Actinobacteria are the bacterial phylum responsible for production of many clinically-relevant antibacterial compounds. Streptomyces is a soil-dwelling genus of actinobacteria that produces drugs like neomycin and chloramphenicol. Despite deriving many antibiotics already from Streptomyces, could there be still-undiscovered compounds made by these bacteria to increase our antimicrobial arsenal? Finding and characterizing these ‘cryptic’ pathways is the basis for a new study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
Misdiagnosis can lead to severe consequences for patients, and is a serious clinical issue. The newly emerging fungal pathogen Candida auris requires higher doses of antifungal medications to treat an infection than does C. albicans, highlighting the importance of proper diagnosis for best patient care. Thus far, the most accurate diagnostic systems involve sequencing part of the fungal genome. Could a more simple biochemical test differentiate between the different panel isolates?
Thursday, 17 November 2016 16:48

You don’t win friends with (precut) salad

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Given that the holidays are right around the corner, many of us will be trying to eat healthy outside of celebratory meals, and that includes many people who turn to salad as a healthy meal option. Salads do provide fresh nutrients, but new research in Applied and Environmental Microbiology suggests pre-cut salad greens may pose a risk for foodborne disease.
In a study published this week in mSphere researchers investigated ATM keypads across the city.The researchers did find plenty of microbes – mostly from normal human skin, household surfaces or traces of food – but no particular clustering by geography.
The issue of multidrug-resistance and the lack of antibiotics in the development pipeline have spurred researchers to pursue new ways to combat bacterial infections. One such method is using naturally occurring predatory bacteria
Raw milk collected from dairy farms has to travel to processing facilities before it is transformed into the delicious dairy products we consume. Because the milk from many dairy cows is collected together, any contamination issue from a single animal can lead to spoilage or contamination. How related are the microbiota of raw milk and the cows from which they come? A new study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology addresses this question using high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies to compare the milk production environment and the raw milk microbiota.
Tuesday, 01 November 2016 11:00

Chlorhexidine use may select for colistin resistance

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Infection control is a vital part of maintaining a safe healthcare facility, and the use of biocides and disinfectants to eliminate potential pathogens is an important part of infection control strategy. Pathogens can spread among patients via transfer to surfaces like doors, floors, and countertops and then to healthcare workers, so these environments are cleaned with various antimicrobial treatments that include compounds such as bleach or chlorhexidine. A new study in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy suggests a frightening finding: exposure to chlorhexidine may select for chlorhexidine-resistant bacteria, and these resistance mechanisms may confer cross-resistance against antibiotics. 
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 13:55

Examining Aspergillus fumigatus on the Space Station

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One mission of the Microbial Observatory Experiments on the International Space Station is to examine the traits and diversity of fungal isolates, to gain a better understanding of how fungi may adapt to microgravity environments and how this may affect interactions with humans in closed habitats.
Biofilms, surface-attached microbial communities encased in an extracellular matrix, are one of the most common macroscopic microbial structures we can see in nature. Biofilms like those seen in pond scum, in dental plaque, or in hot springs, are mixed communities with the members forming both antagonistic and symbiotic relationships. Interkingdom biofilm interactions have been the focus of several recent mBio reports investigating fungal-bacterial dynamics during biofilm function and development, addressing some fundamental questions in biofilm biology.
Nitrates, it turns out, are a common dietary trigger for some of the 38 million Americans who get migraines. Nitrates are also found in cardiovascular medicines, because once they are turned into nitric oxide (NO) in the body, that produces vasodilation.
Tuesday, 18 October 2016 11:19

Seeking understanding of the bacterial Sec system

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How do bacterial proteins destined for export move from inside to outside the cell? As mBiosphere readers may know, there are a number of secretion systems that bacteria use to move materials from inside the cell to outside the cell. Some of these systems, such as the Sec secretion system, are conserved across Gram-positive and -negative bacteria. Despite decades of studies on bacterial secretion, new discoveries are still uncovering details about how these secretion systems function. Now, a recent report out from the Journal of Bacteriology makes a fundamental change in how the Sec secretion system interacts with bacterial proteins…
How Zika virus went from an obscure footnote to a major health crisis is tracked through genomic analysis
Microbial infection is implicated in an ever-growing number of types of cancer. Adding to the already long list of microbial-associated cancers, an increasing body of evidence suggests breast cancer may also be associated with a specific microbial milieu. A report in Applied and Environmental Microbiology confirms that the breast tissue microbial inhabitants differ between women with and without breast cancer. 
Thursday, 06 October 2016 15:38

S. mutans mutation increases fluoride resistance

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Microbes are excellent at adapting to stressful situations, which is part of the reason antibiotic resistance is a problem today. Constant exposure to antimicrobials such as triclosan have selected for resistant strains, rendering the compound ineffective. This is why the FDA recently banned triclosan from some personal care products – so that it will still be effective when we need it to be. This is part of a broader movement to practice antibiotic stewardship, or use these compounds only when they’re needed. Not all stress involves antimicrobials, however.
Tuesday, 04 October 2016 12:24

Metagenomics for Foodies

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Kefir is a viscous, sour-tasting, slightly alcoholic, milk-based beverage that's been consumed for centuries. It's made by adding a starter mix of bacteria and yeast – called the kefir “grain” – to pasteurized cow milk, though brewers have reported success with milk from goats, sheep, buffalo, and soy. As fermented dairy products go, it still lags behind yogurt and cheese in popularity, but in recent years kefir has enjoyed a surge in global sales.
Tuesday, 04 October 2016 10:00

Global Warming Damages Symbiotic Organisms

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Ten years ago, Takema Fukatsu, PhD, prime senior researcher and leader, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan, was invited to Kyoto University as a symposium speaker of a meeting organized by Kenji Fujisaki, PhD, a researcher in the University's Graduate School of Agriculture, who had been working on the effects of global warming and other environmental fluctuations on insects for decades. Professor Fujisaki's group invented and was operating a special incubator for simulating global warming conditions.
Bacillus anthracis had been studied by multiple countries as a potential biological weapon because of the stability of its spores and its ability to cause acute pulmonary disease. While offensive anthrax weapons development programs were halted in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1960s, they continued covertly in the former Soviet Union for at least another 20 years. The Russian research included projects to genetically modify the organism to be antibiotic-resistant and to introduce novel virulence genes that defeated vaccines.
Friday, 26 August 2016 12:12

The inflammatory nature of a bad recycler

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Being a bad recycler implies creating more waste because items aren’t being reincorporated into the production chain. Plastic water bottles can be broken down and turned into new plastic bottles, gardening gloves, or fleece – any of which means less oil needs to be harvested and refined to the polymers that constitute these different items. Bacteria, in general, also tend to be very good recyclers. The energy it takes to reuse a compound is generally less than to build the molecular structure from scratch.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 12:07

Improving the Quality of Dairy Products

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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.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 12:00

Onward toward a Zika vaccine

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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.