Microbiology

Scientists chase unicorns because a world with unicorns, metaphorically speaking, is a better place.

Michigan State University plant biologist Maren Friesem felt like she was on a unicorn hunt searching for bacteria that could fix their own nitrogen. And she found one, as detailed in the current issue of Scientific Reports - the elusive bacteria Streptomyces thermoautotrophicus.  

Most nitrogen-fixing bacteria use an enzyme that does not work when oxygen is present. The heat and toxic gas-loving strain that Friesen studied appeared to have exceptional properties, including harboring a special enzyme that was insensitive to oxygen. So why go on such a quest?


A honey bee visits and apple blossom.  It may someday 

In October 2015, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Universidad de Sucre in Colombia ran the first tests confirming the presence of Zika virus transmission in the South American country.

In a study published today [Jan 26, 2016] in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the team documents a disease trajectory that started with nine positive patients and has now spread to more than 13,000 infected individuals in that country.

"Colombia is now only second to Brazil in the number of known Zika infections," says study lead author Matthew Aliota, a research scientist in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM).


When a sperm and an egg cell merge a new life begins. This is the case in humans and in animals, but in principle also in plants. A team has discovered a gene trigger in the moss Physcomitrella patens which leads to offspring without fertilization and the researchers assume that this mechanism is conserved in evolution and holds the key to answer fundamental questions in biology.

Among adults with Clostridium difficile infection that is recurrent or not responsive to treatment, the use of frozen compared with fresh fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) did not result in a significantly lower rate of resolution of diarrhea, indicating that frozen FMT may be a reasonable treatment option for these patients. 


When you think of it, all of the natural gas harvested by hydraulic fracturing is natural but groups that once embraced it as clean energy have now turned on it and have sought to use its biological origins against it, with manufactured videos of flaming tap water and such that have nothing to do with fracking.


New research on how our immune system works shows how the body mobilizes a previously unknown defense against viruses and bacteria- and thus why we do not constantly get ill despite the viruses around us. 

Fever, sore muscles and other influenza-like symptoms are typical signs that your immune system is fighting against viruses and bacteria. The unpleasant condition is, among other things, due to the body forming a substance called interferon, which must defeat the virus. For many years researchers and doctors have assumed that this was the body's earliest response when attacked by various infections.


An experiment to study aging in yeast cells followed molecular processes inside and discovered that an overproduction of the proteins needed to make new proteins which could be the root cause of the cellular processes that eventually kill the cells. 

Baker's yeast is extensively used to study aging. A 'mother cell' can produce some twenty daughters in about four days, following which it dies. But as mothers and daughters are mixed in any yeast culture, it is virtually impossible to follow the aging process in great detail. 


Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers. While horizontal gene transfer - also known as bacterial sex - has long been acknowledged as central to microbial evolution, why it is able to exert such a strong effect has remained a mystery. 

But now scientists at Oxford University have demonstrated through mathematical modelling that the secret is migration, whereby movement between communities of microbes greatly increases the chances of different species of bacteria being able to swap DNA and adopt new traits.

The study sheds new light on how the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance is able to happen.


Prairie gardens offer Midwestern suburban dwellers an alternative option to the traditional grass lawn. Their combination of native grasses, like tall and wispy bluestem and sideoats, and forbs, such as the colorful yellow and purple coneflowers, are a welcome addition to any lawn.

They also attract beneficial bees and other insects, as well as beautiful butterflies. The prairie plants are native to the Midwest and once established can require fewer resources, such as water, fertilizer, and time to maintain.