In the Sawmill Sink in Abaco, the water at a depth of 30 to 26 feet is pigmented by the bacteria. But the real danger lies in the hydrogen sulfide gas, which forces divers to hastily proceed through. Photo by Wes C. Skiles.

In the Sawmill Sink in Abaco, the water at a depth of 30 to 26 feet is pigmented by the bacteria. But the real danger lies in the hydrogen sulfide gas, which forces divers to hastily proceed through. Photo by Wes C. Skiles.

Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, as seen on cultures of cotton-tail rabbit epithelium cells. (Via the CDC)

Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, as seen on cultures of cotton-tail rabbit epithelium cells. (Via the CDC)

According to the Center for Disease Control:

This digitally-colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of an untreated water specimen extracted from a wild stream mainly used to control flooding during inclement weather, revealed the presence of unidentified organisms, which included bacteria, protozoa, and algae. In this particular view, a microorganism is featured, the exterior of which is covered by numerous projections imparting an appearance of a sea urchin. This microscopic “pin cushion” was tethered to its surroundings by a biofilm within which many bacteria, and amoeboid protozoa could be seen enmeshed as well. 

According to the Center for Disease Control:

This digitally-colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of an untreated water specimen extracted from a wild stream mainly used to control flooding during inclement weather, revealed the presence of unidentified organisms, which included bacteria, protozoa, and algae. In this particular view, a microorganism is featured, the exterior of which is covered by numerous projections imparting an appearance of a sea urchin. This microscopic “pin cushion” was tethered to its surroundings by a biofilm within which many bacteria, and amoeboid protozoa could be seen enmeshed as well. 

It’s smiling at you ;)
Via the Center for Disease Control:

This electron micrograph depicts a 0.1µm polycarbonate membrane filter, which is coated with a C. jejuni bacterial film.
The Poretics Corporation filter had been inserted into a syringe, whereupon, a turbid bacterial suspension was drawn up into the syringe, and remaining behind on the filter membrane were the Campylobacter jejuni bacteria, here magnified 23x.

It’s smiling at you ;)

Via the Center for Disease Control:

This electron micrograph depicts a 0.1µm polycarbonate membrane filter, which is coated with a C. jejuni bacterial film.

The Poretics Corporation filter had been inserted into a syringe, whereupon, a turbid bacterial suspension was drawn up into the syringe, and remaining behind on the filter membrane were the Campylobacter jejuni bacteria, here magnified 23x.

A Closer Look at Who’s to Blame for the Black Death

In the 14th century, the Black Death ravaged Europe, killing over a third of the continent’s population. This pandemic was caused by the bubonic plague, a bacterial infection characterized by swollen, painful lymph nodes called buboes. 

The plague is caused by transmission of the bacterium yersinia pestis. According to genetic research, this microbe evolved in China over 2,600 years ago and has “followed humans around the globe.” Untreated this bacterium will kill between 50-90% of those infected, but with treatment, mortality ads drop to about 15%.

The methods of transmission of this bacterium are likely the main cause of its prevalence in the 14th century. These microbes travel on fleas that pick up the bacterium from infected rats, as rats are highly susceptible to plague, just as humans are. These fleas then spread the disease when they attempt to feed off another host. Thus explaining why outbreaks among humans are often accompanied by rodent deaths, known as rat falls.

The top photographs display a petri-dish culture of the bacterium and a microscopic image of the bacteria in blood cells, while the bottom two photos show the black rats and fleas known for spreading these microbes to humans.

