Microbiology

Thanks to savvy marketing by food corporations who are looking for health halos to put over their food, consumer demand for food products formulated without synthetic additives has increased.

There is a big drawback, demonstrated by Chipotle and others who are hoping to make themselves look healthier when selling junk food - it still has to be safe to eat. Additives, synthetic or not, are needed for food safety reasons, so food product developers are faced with the challenge of developing more "natural" additives that can produce comparable in safety results with synthetic versions. 

Pigs are a main livestock species for food production worldwide and is also widely used as an animal model in biomedical research. Today we know that the many types of bacteria that inhabit the gut are important for health and disease. Knowledge of the genes of these bacteria and their function therefore constitutes the first step towards a more comprehensive understanding of how bacteria in the gut affect health and disease.

An international consortium of researchers from INRA (France), University of Copenhagen and SEGES (Denmark), BGI-Shenzhen (China) and NIFES (Norway) has now established the first catalog of bacterial genes in the gut of pigs. This achievement is published in the latest issue of Nature Microbiology.


Researchers have found an association between migraines and microbes that reduce nitrates. Analyzing data from the American Gut Project, they found that migraine sufferers harbored significantly more microbes in their mouths and guts with the ability to modify nitrates compared to people who do not get migraine headaches. 
Nestle, the world's largest food company, has decided to embrace optimizing our microbiome, which consists of trillions of bacteria living in the digestive system and which has been linked to depression, multiple sclerosis, autism - you name it, and someone is claiming their product will fix it.

 Microsporidia are typically found in the intestinal tracts of animals and humans, which are made up of millions of cells, which is why studying their mode of reproduction has been so difficult. Yet it's important. Microsporidia cause diarrhea, an illness called microsporidiosis, and even death in immune-compromised individuals.

In spite of those known widespread medical problems, scientists were uncertain about how these single-celled fungi reproduced in human or animal cells. In a study that employed transparent roundworms, biologists at the University of California San Diego succeeded in directly observing how these microorganisms replicate and spread. And what they saw surprised them.


Bacteria transfer to candy that has fallen on the floor no matter how fast you pick it up.  

Rutgers researchers have disproven the widely accepted notion that it's OK to scoop up food and eat it within a "safe" five-second window. Donald Schaffner, professor and extension specialist in food science, found that moisture, type of surface and contact time all contribute to cross-contamination. In some instances, the transfer begins in less than one second. Their findings appear online in the American Society for Microbiology's journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.


You recently saw how a build-up of microbes in bagpipes recently doomed a Scottish man. That could apply to all wind instruments, and a U.S. Food and Drug Administration microbiologist warns that several species of bacteria found in smokeless tobacco products have been associated with opportunistic infections.

Obviously that doesn't mean they caused them but associations are important in making health policy, and alternatives to cigarette smoking, in the interests of harm reduction and smoking cessation, are controversial, with the U.S. government being squarely against them, a legacy of the 'quit or die' mentality that has keep cigarette smoking as (not very) popular that it is.


Many of society’s energy challenges require gigawatts of power, but many more are small – and some are entirely microscopic. To drive a new generation of tiny micromachines that could deliver drugs or clean traces of pollution, physicists are increasingly looking to biology for inspiration.

In work published in the journal Science Advances, my co-authors and I present a simulation of a sort of tiny “windfarm” powered by the natural self-organization of bacteria. It’s a small step towards harnessing the energy potential of microorganisms.

What research looks like when it is and is not performed by scientists

No one knows for sure how they got there. But the discovery that bacteria that normally live in the gut can be detected in the lungs of critically ill people and animals could mean a lot for intensive care patients. 

Today, scientists are reporting that they found gut bacteria in the deepest reaches of failing lungs -- an environment where they normally aren't found and can't survive. The more severe the patients' critical illness, the more their usual lung bacteria were outnumbered by the misplaced gut bugs.