Microbes in the News 3




This article from Scientific American discusses multiple resent studies into the development of the immune system in infants. The first study discussed compared the immune responses of newborns that were born premature vs. full term. The study found very little difference between the two. A second, more broad study compared the imune systems of thousands of newborns from around the world, and also found very little variation. Scientists are now using the information from both studies to formulate a more clear baseline of what a healthy newborn immune system should look like.


In class we discussed the elements of the immune system, as well as how infacts are colonized at birth with microbial life. This article drew connects between these two things. It concluded that because most newborns all go through the same rapid colonization, their immune systems also evolve in the same way.

Critical analysis:

This article was interesting because I would not expect the ammount of similarity they found to be present. Also, I never considered that premature babies could have different immune systems. This article was clearly written for the general public. It summarized and cited multiple primary studies and included quotes from the people that wrote them.


Now that we know that all our immune systems are basically the same at birth, will we be able to determine a specific age when they start to varry?

In India, a Renewed Fight Against Leprosy – post #3

Article & Link: In India, a Renewed Fight Against Leprosy (The New York Times; April 17, 2019)

Summary: Leprosy, which is caused by Mycobacterium leprae has been eliminated throughout most of the world. However, it is still a huge problem in India, which currently has 60% of all leprosy cases in the world. This is largely due to the stigma against people with leprosy in India, who are not allowed to have jobs or even be in public if they have the disease. This means people with leprosy won’t seek help if they have leprosy, which causes nerve and muscle damage if it isn’t treated. However, there are some doctors in India who are trying to educate people better on leprosy to treat as many people as possible and hopefully prevent its further spread in India.


Connections: We were recently learning about pathogens in class. Leprosy, or Mycobacterium leprae causes a bacterial disease which affects nerves and muscles. The article mentioned that the bacterium is not culturable which prevents understanding of the disease. This explains why scientists don’t yet understand how the disease spreads. It sometimes spreads in a seemingly random way, infecting some people but not others. Furthermore, people can carry the disease for decades, spreading it to other people without realizing they are carriers.


Critical Analysis: I found the discussion about non-culturable pathogenic bacteria very interesting, because most of the examples we learned about in class were discovered and treated through culturing. It is also interesting to see how stigma and misinformation prevents treatable diseases from being eliminated. I learned a lot about how India’s culture regarding leprosy by reading this article. Many people hide it, potentially risking the health of those around them. Others go to leprosy colonies, or secluded communities, surviving by begging and helping each other. From what I could tell this article appeared to be scientifically accurate and not misleading. I feel like the writing is both accessible and informational to general audiences. It explains what leprosy is, the common symptoms, and why it’s such a big problem in India. I think it also did a good job explaining why leprosy is hard to study (mentioning its non-culturable, explaining it can’t be found by blood tests, and talking about how people can be carriers for decades) to people who may not have a lot of previous microbiology background.


Question: How should/do doctors and scientists study non-culturable bacterial species? Especially those species that are pathogenic?

Our guts really tell us what to do

Summary: This article covers a wide array of topics under the microbe-obesity/ disease umbrella. This is an up and coming field in the science community as scientists attempt to understand the science of losing and gaining weight, and how microbes might play a role in it. One of the main points in this article is how the microbes interact with their environment. The environment being a human and what they might be eating, how they are sleeping, and the host’s daily habits. Some of these areas show a marked change in the composition of the gut flora and this change can bring about diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Connections: In the article, it talks about how the gut microbiome is really important for humans, otherwise we would be insufficient in breaking down and absorbing all the nutrients we need. Something that I found really interesting in this article is that the gut microbiome changes daily, and not only that but it changes where certain species hang out and what time of the day certain species will thrive at.

Critical Analysis: I found this article interesting as gut flora and obesity are part of the field I would like to get into one day. I mentioned it before, but the gut flora changing composition and location on the daily is something that really struck me as I suppose I have always thought of them as a constant unchanging world unless something drastic in introduced like antibiotics.

I did like that most of the claims made in this article were founded with studies and not like in some mass-media articles that kind of expect the reader to take what they say as fact. This article I think is written more for somebody with at least a little knowledge in the field, unlike many scientific articles I see that are written for just about anyone.

Question: Though we are seeing a marked increase in certain presence/absence of microbes and their correlation with certain disease, could this really be root cause of our problems? Or are there other factors including psychologically and/or socioeconomic factors? Can these also be linked to microbes?


A2: Microbes in the News #3_ HAMMOND


— Article and link: Men with beards carry more germs than dogs with deadly bacteria in their facial hair, study reveals

Written by: Padraic Flanagan for the Daily Mail


https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00330-018-5648-z (peer reviewed article)


— Summary:  A recent study conducted in Switzerland found that men’s beard had significantly higher amounts of bacteria compared to dogs fur. The goal of this study was to find if humans could confer dog borne diseases from MRI scanners that had just been used for dogs. They took the swabs of 18 men’s beards and 30 dogs’ necks. They found that only 23 of the 30 dogs had high microbial counts, while all 18 men had high microbial counts, and 7 of these men had microbes that are pathogenic to humans.  However, Keith Flett, founder of the Beard Liberation Front, which opposes discrimination against beards, doesn’t believe it, and says the results stem from pogonophobia, the fear of beards.