Study Challenges Existence of Arsenic-Based Life

A strange bacterium found in California’s Mono Lake cannot replace the phosphorus in its DNA with arsenic, according to researchers who have been trying to reproduce the results of a controversial report published in Science in 2010.
A group of scientists, led by microbiologist Rosie Redfield at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, have posted data on Redfield’s blog that, she says, present a “clear refutation” of key findings from the paper.
“Their most striking claim was that arsenic had been incorporated into the backbone of DNA, and what we can say is that there is no arsenic in the DNA at all,” says Redfield.
But the authors of the Science paper are not retreating from their conclusions. “We are thrilled that our results are stimulating more experiments from the community as well as ourselves,” first author Felisa Wolfe-Simon, now at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, wrote in an e-mail to Nature. “We do not fully understand the key details of the website experiments and conditions. So we hope to see this work published in a peer-reviewed journal, as this is how science best proceeds.”
In the original Science paper, Wolfe-Simon and her co-workers reported that they had found a bacterium called GFAJ-1 that can use the element arsenic in place of phosphorus in molecules essential to life. This was surprising because phosphorus is thought to be essential for life, whereas arsenic is usually toxic.

Read More

Study Challenges Existence of Arsenic-Based Life

A strange bacterium found in California’s Mono Lake cannot replace the phosphorus in its DNA with arsenic, according to researchers who have been trying to reproduce the results of a controversial report published in Science in 2010.

A group of scientists, led by microbiologist Rosie Redfield at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, have posted data on Redfield’s blog that, she says, present a “clear refutation” of key findings from the paper.

“Their most striking claim was that arsenic had been incorporated into the backbone of DNA, and what we can say is that there is no arsenic in the DNA at all,” says Redfield.

But the authors of the Science paper are not retreating from their conclusions. “We are thrilled that our results are stimulating more experiments from the community as well as ourselves,” first author Felisa Wolfe-Simon, now at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, wrote in an e-mail to Nature. “We do not fully understand the key details of the website experiments and conditions. So we hope to see this work published in a peer-reviewed journal, as this is how science best proceeds.”

In the original Science paper, Wolfe-Simon and her co-workers reported that they had found a bacterium called GFAJ-1 that can use the element arsenic in place of phosphorus in molecules essential to life. This was surprising because phosphorus is thought to be essential for life, whereas arsenic is usually toxic.

Read More

Diseases Back from the Dead: Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis has been a scourge of humanity for thousands of years. Experts think that even ancient Egyptians had it, judging from the skeletal abnormalities of certain mummies. TB is a bacterial lung infection transmitted through the cough or sneeze of an infected person. At one point in history, it was called consumption because of how it causes its victims to waste away. It spread unchecked in places where people lived very close together in unsanitary conditions, such as tenements. At the turn of the 20th century, it was the leading cause of death in the United States. As living conditions improved, TB retreated. But not forever. When AIDS appeared in force in the United States in the 1980s, TB suddenly reemerged. It happened because AIDS attacks the body’s immune system, creating a window of opportunity for TB. “AIDS was rampant during the ’80s and ’90s,” Olano says. “Patients were dying right and left, the medication was expensive and not available to everybody, and tuberculosis went up with it.” Because of this piggybacking effect, TB is now a big problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS killed 1.3 million people in 2009 alone. CDC expert Dr. Philip LoBue says that in some sub-Saharan African countries, it’s not unusual for 50 or 60 percent of patients with TB to also have AIDS. And as TB has reemerged, the virus has gained antibiotic resistance, too. Treating TB is a long and complicated ordeal, in which patients get a cocktail of least four drugs for at least six months. But in countries with poor public health resources, the full treatment might not be available. And if the patient only takes one TB drug, those bacteria that have mutated immunity to it survive and spread. Today doctors are facing tuberculosis that is resistant to multiple antibiotics. Treating these infections successfully can take as long as two years, and the second-line drugs that have to be used have unpleasant side effects. "We don’t have too many new medications to treat tuberculosis," says Olano. "The last great discovery was in the late ’60s." Tuberculosis is just one of diseases facing this problem—there are now strains of malaria that are also multidrug resistant, and even once easily-treatable infections like gonorrhea are becoming more and more difficult to get rid of. The only real solution, says Heymann, is to create vaccines. But for many diseases, those are likely far off.

