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mBiosphere
Washington, DC
Recent Activity
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Wondering where the latest stories on mBio and other ASM-published research reports have gone? We're continuing to publish at our new mBiosphere home. Come check us out - and make sure you don't miss a post by updating your blogroll and RSS feeds! While you're there, check out the content from other ASM blogs on important topics from basic and applied microbial sciences to career opportunities to scientific policy - and more! We’re committed to bringing you the best in the microbial sciences and look forward to seeing you at our new home on asm.org! Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2017 at mBiosphere
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The human microbiome is the diverse population of microorganisms that live on and in the body. Many thrive on the skin and in the mouth, but the majority live in the intestines. Over the last decade or so, microbiologists have become increasingly aware of how a person's microbial mix likely plays a critical role in a variety of medical conditions, as well as how that person responds to treatment. Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria is particularly difficult in a hospital's intensive care unit, or ICU. Every year, more than 5.7 million critically-ill patients are admitted into ICUs in... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2016 at mBiosphere
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Antimicrobial resistance has been a growing concern in the health care community. But a publication by Chinese researchers in The Lancet Infectious Diseases last fall kicked things up a notch. The work found the mcr-1 gene, which confers resistance to the antibiotic colistin, in Escherichia coli isolates taken from raw meat, pigs raised as food animals and a small percentage of hospitalized patients. Most concerning, mcr-1 exists on a plasmid, meaning it could potentially spread antibiotic resistance to other bacterial species. “When this happened, everyone started getting concerned, because if the resistance is on a plasmid and can spread, it’s... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2016 at mBiosphere
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Neisseria gonorrhoeae TEM 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. An example of bacteria recycling efficiency comes with the cell wall, made of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2016 at mBiosphere
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mBiosphere is excited to announce that starting September 1st, 2016, our blog content will be moving to asm.org. We’ve enjoyed interacting with readers on this site, and will continue to bring you the latest in ASM member research, conferences, education and more at our new site: asm.org/index.php/mBiosphere. Please update your blogroll and RSS feeds! We’re pleased to join the increasing index of ASM blogs, including Microbial Sciences, Around the World, Education, Careers, Zika Diaries, Small Things Considered, and bLog Phase. We’re committed to bringing you the best in the microbial sciences and look forward to our new home at asm.org! Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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. “The food that we get in our supermarket is... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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. This recommendation marked the first time the CDC has issued a travel warning for a locale within the United... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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. Drone transport made a news splash when Amazon proposed using the machines for its deliveries, and scientists were quick to pick up on their use for transporting clinical samples to speed delivery for clinical lab analysis. The effect of drone use hadn’t been systematically examined, until Timothy Amukele, working with Sean Zhang, published their report in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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. Antibiotics won't likely help the situation. In fact, those drugs are part of the problem: Broad-spectrum antibiotics wipe out colonies of helpful bacteria in patients, leaving the colon vulnerable to widespread colonization... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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. First author Liam Shaw and senior author Nigel Klein looked at the supragingival plaque (plaque on the tooth surface above the gum line) in a low-income community that suffers poor oral hygiene and a variety of gum diseases. Poor oral hygiene is tied to a number of systemic health conditions, including heart... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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. Previously, researchers had been studying this phenomenon... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at mBiosphere
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We’ve previously covered the importance of diagnostics in disease control and treatment. This is vital to controlling disease progression and transmission, but epidemiology studies can’t always show how a disease progresses or transmits. This is where scientists need a well-characterized animal model to study microbial mechanisms of pathogenesis. One can’t simply inject a microbe into a mouse and call that an animal model. A useful animal model is one that closely mimics the course of disease seen in people. With that in mind, new research now available in the Journal of Virology describes a new ferret model of disease for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at mBiosphere
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The opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics 2016 will be held this Friday, marking the onset of two weeks of competition between the world’s best athletes. The world has been focused on Brazil and its preparedness – not only for the infrastructure required for the games, but also for any potential health crises that global travel may incur. Infectious disease topics such as Zika have spurred the CDC to advise pregnant women and women planning on becoming pregnant against traveling to the games, although there are no travel restrictions. Here's a round-up of other research resources on Olympic-related microbiology news... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2016 at mBiosphere
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At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., scientist Stacey Schultz-Cherry has been studying the impact of obesity on influenza severity. “We saw during the 2009 flu pandemic that there’s an epidemiological link between people getting severe flu and being obese,” says Schultz-Cherry, a member (professor) in the infectious diseases department. “Since then it’s been pretty well established that obesity is a risk factor for developing severe disease.” Obese mice are less likely to be protected by vaccine, despite 'protective' antibody levels Erik Karlsson, a staff scientist in Schultz-Cherry’s lab, set out to see if adding an adjuvant to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2016 at mBiosphere
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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... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2016 at mBiosphere
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Attendees received a bag with the periodic table of microbes 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,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2016 at mBiosphere
You're right that the PLOS One report released around the same time came to a different conclusion. Different animal models, drug concentration + administration, and bacterial diversity measurements can result in two scientists addressing the same question arriving at different conclusions. This is one reason repeated studies are important!
