Wednesday, 13 October 2010 13:37

The Catch of the Day: Bacterial Lobster Traps

Written by
It’s the kind of microbiology that would make Steve Irwin proud: tracking and trapping the wild Pseudomonas aeruginosa to study its habits. In mBio’s latest paper, the authors describe using “bacterial lobster traps”, picoliter-scale, permeable protein cages, to study quorum-sensing among small groups of cells.
Could an immune reaction to a virus cause autism? We still don’t know the answer to that question, but a new study shows that, in mice, infecting a pregnant mother with an artificial virus can spark a chain of events that leads to autism-like disorders in her offspring.
The influenza virus behind the global pandemic of 2009, often referred to as “swine flu”, faces two probable fates: it will either continue to cause low or moderate mortality or it will go extinct. That’s the judgement of the authors of a new Perspectives piece in mBio, which points out that the impact of the virus this flu season will depend largely on the degree of immunity in the population, and since the virus was quick to spread last year and H1N1 vaccines have been effective, population immunity is high.
Every choice has its trade-offs. That second slice of pizza might taste good, for example, but it does pack a lot of calories. The low road is easier than the high road, but it’s also longer. Generic brands are cheaper, but they may not be as high quality as name-brand goods. And so on.
A family tree can be very illuminating, but there can be some surprises in those branches, too. A recent mBio paper delves into the ancestry of Streptococcus agalactiae, a.k.a. Group B Strep (GBS), one of the more recent additions to the lineup of human pathogens, and uncovers some unexpected facts about the bacterium’s family history.
Searching for novel viruses in environmental samples is a lot like searching for a needle in a haystack, but harder. After all, with hay, you can pick up a straw, look it over, and quickly make the judgement (piece of hay or needle?) then move on to the other pieces. With viruses, researchers are usually forced to extract genetic material from a sample, then sequence and align those genes against a database of known sequences. Aligning genes is difficult and laborious, and for various biological and technical reasons, it isn’t always possible.
Sometimes a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down; or in this case, the vaccine. A new study released by mBio shows that combining β-(1-3)-D-glucans (long chains of the sugar glucose) with an antigen creates a potent vaccine platform that could eventually be put to clinical use.
Ear infections: almost every kid has suffered through them at least once, making otitis media the most common reason for pediatric visits and new antibiotic prescriptions in children. But those little bottles of sweet pink antibiotics don’t always clear up ear infections. Bacteria often form mixed-species biofilms inside the ear, which afford the bacteria some protection from chemical onslaughts. A new paper just released by mBio reveals another reason these chronic biofilm infections are so recalcitrant: the bacteria may be cheering one another on.
Being wrong isn’t always a bad thing. Take Christopher Columbus: he set out on his voyage expecting to find a shortcut to India, but landed an extended vacation in the Bahamas instead. The authors of an Observation piece just released in mBio were wrong about their assumptions, too, and although they didn’t wind up on a tropical beach, they did earn some important insights into a leading cause of death among cystic fibrosis patients.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat - even bacteria know this is true. The latest paper from mBio reveals that although the bacterial phyla in the nose and throat are somewhat consistent from person to person, the individual species vary a great deal, indicating there is more than one ideal community for these niches, and more than one way to carry out the functions those communities perform.
Tom Shenk is not only ASM’s Publications Board Chairman and a Princeton Professor, he’s also an instigator and a mastermind (in the well-intentioned and insightful senses of the words). After all, he was one of the original forces behind starting up mBio and his ideas and work continue to drive the development of the journal.
Preventing cholera could be as easy as straining water. In a new study accepted for the inaugural issue of mBio, researchers show that when you teach villagers how to filter their drinking water using cheap, readily available materials, some (but not all) of them still follow the guidance years later and reap the benefits in improved health.
For the immune compromised, Cryptococcus neoformans is something to worry about: it causes over 1 million cases of meningitis annually and is the leading cause of fungal meningitis in immunosuppressed individuals, including AIDS patients. Despite all this, we still know few details about C. neoformans’ sexual cycle and why this pathogen infects the central nervous system.
Cryptococcus neoformans is responsible for an estimated 1 million cases of cryptococcal disease every year, predominantly meningoencephalitis. These cases are often fatal. So, what’s worse than an infection with one kind of Cryptococcus? A new paper selected for the inaugural issue of mBio shows many cases we thought were caused by a single type of C. neoformans may actually be caused by more than one mating-type, serotype and/or genotype, a finding that could change how doctors diagnose and treat cryptococcal disease and maybe even other infections as well.
mBio's Editor in Chief, Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, answers some of my questions about the journal and why it’s a good choice for authors.
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em, as Kenny Rogers used to sing, but when a bacterium bets its chips in a losing game, how does it fold without losing everything? A new Observation piece accepted for the inaugural issue of mBio reveals that antisense RNAs may be an important tool for regulating the expression of mRNA in bacteria, thereby allowing a cell to back out of the game when it has created too many transcripts of certain genes.
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 17:45

Microbial Genomics and the Future of Food Microbiology

Written by
There’s no question that foodborne disease is a serious problem.  Illnesses from contaminated foods cause over 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans suffers a food-related illness each year, so even those of us without a doctor’s bill may miss work due to an irritated digestive system. In addition to missed work days, recalls of contaminated ingredients are extremely costly, with millions of pounds of food taken out of production each year. Food safety affects our health and economy at the individual and…
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 16:52

Yum! Digesting ASM Resources for Food Microbiology

Written by
Food-related microbiology can be one of the most fun or least fun ways to interact with microbes. In the ‘most fun’ category, scientists and non-scientists alike can use microbes to create delicious foods from fermentative processes; in the ‘least fun’ category, scientists and non-scientists alike can experience the effects of foodborne disease. Regardless of the microbial interaction you’ve experienced, ASM has a number of resources to keep you on top of the most recent food microbiology research. We’ve collected some of the most recent for your reading pleasure:
Page 21 of 21