Diseases Back from the Dead: Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis has been a scourge of humanity for thousands of years. Experts think that even ancient Egyptians had it, judging from the skeletal abnormalities of certain mummies. TB is a bacterial lung infection transmitted through the cough or sneeze of an infected person. At one point in history, it was called consumption because of how it causes its victims to waste away. It spread unchecked in places where people lived very close together in unsanitary conditions, such as tenements. At the turn of the 20th century, it was the leading cause of death in the United States. As living conditions improved, TB retreated. But not forever. 

When AIDS appeared in force in the United States in the 1980s, TB suddenly reemerged. It happened because AIDS attacks the body’s immune system, creating a window of opportunity for TB. “AIDS was rampant during the ’80s and ’90s,” Olano says. “Patients were dying right and left, the medication was expensive and not available to everybody, and tuberculosis went up with it.” 

Because of this piggybacking effect, TB is now a big problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS killed 1.3 million people in 2009 alone. CDC expert Dr. Philip LoBue says that in some sub-Saharan African countries, it’s not unusual for 50 or 60 percent of patients with TB to also have AIDS. 

And as TB has reemerged, the virus has gained antibiotic resistance, too. Treating TB is a long and complicated ordeal, in which patients get a cocktail of least four drugs for at least six months. But in countries with poor public health resources, the full treatment might not be available. And if the patient only takes one TB drug, those bacteria that have mutated immunity to it survive and spread. Today doctors are facing tuberculosis that is resistant to multiple antibiotics. Treating these infections successfully can take as long as two years, and the second-line drugs that have to be used have unpleasant side effects. 

"We don’t have too many new medications to treat tuberculosis," says Olano. "The last great discovery was in the late ’60s." Tuberculosis is just one of diseases facing this problem—there are now strains of malaria that are also multidrug resistant, and even once easily-treatable infections like gonorrhea are becoming more and more difficult to get rid of. The only real solution, says Heymann, is to create vaccines. But for many diseases, those are likely far off.

Diseases Back from the Dead: Leptospirosis
In 2000, 304 men and women in peak physical shape landed in Malaysia for the adventure of a lifetime. They trekked through jungles, mountains, and rivers to compete for the top spot in the Echo Challenge, a multiday adventure race called the toughest endurance event in the world. When they boarded the plane for the return trip, 29 of them unknowingly carried a dangerous bacteria called Leptospira, and fell mysteriously ill when they got home. Leptospira lives in many mammal species. It enters water sources through infected animals’ urine, and it can pass to humans if they swallow infected water or if it enters through a skin wound—something the battle-scarred athletes had in excess. The infected athletes were hospitalized for fever, nausea, and vomiting before doctors figured out what was wrong with them; luckily, none died. Outbreaks, however, continue to occur worldwide—in the U.S., the disease usually shows up in people who have recently traveled. Diseases move at the speed of their hosts. As we become increasingly globalized, we give the bugs a big advantage: They can zip from place to place as fast as a jetliner. “You can travel from London to New York and carry with you an infection that you don’t even know you have,” says David Heymann, chairman of the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency. Human hosts aren’t the only thing infectious bacteria can hitch a ride on. “Mosquitoes are carrying infections around the world,” Heymann says, so much so that they’ve inspired the term “Airport Malaria” (the disease-laden insects hitch a ride on a plane). When they deboard in their new location, they can infect someone even if that person has never left the country. Airport Malaria has become a problem in nearly every country, Heymann says, and leptospirosis and malaria aren’t the only diseases that have become increasingly dangerous because of our globe-trotting lifestyle.

Diseases Back from the Dead: Leptospirosis

In 2000, 304 men and women in peak physical shape landed in Malaysia for the adventure of a lifetime. They trekked through jungles, mountains, and rivers to compete for the top spot in the Echo Challenge, a multiday adventure race called the toughest endurance event in the world. When they boarded the plane for the return trip, 29 of them unknowingly carried a dangerous bacteria called Leptospira, and fell mysteriously ill when they got home. 

