Clyde (Chip) Manuel and Dr. Lee Ann Jaykus are excited about their results. “I’m very proud of this story. It’s going to have pretty immediate benefits,” says Manuel, a senior graduate student in Dr. Jaykus’ lab at NC State. “This is a great example of applied research that has a basic science component,” says Jaykus. The results they are excited about are published in the August issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Diet and environment are two of the biggest influences on gut microbiota. So maybe it’s only appropriate that gut microbiota researcher Patrick Schloss often uses food and gardening analogies to describe his research problem.
Friday, 08 July 2016 12:07

New drug shows promise in silencing HIV

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When asked what inspired her to test a derivative compound from a saltwater sponge against HIV replication, investigator Dr. Susana Valente laughed.
The changing weather reminds us that influenza season is around the corner, which means it’s nearly time to get your annual vaccine. This year’s vaccine is updated to protect against influenza A viruses H1N1 + H3N2 and influenza B virus Victoria lineage. These strains are included in vaccine production after intensive epidemiological work predicted these to be circulating strains for the year. But what if the circulating strains vary slightly from the vaccine strains? Even worse, what if the circulating subtype is one not contained in the vaccine at all?
Scott Hultgren is that rare biologist who has tracked the problem of uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC)—the bacteria responsible for the vast majority of urinary tract infections—from the atomic level to the clinic. In a quarter century of study, he and his collaborators have attacked the problem by crystallizing protein structures, analyzing binding pockets, mutating genes, tinkering with cell adhesion, and rigorously testing their ideas in a mouse model of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Although hantaviruses cause significant human diseases worldwide, no specific antiviral treatments are available, in part because gaps in the understanding of how the viruses enter human cells have hampered the search for therapeutics. In Europe and Asia, hantavirus strains have caused hemorrhagic fever with kidney failure, while in the Americas the viruses have caused hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome, a severe, sometimes fatal respiratory disease.
This past weekend, the New York Times ran an article addressing the connection between the microbiome and mood. Evidence is increasing that resident microbes can affect host systems such as the immune system, the digestive system, and, more and more, the nervous system. However, the human microbiome is very complex, with over 1000 different species (and that’s just bacteria!). There are a number of hard-to-control variables when conducting human microbiome studies, such as diet and other potentially confounding factors. These can complicate drawing strong conclusions in human microbiome studies.
The war on invasive fungal infections has not been going well. Despite state-of-the art therapy, roughly 50% of individuals with invasive fungal infections will die. Now, a new study has identified a new therapeutic attack strategy and a new class of antifungal agents. The research demonstrates that compounds that target the synthesis of lipid glucosylceramide on the surface of fungal cells can kill fungal infections.
Monday, 08 June 2015 11:36

Can Statins Help Treat Ebola?

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When David Fedson, MD, read about Ebola patients last spring, he noted that some clinicians had found the disease to parallel sepsis: Both conditions involve severe dysfunction of endothelial cells lining blood vessels throughout the body; in both, this dysfunction causes major abnormalities in blood coagulation; and both diseases, if not managed, can lead to organ failure and eventually death.
Since May 2013, the U.S. swine industry has been hit hard by diarrhea outbreaks, which have caused significant economic losses including the recorded deaths of at least 8 million piglets. Although two different viruses -- porcine epidemic diarrhea coronavirus and delta coronavirus -- already have been isolated from affected swine, disease has been reported in 32 American states as well as Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, Ecuador and Ukraine, with repeated outbreaks in previously affected herds. Despite strict, intensive biosecurity measures adopted by many farms to control the epidemics, disease has continued to spread.
After a long career studying how certain bacteria clean up environmental contamination through bioremediation, Terry Hazen wondered if some of the same bacteria present in the natural environment could also serve as in situ sensors of environmental damage.
Can bacteria that cause food-borne illness be used to fight cancer? Ongoing research suggests this is the case.
The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum contains an organelle called an apicoplast. It’s akin to a chloroplast found in plants, but without the ability to photosynthesize.
Thursday, 26 March 2015 11:00

Cataloguing the microbiology of Merlot terroir

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Microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert says he’s not very scientific when it comes to sampling new wines: “I’m a bit slapdash.”
When infectious diseases specialist Michael David was in medical school at Yale in the 1990s, almost no one on the U.S. East Coast had community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. In fact, he says, if patients presented with a skin infection, he and his colleagues would ask the patient if he or she had been in the hospital. If they hadn’t, “you would not treat them for a MRSA infection because it was almost impossible that they would get one.”
For nearly 10 years, researchers with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have been collaborating with Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., to develop an effective therapeutic agent against Ebola virus and other related viruses, called filoviruses.
A group of international researchers has found that environmental factors, like mode of delivery and duration of gestation, may affect how infants’ gut bacteria mature, and that rate is related to later body fat. The work, published in mBio this week, was conducted by epigenetics researchers from the EpiGen Consortium in collaboration with scientists at Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland.
During the course of the current West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease, the US Army has put troops, medical personnel, building and medical supplies on the ground to fight the epidemic. Now, another critical piece of the medical arsenal has been sent—genomic sequencing capabilities and viral geneticist Captain Jeffrey Kugelman to track genetic changes in the virus as they happen in real-time.
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 10:18

Cold Plasma Treatment Cuts Norovirus Germs

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When Günter Klein, head of the Institute of Food Quality and Food Safety at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover in Germany, and colleagues investigated a norovirus outbreak at a German military facility, they noticed something interesting. Although consumption of norovirus-contaminated salad caused the peak of the illnesses, virus also could be detected on several common surfaces tested, including a computer keyboard, a doorknob and a mail collection box.
Klebsiella pneumoniae estimated to be the third most common cause of hospital-acquired infections in the United States in a recent study, can cause a wide range of infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia, wound or surgical site infections and urinary tract infections. What’s more, K. pneumoniae is rapidly becoming resistant to all known antibiotics; resistant forms are considered an urgent threat to public health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What scientists have known about the organism is that it secretes small molecules called siderophores that enable it to acquire iron from a host and fuel its spread. Siderophores are…