DA BOM: Best of Microbiology September 2020 Part I
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
Once a month Microbigals will bring you our favorite microbiology news, from scientific papers to fellow bloggers, to news articles in 5 categories: Extremophiles, Medical, Environmental and Marine, Food and Agriculture, and Microbial Products. So you can stay up to date with the world of microbe news. Here is the best of microbiology news for September 2020.
Extremophiles & Space ‘Crobes
1. Extremophiles of the Madison Aquifer - NPS staff
The Madison Aquifer is located in western South Dakota in Wind Cave National Park. Microbiologist Dr. Hazel Barton studies the microbes within the caves.
The team found about 350 different bacteria species (many never before discovered) with Gammaproteobacteria being the dominant class.
To study these extreme environments, experienced cavers have to trek some two hours and filter 200 liters of water just to get a sample! Commitment!
2. Meteorite strikes may create unexpected form of silica - Carnegie Institution for Science
Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals in Earth’s crust and is found in many rock types. This group experimented to see what happens to it when struck by a meteorite (simulated with specialized cannon-like gas guns) which would exert extreme pressure and temperatures on the quartz.
Quartz is made up of one silicon atom and two oxygen atoms. Since the mantle of the earth is silicate-rich, discovering what changes occur at high-pressure and temps could reveal details about our planet's geologic history.
It has been long argued whether quartz would transform into a dense crystalline form known as stishovite or into a dense glassy structure. However, the experiments put the debate to bed with neither side being right! Read on!
3. How floating microbes could live in the acid clouds of Venus - Kate S. Petersen
Venus is known to be a inhospitable place with sulfuric rain and surface temperatures over 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but scientists at MIT propose that it is possible for microbes to live in the atmosphere.
The cloud layers of the atmosphere are at temperatures that can sustain life and extremophiles on earth have shown that microbes can live in acidic environments.
These scientist proposed a life cycle where the microbes live in this layer and move to lower atmospheres by raindrops that evaporate, causing the microbes to turn into spores to protect themselves only to return to an active state when winds blow them back to suitable environments in the clouds.
Pathogen Profiles & Medical Microbiology
1. Not by structures alone: Can the immune system recognize microbial functions? - Gregor P. Greslehner
It has long been thought that microbial structures, (what they look like) trigger the immune system to ellicit a response. But Greslehner argues there is also evidence that the immune system can recognize the microbial activity as well (What they are doing).
Microbes will have antenna-like structures we call “pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPS) and your immune system as PAMPPRRs- Pathogen associated molecular patterns recognition receptors (Not Diapers). But both pathogenic and nonpathogenic microbes will have these structures and the immune system will not be triggered every time it sees a PAMP.
Along with PAMPS, MAMPS and DAMPS, Greslehner would like to propose FAMPS - function-associated molecular patterns.
2. Poop becomes secret weapon to detect Covid-19 cases in dorm, says University of Arizona - Jaclyn Peiser, The Washington Post
With students returning to school and quarantining in their dorms for the first couple of weeks, universities are using regular screenings of the sewage from each dorm searching for traces of the virus.
A sample from one of the dorms came back positive and upon testing all of the dorm residents found two students that were asymptomatic - these students were quarantined, possibly saving a much larger spread!
Wastewater testing has been in use for years to detect other viruses, study illicit drug use and understanding socioeconomic status of a community.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine wrapped up in politics? Sciencemag discusses the dangers of this public health crisis being a political priority before the impending election day.
The US’s Operation Warp Speed has invested more than $10 billion in the rapid development of 8 different COVID-19 vaccines.
Some fear the government will administer an EUA (emergency use authorization) of the vaccine prior to election day. Allowing the use of the vaccine before it is licensed and fully approved by the FDA. Doing so may save lives, may drive political agendas, may promote vaccine hesitancy, may create new conspiracy theories.
Food & Agriculture Microbiology
1. Postbiotics-parabiotics: the new horizons in microbial biotherapy and functional foods - Nataraj, Ali, Behare, Yadav
Postbiotics are the metabolic products released by healthy microbes (probiotics). Parabiotics are inactivated microbial cells of healthy microbes (healthy microbe corpses).
Postbiotics and parabiotics are better than probiotics because they are easier to purify, store, scale-up, and identify modes of action.
Benefits of postbiotics and parabiotics are similar to probiotics but are usually more effective and have a longer lasting effect. Benefits include: anti inflammatory, anti-viral, antioxidant and gut stability.