Leptospira lives in many mammal species. It enters water sources through infected animals’ urine, and it can pass to humans if they swallow infected water or if it enters through a skin wound—something the battle-scarred athletes had in excess. The infected athletes were hospitalized for fever, nausea, and vomiting before doctors figured out what was wrong with them; luckily, none died. Outbreaks, however, continue to occur worldwide—in the U.S., the disease usually shows up in people who have recently traveled. 

Diseases move at the speed of their hosts. As we become increasingly globalized, we give the bugs a big advantage: They can zip from place to place as fast as a jetliner. “You can travel from London to New York and carry with you an infection that you don’t even know you have,” says David Heymann, chairman of the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency. 

Human hosts aren’t the only thing infectious bacteria can hitch a ride on. “Mosquitoes are carrying infections around the world,” Heymann says, so much so that they’ve inspired the term “Airport Malaria” (the disease-laden insects hitch a ride on a plane). When they deboard in their new location, they can infect someone even if that person has never left the country. Airport Malaria has become a problem in nearly every country, Heymann says, and leptospirosis and malaria aren’t the only diseases that have become increasingly dangerous because of our globe-trotting lifestyle.

Glowing Bacteria Could Power “Bio-Light”

This bizarre-looking concoction of glass, liquid and tubes could one day bring a whole new meaning to the idea of natural lighting.

The new “bio-light” concept designed by Dutch electronics company Philips creates light in the same way that bioluminescent living organisms like fireflies and glow worms do.

The phenomenon of bioluminescence is created by a chemical reaction where an enzyme called luciferase interacts with a light-emitting molecule called luciferin.

In the bio-light a collection of hand-blown jars — held in place by a steel frame — contain a measure of bioluminescent bacteria which glow green when fed methane gas — in this case through individual silicon tubes routed through a household waste digester.

Harnessing these biological techniques could help redefine how we consume energy in the home, says Philips.

"Designers have an obligation to explore solutions which are by nature less energy-consuming and non-polluting," says Clive van Heerden, senior director of design-led innovation at Philips Design. "We need to push ourselves to rethink domestic appliances entirely, how homes consume energy and how entire communities can pool their resources."

Jim Haseloff, a plant biologist from the UK’s University of Cambridge says the bio-light is a very provocative idea.

"It’s appealing because it brings two things together which you wouldn’t normally associate," Haseloff said. "I don’t think you want to imagine that everyone’s going to start putting bacterial cultures into their own home for lighting but as a way of exploring the idea it’s quite interesting."

It part of a wider swing to sustainable technologies, Haseloff says, but he doesn’t see bioluminescent lights competing with LED and other low-energy lights in the future.

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effyeahmicrobiology:

 
Researchers found that babies were more likely to harbor a certain kind of bacteria in their intestines if they were born in the hospital, and especially by cesarean section — and those gut bugs were tied to a kid’s chances of later getting allergies or asthma.
 
“Our message is not that mode nor place of delivery (decisions) should be based on the potential risks on developing allergic diseases,” study author John Penders, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands told Reuters Health in an email.

effyeahmicrobiology:

Researchers found that babies were more likely to harbor a certain kind of bacteria in their intestines if they were born in the hospital, and especially by cesarean section — and those gut bugs were tied to a kid’s chances of later getting allergies or asthma.

 

“Our message is not that mode nor place of delivery (decisions) should be based on the potential risks on developing allergic diseases,” study author John Penders, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands told Reuters Health in an email.

ohscience:

listeria, which has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, fruit such as cantaloupes, unpasteurized milk, foods made from unpasteurized milk, and processed foods, causes the disease listeriosis.

ohscience:

listeria, which has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, fruit such as cantaloupes, unpasteurized milk, foods made from unpasteurized milk, and processed foods, causes the disease listeriosis.