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The Gram-positive bacterium Enterococcus faecium is a member of the ESKAPE pathogens for which drug resistance has been a growing problem. How E. faecium becomes drug resistant has been a long-standing question, and is the focus of a new study now available in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. A research team led by senior scientist Louis Rice has identified chromosomal regions where homologous recombination facilitates incorporation of genes conferring beta-lactam and vancomycin resistance. Classic Enterococcal diplococci growth Enterococci have been problematic for many decades, particularly in the context of health care-associated infections. Many Enterococcal species have intrinsic resistance to various drugs,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2016 at mBiosphere
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The anaerobic, Gram-positive Clostridium difficile is a big problem. It causes rampant diarrhea and tissue necrosis, with more than 150,000 annual cases in the United States alone. Many of the disease manifestations of C. difficile are mediated by two exotoxins that C. difficile produces: TcdA and TcdB. Researchers have long been working at toxin inhibition as an approach to disarm C. difficile and improve treatment, and new research in Clinical and Vaccine Immunology shows promise in blocking toxin activity in vivo. C. difficile toxins cause cell rounding, as seen in the right panel Both TcdA and TcdB toxins are glucosyltransferases... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2016 at mBiosphere
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If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s likely a duck – so goes the saying that illustrates the simplest explanation is usually the right one. But what about duck decoys used in conjunction with bird calls? Misidentification can be a deadly error – and the same goes for microbes. Misdiagnosed infectious disease etiologies can be a very dangerous mistake for sick patients. Most clinical microbiology labs are able to use sophisticated biochemical and genetic tests to differentiate microbial species and strains, but newly emerging pathogens can be misidentified if they closely mimic another. That appears... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2016 at mBiosphere
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As we highlighted in our previous blog, antibiotic stewardship – the careful use of appropriate antibiotic administration – can have positive effects. A small change from a difference in clinical lab reporting led to less drug use, which led to fewer drug-resistant infections. When we think of antibiotic stewardship, the onus is often thought to be on those that work in the clinic – the scientists who determine isolate susceptibility, or the clinicians who decide which antibiotic should be prescribed to a patient. These individuals certainly have an essential role to play in proper antimicrobial drug use in a health-care... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2016 at mBiosphere
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There’s no way to avoid the news of a growing concern for drug-resistant infections. In both life-threatening and relatively superficial infections, the ability to successfully treat microbial infections with antimicrobials is decreasing. Our only recourse is to use the drugs we have carefully while researchers hunt for new drugs that must pass the stringent FDA guidelines before they can be used clinically. But here comes a bit of good news among all the doom-and-gloom: meticulous drug management programs can have a positive effect on drug-resistant infections. Pseudomonas aeruginosa Support for the decrease in drug-resistant infections comes from a study performed... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2016 at mBiosphere
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Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has caused such a profound drop in honeybee populations that even the U.S. Congress is addressing the issue: Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) has proposed the Pollinator Recovery Act to preserve pollinator habitat. The rapid decline in these important pollinators affects the economy and agriculture of bee-deprived regions. Hive disappearances have been described by beekeepers before, but the large number of countries affected, and the duration of the phenomenon, have motivated scientists to concentrate on this apiary anomaly. While there is no universally-accepted cause of CCD, a number of pathogenic viruses have been associated with the death... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2016 at mBiosphere