Microbiology

Viruses that infect bacteria are among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Indeed, our oceans, soils and potentially even our bodies would be overrun with bacteria were it not for bacteria-eating viruses, called bacteriophages, that keep the microbial balance of ecological niches in check.

Now, a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that bacteriophages made of RNA -- a close chemical cousin of DNA -- likely play a much larger role in shaping the bacterial makeup of worldwide habitats than previously recognized.


Honing in on when life on Earth evolved from single-celled to multicellular organisms is no easy task. Organisms that old lacked many distinguishing characteristics of modern life forms, making their fossils exceptionally rare.

But University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee paleontologist Stephen Dornbos and his research partners have discovered new clues in the quest. The team found fossils of two species of previously unknown ancient multicellular marine algae, what we now know as seaweed - and they're among the oldest examples of multicellular life on Earth.


Researchers have revealed the global spread of an ancient group of retroviruses that affected about 28 of 50 modern mammals' ancestors between 15 and 30 million years ago.

Retroviruses are abundant in nature and include human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV-1 and -2) and human T-cell leukemia viruses. The scientists' findings on a specific group of these viruses called ERV-Fc, to be published in the journal eLife, show that they affected a wide range of hosts, including species as diverse as carnivores, rodents, and primates.

The distribution of ERV-Fc among these ancient mammals suggests the viruses spread to every continent except Antarctica and Australia, and that they jumped from one species to another more than 20 times.


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.