— Connections: This highlights the principle of Ubiquity we talked about in class, “everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects.’ Interestingly, a human beard harbors more bacteria than dogs fur. This is possibly due to the beard being so close to the mouth, allowing more food availability, resulting in a more advantageous environment for microbes.


— Critical analysis: I found this story interesting because beards are apparently fashionable in our society and I cant grow them. I was surprised that men’s beards had significantly higher microbial communities than dogs coats, especially since humans bathe more than dogs. However, I think this report has some inaccuracies and didn’t account for some externalities,  such as; how much the men showered, what they last ate, or other lifestyle habits. Overall, this article was well written and was easy to understand for people not in the scientific community. After reviewing the journal article, I think the researchers did a good job inhibiting cross contamination, using men of varying ages, and using comparing microbail counts in common dog breeds. However, I think they should have included more men in the study to equal the number of dogs.


— Question:  Since beards are near the mouth, that allows more opportunity for food particulates to be in the beard, which would increase microbial growth because of the food source. My question is how would this compare to urogenital hair across different genders or comparing the results to hair on the underside of dogs, where they lay?

A2: Microbes in the News 3

Cold Plasma can Kill 99.9% of Airborne Viruses

Science Daily

April 8, 2019


Summary: Non-thermal plasma such as sparks from electrical discharges has proved highly effective in killing viruses in the air in just seconds. This is achieved by forcing air through a space in which electric sparks are being made.

Connections: From the classroom we have learned how viruses in many ways are a unique “lifeform” requiring sometimes unique solutions to deal with.

Critical analysis: This article is fascinating from a medical technologies standpoint. Air transmission of viruses had always been a concern as it is uniquely difficult to stop. This has a variety of potential applications, but the primary area of interest is hospitals.

Question: Do you think that this can be practically implemented in hospitals and other medical facilities.

Microbes in the News! (3) Super Bugs in Hospitals


Recently, “Super bugs’ have been located on the hands of hospital patients. According to an article on Science News, Fourteen percent of 399 hospital patients tested in the study had “superbug” antibiotic-resistant bacteria on their hands or nostrils very early in their hospital stay, the research finds. And nearly a third of tests for such bacteria on objects that patients commonly touch in their rooms, such as the nurse call button, came back positive. This is a huge issue, especially with the antibiotic resistance issues we face nowadays. MRSA is a huge contributor to Hospital infections, this microbe is commonly found in the skin. Due to the high number and turn over of patients in hospitals, many microbes and viruses are exchanged daily.



We have recently been looking into the connections between antibiotic resistance and the use of antibiotics. In cases such as super bugs being found, as we get closer and closer to the post- antibiotic world, these super bugs are going to cause issues that we may potentially not be able to eliminate. With increase in antibiotic resistance, there will be no way to fight these pathogens and bacteria.

Critical Analysis:

I work in a medical clinic, and so I hear about things like this everyday. Many people are unaware that this is happening, and when you try to explain it to them, they don’t believe you. So this article seems pretty accurate to me. It’s scary to know that there are these superbugs out there that we are not able to do anything about.


What can we do about this? Should we have harsher regulations on antibiotic perscriptions?





A2: Microbes on the News!

Autism symptoms reduced nearly 50% two years after fecal transplant


April 9, 2019


—  Summary:

Researchers first compared the microbiota diversity between normally developing children and children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They found that there was a significant difference in the diversity of the gut microbiome between these two groups. Next, with the help of the doctor who pioneered fecal transplants, children diagnosed with ASD were treated with fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs). They found that years after the treatment, there was a 45% decrease in chronic GI problems and a 58% reduction in the severity of ASD symptoms. 90% of the children in the study benefitted from this treatment plan.

—  Connections:

Several diseases stem from problems in the human gut microbiome, however, we have not discussed the effects on the mind. The researchers mentioned that they want to do more research to determine what these microbes are and what chemicals they are producing in children diagnosed with ASD. This leads me to believe that these anaerobic microbes are using several different metabolic pathways that produce gut-distressing products, as well as chemicals that could have an abnormal mechanism of action in the brain. These pathways can either be anaerobic respiration, via using a different terminal electron acceptor than oxygen or engage in fermenting which can produce several different compounds.

—  Critical analysis:

I have a cousin who was diagnosed with ASD and I recognize how much of a struggle it is to both treat and manage his disease. This FMT treatment provides a somewhat universal approach to reducing the symptoms and GI trouble associated with ASD. I had also never realized or recognized, the mental effects the microbiome can have on humans. This article was definitely credible and scientifically accurate based on the researchers’ credentials and experience. The author also did an excellent job at explaining the motivation for this study, elucidating the microbiome, and finally conveying the results of the study and future directions. The article could be well understood by someone without a background in microbiology.

