herbivorous insect vectors.
Friday, 26 August 2016 17:28

Age of the Microzoo

Written by Scott Chimileski and Julie Wolf | In 3500 BCE, Egyptian rulers built a menagerie of exotic creatures within the ancient capital of Hierakonpolis. Archaeologists have found 112 animal skeletons at this site: the first zoo on Earth. But from this earliest exhibition of the natural world through today’s most famous animal displays, zoos have featured only macroscopic organisms. By not including microbes, they’ve left out most life on the planet.
Textbooks are a ubiquitous feature of the academic world, but their reliable presence makes it easy to overlook how they come to be.  Find out what it took to create your favorite scientific text and how you can add to the literary world of the microbial sciences.
Thursday, 11 August 2016 18:58

Exploring the human virome

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What do we know about how viruses affect human microbiomes? Not a lot. Meet a researcher trying to change that.
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