Microbiology

Every summer, there are reports linking a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus to people getting sick or dying. The bacteria are found in warm saltwater and problems occur after eating raw tainted shellfish or when an open wound comes in contact with seawater.

People with a weakened immune system, chronic liver disease or iron overload disease are most at risk for severe illness. Vibrio vulnificus infections in high-risk individuals are fatal 50 percent of the time.


Bacteria communicate using chemical signals and now scientists have described a previously unknown communication pathway that appears to be widely distributed - and even leads to pathogens.

The investigation of bacterial communication is valuable because those pathways are a possible therapeutic target for new medicines. If the relevant communication options are prevented, the bacteria cannot develop their pathogenic properties.


A new review of other studies concludes that viruses carried by commercial bees can jump to wild pollinator populations with potentially devastating effects. Pollinators in some regions have suffered declines and various hypotheses have been offered as to why.


Two miles below the surface of the ocean, researchers have discovered new microbes that "breathe" sulfate. These microbes, which have yet to be classified and named, exist in massive undersea aquifers -- networks of channels in porous rock beneath the ocean where water continually churns.

About one-third of the Earth's biomass is thought to exist in this largely uncharted environment.

Sulfate is a compound of sulfur and oxygen that occurs naturally in seawater. It is used commercially in everything from car batteries to bath salts and can be aerosolized by the burning of fossil fuels, increasing the acidity of the atmosphere.


Microbiologists rarely wash their jeans. The reason is because they know how to keep the color looking new without getting odors - they freeze their pants. 

Freezing can even work in more extreme scenarios, like with waste water. 

When waste water freezes, it is purified through the formation of a cleaner layer of ice. Then the clean layer of ice can be removed from the rest of the waste water, and the remaining waste water is more concentrated, which can be treated as needed with a lot less outside processing. Energy is required only for breaking the ice and transporting it from the waste water pool.


Credit: Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT
Bacteria in our digestive tract have evolved to help us break down and digest the complex carbohydrates that make up the yeast cell wall that give beer and bread their bubbles - and that could support the development of new treatments to help people fight off yeast infections and autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease, according to a new study.

Evolving over the 7,000 years that we have been eating fermented food and drink, the ability of a common gut bacterium called Bacteroides thetaiotomicron to degrade yeasts is almost exclusively found in the human gut. The team says the discovery of this process could accelerate the development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases.

Pasteurization been instrumental in reducing morbidity and mortality from the consumption of bacteria-ridden food and drink. Doug Wheller/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By James Bradley, University of Melbourne

The distinctive "fecal prints" of microbes could provide a record of how Earth and life have co-evolved over the past 3.5 billion years as the planet's temperature, oxygen levels, and greenhouse gases have changed but it's been difficult to decipher much of the information contained in this record.

A new project sheds light on the mysterious digestive processes of microbes, opening the way towards a better understanding of how life and the planet have changed over time. Using a new technique, researchers  focused on the microbes that live on the ocean floor where the microbes consume the sulfate found in seawater because oxygen is in short supply.

Parkinson's disease sufferers have a different microbiota in their intestines than healthy counterparts, they have less Prevotellaceae bacteria, according to a study conducted at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCH).