DA BOM : Best of Microbiology September, 2020 Part II
Updated: Jan 5
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
Microbes can grow anywhere in the world including the frigid environment of Antarctica. We call microbes that grow at these low temperatures (-20℃-30℃) psychrophilic (cold-loving).
Psychrophilic (cold loving) microbes are unique because they can metabolize and produce at very low temperatures which has applications in both biotech and food industries including milk and cheese processing!
Traditional microbiology methods capture only a fraction of the true diversity. Microbiome analysis (looking at 1 gene) captures a lot more variety but not function. Metagenomics (looking at all the genes, from all the microbes) will provide a bigger picture of both who is there and what they are doing. This method has great potential in helping elucidate the mysteries of psychrophilic microbes.
2. Mapping extreme microbes in the Amazon’s Boiling River- Attabey Rodriguez Benitez
There is a river in the Amazon located in Peru and travels 4 miles through the rainforest that boils (AKA the Peruvian Boiling River) that can reach scorching temperatures as high as 212℉.
Despite these conditions, microbes like bacteria, lichen, and cyanobacteria thrive there and grow, making mats similar to moss in a river which local’s use for medical purposes.
The team studying these microbes are looking to see if the extremophiles produce compounds that have medical benefits, a hunt that is becoming more common in the Amazon as our needs become more desperate.
3. Extremohiles may be living in your home! - Jessica Leigh Hester
Scientists from around the country were asked to sample their water and were surprised to find that organisms that are known to inhabit the harshest environments were found in their water heaters!
Members of the heat-loving genus Thermus, for instance, are right at home in environments that would scald human skin—from hydrothermal vents to industrial composting systems and the boreholes of gold mines.
Pathogen Profiles & Medical Microbiology
1. Fungus Amongus - Radiolab WNYC Studios
In 2014, a Pakastan Hospital saw cases where patients were coming in sick with what turned out to be a fungal infection by the yeast Candidia auris, which was getting into the bloodstream (in 6 months there were 19 cases with 8 deaths).
The yeast first appeared in 2009 as an ear infection and epidemiological work showed cases popping up in South Korea, India, South Africa, and London and that this outbreak had no one origin, that this organism was developing the ability to infect people in different places of the world at the same time, so why now?
The theory is due to global warming; as the temperature rises, it selects for fungal cells/mutants that can adapt to the slowly increasing temperatures as many species cannot thrive at the temperatures of our bodies. Eventually, they adapt to a temperature that allows them to infect and grow in people.
2. How To Know When You Can Trust A COVID-19 Vaccine - Maggie Koerth
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more and more of a political agenda, many Americans are asking themselves should they even get it? Would you?
The article asks advice from experts on what we should do regarding the COVID-19 vaccine development. Many state not to take advice from politicians or pharmaceutical companies but by trusted independent scientists and medical professionals. Who do you trust?
Vaccine trials take time! Even the most promising vaccine trials are still enrolling participants and they need at least a month or two before you can collect all the data. It’s not just unlikely, it's Impossible to have a vaccine out before 2021 according to Eric Topol a professor and executive vice president at Scripps Research Institute.
3. Researchers are developing faster acting, longer lasting disinfectants - Emily Hendersen
Most disinfectants take several minutes to kill bacteria - not practical during a pandemic for high use items being touched all the time, like door handles and countertops.
That's why the University of Central Florida is co-developing a new, rapid-acting, long-lasting disinfectant spray that instantly kills viruses without using harsh chemicals.
The disinfectant spray could be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval at the end of the one-year project, after which it could appear on the market, the researchers say.
Food & Agriculture Microbiology
Endophytes are microbes that live inside plant tissues without causing harm. There is great interest in these microbes as they are thought to be communicating and interacting with the plant in perhaps beneficial ways.
Pan and colleagues investigated this interaction between fungi and grape leaf using a method called high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) to understand the metabolism and influence of the microbe on the plant leaf.
Pan and colleagues looked at 14 different fungal endophytes there were isolated from a grapevine. They found that each fungus produced a different profile, impacted the plant differently. Some fungi provided more benefits to the plant than others.
