Microbiology in the News Archive
Scientists beware of predatory journals
Warning! Con artists lurk in the cyberworld of open-access publishing and pseudo-academic conferencing.
Read this article for the details.
Bagpipe fungal pneumonia
Bagpipers are being warned to clean their instruments after a longtime Scottish musician nearly dies of fungal pneumonia. Species of Rhodotorula and Fusarium were cultured from the bagpiper’s instrument, which he had not cleaned in over a year. The New York Times covered the story here. Image: Smithsonian/Walter Rosenblum
Chickenpox vaccine works
A long-term study of the chickenpox vaccine was recently published online by the journal Pediatrics. Overall, the scientists, led by Dr. Roger Baxter of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, California, found that the vaccine is highly effective, but even more so after two doses. The New York Times summarizes the new study here. Image: CDC
Superbug infections on the rise
The CDC reports that a group of highly drug-resistant bacteria are much more common now compared to a decade ago. These microbes have been dubbed CRE for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and include Klebsiella pneumoniae. Hospital reports of CRE cases rose to four percent in 2012 from one percent ten years ago. Here you can read why experts are concerned. Image: CDC/Janice Carr
Fixing food allergies
A recent New York Times Magazine story describes a Stanford professor’s efforts to desensitize children with severe food allergies. Check out the story here. Image: CDC/ Debora Cartagena
Mode of delivery and diet influence development of gut microbes in infants
Human gut microbes play important roles in lifelong health, yet little is known about how microbes are acquired or how they develop during infancy. In a new study, Canadian researchers show that mode of delivery and infant diet factor significantly in the richness and diversity of gut microbes. More specifically,Escherichia sp. and Shigella sp. were underrepresented in babies delivered by C-section while members of the Bacteroidetes were undetectable in these infants. In addition, bacteria in the Peptostreptococcaceae (including the pathogen Clostridium difficile) and Verrucomicrobiaceae families were overrepresented in babies who were not breast fed. Study details here. News coverage here Image: CDC/Lois S. Wiggs
Sexually-reproducing molds make more antibiotics
Despite carrying genes needed for mating, Penicillium chrysogenum, a penicillin-producing mold, was thought to only reproduce asexually. In new work reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, a group of European scientists show that under the right growth conditions, this fungus can be coaxed to mate. In addition, the genes for sexual reproduction also seem to control antibiotic production, because the mating molds produced more penicillin. Read more about the implications of this finding here. Image: CDC/Lucille George
Telomere length linked to fending off cold viruses
Carnegie Mellon researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that young and midlife adults with relatively short telomeres are more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. Shorter telomeres have been associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality in older adults, but this is the first study to suggest that telomere length might be a useful biomarker for predicting disease susceptibility across a person’s lifespan. Image: National Human Genome Research Institute/Darryl Leja
Controversial H5N1 Research to Resume in Europe but not yet in the U.S.
In 2011, scientists declared a voluntary moratorium on research involving genetic alterations of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus until safety rules could be enacted. Those rules are now in place in most countries—the U.S. being a notable exception—and in a letter published recently in the journals Nature and Science, 40 scientists argue that it’s time for the research to begin again. Details here. Image: NIAID
Scientists investigate microbiology of a sub-glacial Antarctic lake
Hundreds of lakes lie sealed beneath Antarctic ice, but only one of these lakes, Lake Vostok, has ever been sampled…until now. Water samples were recently retrieved from Lake Whillans, another aquatic system buried under the white continent. These systems are of interest for a number of reasons, including understanding: (1) past climate (2) the movement of ice sheets and (3) the microbiology of the lakes. Microbes likely form the base of the food chain in these dark, cold systems and may influence the weathering of rocks and the leaching of minerals into the sea. Fifty scientists are involved in this project, which is described here. Douglas Fox is a Discover magazine reporter embedded with the research group, and you can read his blog here. Finally, this story has been covered by a number of media outlets; here’s just one article. Image: NASA