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.
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…
Robots help sort patient samples, test clinical specimens, and analyze the results. Now a study shows that robots, in the form of drones, can help move our samples from place to place, with little effect on the analytical outcome.
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.
How do you identify an unknown microbe? If you’ve taken an introductory microbiology lab course in the past twenty years, chances are you were assigned an unknown bacterium that you had to identify through differential media and biochemical assays. Newer techniques like qPCR are being standardized to identify human-associated fecal bacteria for water safety surveillance. But in the wake of the next-generation sequencing revolution, there is no substitute for whole-genome sequencing as a method to pinpoint the exact strain of an unknown microbial species. As NGS technology has advanced, sequencing costs have decreased and applications of the technology have broadened.
Though both gingivitis and periodontitis are diseases of the gums, the related ailments are not simply different severities of the same disease, finds a new study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Researchers confirmed this by investigating the bacterial composition of the supragingival plaque through high- throughput sequencing.
Tuesday, 09 August 2016 11:09

Demystifying Secondary Bacterial Pneumonia

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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.
Recently, one of the Journal of Bacteriology Classic Spotlight series highlighted the numerous studies on bacterial spores that have been published in the journal throughout the years. Bacterial endospores, the resilient and relatively quiescent bacterial structures first identified in the 1800s, have had their genetic regulation, immunological properties, and biochemical makeup investigated for decades. The structures are incredibly resistant and produced by select members of the Gram-positive Firmicutes phylum. Despite many rigorous studies investigating these biological structures,new research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology shows that there's always something new to learn in microbiology, including aspects that appear as straightforward…
Thursday, 28 July 2016 10:42

ASMCUE Happenings 2016

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No matter the niche field a scientist pursues, there is one aspect of almost all career paths that scientists have in common: teaching. Whether lecturing a quorum of undergraduates about bacterial genetics, mentoring a research fellow as they learn the lab protocols, or presenting an invited lecture to a group of established scientists, one must consider how to present information in an understandable and absorbable manner. The American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Education (ASMCUE) is the annual forum for science educators to discuss learning objectives, active learning exercises, and the best applications for new technologies. This year’s meeting, held…