—  Question:

What kind of products could one speculate are being produced in the gut microbiome of children diagnosed with ASD? Is it different for adults with ASD? How could one identify and quantify the products produced by the gut microbiome in children with ASD?


Of course your Hospitals instruments are clean

Tribble-like amyloid plaques of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease acquired from eating prion-infected beef. Credit: Sherif Zaki; MD; PhD and Wun-Ju Shieh; MD; PhD; MPH CD



Summary:  This article is probably the scariest one you will ever read in your entire life and you may already be infected but wont know it for a decade or more. Although we spoke very little of prions this semester this sinister rogue protein is 100 % fatal in every case to date. Prions are proteins that are miss folded and have the ability cause other proteins to miss fold likewise. Most people recall the outbreaks of the so call MAD COW formally known as Creutzfeldt-jakob Disease and as soon as we forgot we ate hamburgers again but ingestion is not the only way to get a rogue prion. Prions once attached to surgical instruments are not killed by autoclave or harsh chemicals and can be passed on to the next patient. The article talks about several cases of such transmissions and the fact that the new CDC guidelines say to simple destroy the instruments after surgery. You can see how problematic this is when a patient is asymptomatic and a disease that can take up to a decade to manifest.

Connections:  In class we talked a lot about how to kill microbes with heat, pressure, and chemicals. It’s terrifying to think bleach wont kill but that’s kind of the point of this article, but prions are not really alive anyway just a rogue proteins waiting to strike.

Critical analysis:   I love this article and wish it would make the cable news networks but thats unlikely unless the D man tweets about it. Although the article is not in a   journal but more of a fun to read type magazine, they do have a citation from the ” Acta Neuropathologica Communications” in which the journal article was   published.  

Question:  How comfortable are you to have your next surgical procedure ?


A2: Microbes in the News(#3)

Ebola Toll Tops 700 in DR Congo

Image result for Ebola in DR Congo

Since last August, the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history (the first being the the epidemic of 2014 that resulted in the deaths of over 10,000 people in Africa and Europe) has pervaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On April 6, the Congolese government confirmed that the deaths due to the most recent outbreak has surpassed 700. Furthermore, 100 of those deaths occurred within the first week of April.

In an attempt to control the spread of the disease, government officials have began vaccinating their citizens on the grand scale. With over 95,000 receiving the newly-developed vaccines by Merck to prevent the spread of the disease, a bright hope looms over the people of Congo.

All is not well for the government of Congo on the contrary; armed insurgency from Guerilla groups as well as rural communities’ resistance to receive medical treatment and vaccines have posed a serious risk to the exacerbated spread of the disease. In fact, because of public distrust for the government, more than a quarter of the people living within the cities of Beni and Butembo believe that Ebola doesn’t even exist!

In class, we learned a lot about pathogenicity, virulence, and even immunity.

Ebola is a pathogen with a high level of virulence. With such a high death rate from previous outbreak data, there is a high priority for such a population like that within the DR Congo to become vaccinated.
Furthermore, the concepts discussed in this article regarding mass vaccinations contributes to the idea of heard immunity. Since the government is stepping in to provide its people with the first ever effective vaccines for the disease, it is in the best interest to vaccinate as many people as possible against the virus for the sake of providing herd immunity and benefiting those who haven’t received the vaccine.

Critical Analysis
While Ebola may be contained within the northern region of DR Congo, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads elsewhere. Even more so, an effective vaccine has been developed for the virus and people within a country affected by multiple outbreaks of the disease are not even interested in what could be a solution to their future Ebola problems.

Although most resentment towards vaccination is stemmed towards distrust of the government of Congo, people should also be informed of the effects of herd immunity and how it could not only protect the people and their loved ones against the spread of diseases not limited to Ebola but potentially other harmful pathogens as well.

Now that there is an effective vaccine against Ebola, should the government of Congo mandate that its people receive it?

Article can be found here.

A2: Microbes in the News

Title: Microbes that live in fishes slimy mucus coating could lead chemists to antibiotic drugs

Source: The Conversation Academic Rigor, journalistic flair

Date: March 31st 2019


Finding new sources of antibiotics has become critically important in recent years in order to combat drug resistant infections. One potential source is fish mucus that covers their bodies in pill form since it is a natural anti-infective. Over 33,000 species of fish have the microbial containing the slime that can protect them from diseases and bacteria and potentially used to help humans with this as well.

In class we have discussed antibiotic sources and working around antibiotic resistance. We have looked at how different natural microbes can help with fighting off diseases and not have a resistance already built up.

I found the article to be well written and very scientifically relevant. They referenced their research at Oregon State University and the ways they have classified the different bacteria they have found taxonomic groups. They found 47 different bacterial strains gathered for the swabs they did on the fish mucus. They carried out a process similar to what we have done in lab to isolate and test them.

What do you think about using natural anti-infectives from animals to combat human pathogens?