AMF (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) are incredibly important symbiotic fungus to land plants, extending the reach of the roots and helping to uptake vital nutrients like phosphorus. But when it comes to identifying these microbes it is very challenging.
Mycobiome (fungal microbiomes) are often done through looking at one gene that is shared amongst all fungus and then comparing it to a database. This gene does a poor job at identifying AMF and the databases do not include many sequences belonging to the group.
Franck Stefani and team decided to take a different approach to identifying these microbes. They took known AMF sequences and created a phylogenetic tree with their unknown sequences and identified the unknown microbes based on their relatedness to the known microbes.
3. Penn State researchers to study novel coronavirus potential to infect livestock - PENN State University
A USDA grant was approved for Penn State to research the potential for COVID-19 to spread to and among farm animals
Throughout history, we have seen diseases spread between humans and animals such as the H1N1 or swine flu.
The lab will use both animals and cell cultures to study the virus’s ability to adapt to animals as well as developing tests to detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in livestock.
Environmental & Marine Microbiology
1. Scientists Awaken Deep Sea Bacteria After 100 Million Years - Amanda Heidt
Microbes extracted from deep sea sediments that settled during the age of the dinosaurs have been revived in the lab after eons spent in a dormant state.
Samples of clay were collected off the east coast of Australia that spanned a deposition period of between 13 million years ago and almost 102 million years ago!
Over time (68 days), the microbes revived and began to multiply with bacteria representing 10 major groups of bacteria!
2. After an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, ocean microbes helped life rebound - Katherine Kornei
The opening line of this article is ‘never underestimate pond scum!’ couldn’t agree more. This story is about the microbes that revived life after a crater destroyed the dinosaurs.
When researchers dug into the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico they found a ton of micrite, a calcium carbonate mineral which is produced by bacteria and used by corals and plankton to make skeletons.
After the asteroid crashed into the Earth’s surface, it destroyed both land and sea. But life always finds a way, with little other competitors this allows algae and photosynthetic bacteria to rule the world...for a time at least.
3. Researchers identify the missing link in the production of nitric oxide-Emily Henderson
Ammonia can be toxic to microbes like methanotrophs, they metabolize it to hydroxylamine which results in inhibiting metabolic processes in the cell.
To overcome this, some microbes have a hydroxylamine converting enzyme which has been found to convert hydroxylamine into nitric oxide.
It is still unknown how nitric oxide is converted into nitrate by the methanogens, but another piece of the puzzle has been completed.
Biotech & Microbial Products
1. Microbial Fusion and Exchange from Two Different Species Observed - Kamil Charubin and Joy Smoker
A lab at the University of Deleware has shown two species of bacteria can fuse together into a hybrid that shares proteins and RNA together and can replicate together
This was observed in two species of Clostridia which have been shown to be beneficial to each other
This opens new possibilities such as how antibiotic resistance is shared amongst bacteria or why we have a difficult time cultivating different species; they require the hybridization with another species for survival
2. Bioremediation of diesel oil in marine environment - Riya Mathew, Marykutty Abraham
Bioremediation is the process of employing microbes to “eat” (degrade) unwanted materials, such as oil spills which have a huge impact on climate change.
Bioremidiation can happen in two ways, bioaugmentation (introduce new bacteria), biostimulation (introduce new nutrients to stimulate native microbes to degrade a substance)
Researchers used beeswax as a biostimulant and simulated an oil spill showing that the addition of beeswax removed 87% of oil in 15 days while the control only removed 59%.
3. Going Waterless – A Major Step Towards Lab Sustainability - Kumar Jeetendra
Condensers are an instrument commonly used in many labs where heated liquids and solvents are cooled to prevent evaporation or cooling vapor back into a liquid
A UK group that works on sustainability has developed a waterless condenser that just uses air to cool the contents over a larger area
Typically condensers use water that is tossed, leading to a calculated waste of over 1 million liters of water a year for a typical reflux reaction. This saves water and money for all the labs out there including those for microbial research
What's your favorite microbiology news?
Tell us in a comment below!