Microbiology

To predict how a seasonal influenza epidemic will spread across the United States, one should focus more on the mobility of people than on their geographic proximity, a new study suggests. Their results mark the first time genetic patterns for the spread of flu have been detected at the scale of the continental United States.

"We found that the spread of a flu epidemic is somewhat predictable by looking at transportation data, especially ground commuter networks and H1N1," says Brooke Bozick, who led the study as a graduate student in Emory's Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution program. "Finding these kinds of patterns is the first step in being able to develop targeted surveillance and control strategies."


When you think of iron, you probably think of anvils and suits made by Tony Stark - iron is ore that comes from a mine. 

Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and a half billion years ago. 

Clark Johnson, a professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and former postdoctoral researcher Weiqiang Li examined samples from the banded iron formation in Western Australia. Banded iron is the iron-rich rock found in ore deposits worldwide, from the proposed iron mine in Northern Wisconsin to the enormous mines of Western Australia. These ancient deposits, up to 150 meters deep, were begging for explanation. 


Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers (H. pylori bacteria).

A new study by University of Iowa microbiologists now suggests that bacteria may even be a cause of one of the most prevalent diseases of our time - Type 2 diabetes.

The research team led by Patrick Schlievert, PhD, professor and DEO of microbiology at the UI Carver College of Medicine, found that prolonged exposure to a toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria causes rabbits to develop the hallmark symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation.


The modern sedimentary environment contains a diversity of microbes that interact very closely with the sediments, sometimes to such an extent that they form "biosediments."

But can such a phenomenon be fossilized? How far back in time can "biosedimentation" be traced? In a study for Geology, Frances Westall and colleagues examine some of the oldest rocks on Earth, in the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa (older than 3.3 billion years), to answer this question.

Westall and colleagues use multi-scale methods to document the simultaneous presence of diverse types of microorganisms, including phototrophs and chemotrophs, directly interacting with coastal volcanic sediments that were bathed by hydrothermal fluids.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise and they pose a global threat to public health. Common antibiotics are often ineffective in treating infectious diseases because pathogens acquire resistance genes. These antimicrobial resistance genes are obtained in different ways.

There are different explanations for how resistances are transferred and a now study found phages -
viruses that exclusively infect bacteria
- in chicken meat that are able to transfer antimicrobial resistance to bacteria.  Phages do not directly pose a risk to humans because they can only infect bacteria. No other cells or organisms can be infected.


A recent eye infection suffered by 18-year-old Nottingham University student Jess Greaney is the kind of story that fills us with horror.

Greaney had keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea, caused by Acanthamoeba castellanii, a parasite that was living and feasting on her eye.

The bacteria that sneak past the brain's defenses to cause deadly bacterial meningitis are clever adversaries - they convince their host that they are harmless yet then have freedom to cause disease by taking advantage of a molecular warning signal and inducing the brain's cellular armor to temporarily break down, letting in the bacterial horde.

The blood-brain barrier is a thin network of blood vessels whose cells abut each other very closely, forming protein junctions too tight for bacteria and viruses to fit through. The barrier's purpose is to prevent unwanted material from crossing over from the surrounding bloodstream into brain tissue.


A new study shows that the microbial communities we carry in and on our bodies, the human microbiome, contain the potential to uniquely identify individuals, much like fingerprints.

Researchers and demonstrated that personal microbiomes contain enough distinguishing features to identify an individual over time from among a research study population of hundreds of people. The study, the first to rigorously show that identifying people from microbiome data is feasible, suggests that we have surprisingly unique microbial inhabitants, but could raise potential privacy concerns for subjects enrolled in human microbiome research projects.


Consumers can reduce the risk of Campylobacter food poisoning by up to 99.2% by using disinfectant wipes in the kitchen after preparing poultry, according to a new study


Researchers have adapted an antiviral enzyme from bacteria called Cas9 into an instrument for inhibiting hepatitis C virus in human cells. Cas9 is part of the CRISPR genetic defense system in bacteria, which scientists have been harnessing to edit DNA in animals, plants and even human cells. In this case, Emory researchers are using Cas9 to put a clamp on RNA, which hepatitis C virus uses for its genetic material, rather than change cells' DNA.

Although several effective drugs are now available to treat hepatitis C infection, the approach could have biotechnology applications.