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 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.
Without the discovery of antibiotics we could not — and most certainly would not — be living in the world we do today. It was a discovery that would save countless lives, while simultaneously compromising our future. From the use (and unfortunate misuse) of antibiotics, we gave rise to more virulent bacteria that have become resistant to more and more types of antibiotics.
When the first antibiotics became available 70 years ago, they were often described as miracles of human ingenuity, rather like plastics or bright permanent dyes, which were discovered at roughly the same time. Packaged in vials or pills, they seemed like our inventions rather a chance gift of evolution and one that evolution might also rescind.
Antibiotic resistance is becoming a common occurrence. Once isolated, more and more we are turning away from the traditional antibiotics to our so called “last line of defense” antibiotics to fight infections. Sadly, in a growing number of cases these antibiotics are having less of an effect. However, new research reveals the mechanism by which drug-resistant bacterial cells maintain a defensive barrier.
When dealing with bacteria, antibiotics are usually the frontrunner, but there are cases where antibiotics are a big no. Take baby formula for instance, we cannot use antibiotics to keep bacteria at bay. This has posed a safety problem in recent years, but researchers have shown that we can use a natural enemy of bacteria to fight back without risk to infants’ health.
Biologists discovered that bacteria–often viewed as lowly, solitary creatures–are actually quite sophisticated in their social interactions and communicate with one another through similar electrical signaling mechanisms as neurons in the human brain. In the study, scientists detail the manner by which bacteria living in communities communicate with one another electrically through proteins called “ion channels.”
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine found that people with anorexia nervosa have very different microbial communities residing inside their guts compared to healthy individuals and that this bacterial imbalance is associated with some of the psychological symptoms related to the eating disorder.
The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that results in browned foods like seared steaks and toasted bread. When proteins and sugars are mixed together and heated, new chemical compounds are formed. Some are responsible for new flavors and some, according to a new study, may protect us against cardiovascular disease. (more…)
In 2012 the USA saw the highest number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases since 1955. New research finds that a likely explanation for this rise in disease is a drop in the degree of vaccine protection for each vaccinated individual. The team worked with 60 years of pertussis disease data to determine what best explained the recent increase in the disease.
Another reason to have those waffles… well maybe. Researchers have found that a concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. In an ever increasing antibiotic resistant world, this news is almost as sweet as the syrup (okay no more bad puns). The findings suggest that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes’ susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant superbug, can cause life-threatening skin, bloodstream and surgical site infections or pneumonia. It has been a tough battle finding ways to fight it and research now shows, cigarette smoke may make matters worse. The study shows that MRSA bacteria exposed to cigarette smoke become even more resistant to killing by the immune system.