2. Newly identified gene grants tomatoes resistance to bacterial speck disease - Boyce Thompson Institute
Bacterial speck disease, which reduces fruit yield and quality in tomato plants, has been a growing problem for the last 5 years.
Caused by Pseudomonas syringae, which prefers a cool wet climate, has made growing tomatoes in the northeast US more difficult, as researchers at Cornell found in 2015 when speck disease wiped all but two plants in an entire trial.
These two plants were found to have a resistance gene (Ptr1) which led to a 5 year study culminating in the ability to introduce the gene to tomato plants, giving them resistance to all known bacteria that cause speck disease.
3. Applying science and healthcare principles to soil wellness can help our planet- Poornima Parameswaran
Soil has the most biodiversity seen in terms of species and abundance of microbes than any other part of the world, yet ⅓ of the worlds soil has been degraded due to traditional practices.
This calls for a shift in agriculture to a more medical approach; test the soil, diagnose the problem and treat it.
Agronomists or “soil doctors” use this approach, allowing them to inform farmers on how to treat the soil to maintain or enrich the microbial diversity and nutrient composition.
Environmental & Marine Microbiology
1. This WWII shipwreck hosts an underwater kingdom of bacteria - Kate Baggaley
Scientist looked at the microbial inhabitants of a submerged ship off of Hatteras Island and discovered 1000s of different species making the old boat their home
Among the 1000s of microbes found on the ship was Mariprofundus ferrooxydans, and ‘iron-eating’ microbes that cause biocorrosion.
Some microbes have formed a biofilm around the shipwreck, effectively preserving the ship from corrosion.
2. The most common organism in the oceans harbors a virus in its DNA - Hannah Hickey
The most common organism in the ocean, and possibly the entire planet, is a family of single-celled marine bacteria called Pelagibacter or SAR11, which looks like tiny jelly beans (microscopic, of course!)
Researchers believe that their ability to host a unique virus in their DNA may be part of their survival strategy, leading to them to out compete other bacteria in the ocean.
The virus lays dormant but seems to become active when nutrient levels drop and can infect other cells in a burst. By studying this complex process, someday it could eventually help in biomedical applications.
3. Some mosquitoes already have resistance to the latest weapon against malaria - Munyaradzi Makoni
Two years ago WHO approved a new pesticide, clothianidin, for indoor mosquito control. But this pesticide may not be effective in killing all mosquito populations.
Malaria is a deadly disease carried by mosquitoes that deeply affects Africa and South America. The best way to combat this disease is to control the vector population, often through pesticide application.
As the rise of resistance continues to surge in the mosquito population, clothianidin as an indoor mosquito control will become all but useless in just a couple of years.
Biotech & Microbial Products
With 60,000 anticipated participants in Johnson & Johnson phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial, it is the largest yet to be announced, double that of Moderna and Pfizers phase three plans.
AstraXeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson are all in entering Phase 3 trials of their vaccines with Novavax and Sanofi & GlaxoSmithKline not far behind.
As the vaccines move forward, the question of manufacturing and distribution still remains a hot and unsolved problem.
2. 'Drawn-on-skin' electronics offer breakthrough in wearable monitors - University of Houston
Wearable bioelectronics -- in the form of soft, flexible patches attached to the skin -- have become an important way to monitor, prevent and treat illness and injury by tracking physiological information from the wearer. But motion has presented problems with accuracy of these devices - not a big deal if your step tracker says 4,000 steps instead of 4,500, but for diagnostics and treatment, precise data is vital.
These drawn-on-skin electronics are applied using a pen, which have been loaded with several electronic materials. Like ink, it goes on wet and dries very quickly.
The electronics can be customized to collect different types of information like heart rate, hydration, temperature and muscle signals. It has also been shown to accelerate healing!
3. After Years of Neglect, Algae Biotechnology Makes a Comeback - Kostas Vavitsas
Algae has long been thought as the key to a sustainable future. Why? Because with just water, carbon dioxide and a few other nutrients it grows in biomass and produces it's own energy through photosynthesis. Algae can do all this in the tiniest of places throughout the world.
So why haven’t we seen a biofuel takeover driven by algae start ups? To put it simply, algae are slower and more expensive to grow than their bacterial and yeast counterparts and can be more expensive to produce than obtaining oil.
Algal products have been valuable in a number of products including: vegan protein, food colorants, biofuel, dietary supplements, fibers, textiles, ink, biodegradable flip flops and surfboards.
What's your favorite microbiology news?
Tell us in a comment below!