A2 Microbes in the News

“Why your kid’s strep throat keeps coming back,  A combination of genetic and immunological factors makes some children susceptible to the bacteria that cause strep throat” by the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, published 6 Feb   2018. Found:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190206144503.htm

Streptococcus pyrogenes causes a number of diseases, but when found in the throat it is known as strep throat.   The scientist gathered 100 children who had undergone tonsillectomies and tested their immune response.   They had a less robust response to Strep.   Additionally, their parents also had a decreased reaction to the strep toxins released by the virus.

This, I think, connects to the class in the development of vaccines.

I think it is quite interesting how how we don’t really have a clear understanding on how the immune system responds to the removal of the tonsils, a thing we have been doing for nearly 2000 years.   It wasn’t really well written, I think because it was trying to water down a scientific publication.   It didn’t really give me as much information I wanted, but I imagine, that for a person with a less deep understanding of immune response as me, a person who, admittedly, doesn’t have a great grasp of the subject, would be able to get the gist.   However, the article could have been better organized.

“SpeA” is a toxin given off by the microbe, I wonder how the immune response acts on that, rather than the microbe itself.

A2: Microbes in the news – Study: Gene Drive Wipes Out Lab Mosquitoes




A gene editing technique called a Gene Drive which is based on the well known CRISPR technique has been shown to be able to completely eliminate a mosquito population in the lab.


We have been learning about the various techniques used through history to prevent diseases, from antibiotics to vaccines, this represents another potential tool capable of having a similar impact.

Critical Analysis:

The prevention of deadly diseases has been and continues to be one of the greatest goals of the study of microbiology and malaria is currently one of the most deadly infections still at large in the world with  219 million cases of malaria in 2017, up from 217 million cases in 2016 despite incredible continued efforts to prevent its’ spread. A commonly targeted element of the disease is the delivery method, mosquitoes. However while previous efforts have failed to slow the spread, this technique has demonstrated the potential to not just slow them but to precisely and completely eliminate an entire species.


What other populations can this be applied to? For instance, would it be appropriate to eliminate the populations of rats devastating island bird populations?

A2: Pigs culled in Shiga after swine fever outbreak

NHK World, 2/07/2019

Summary:  Roughly 700 pigs have been culled at a farm in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture (滋賀, middle left on map) after an outbreak of  Pestivirus CSFV, a Group IV virus responsible for classical swine fever. While this pathogen is highly contagious among domestic and wild swine and known to cause symptoms including fever, skin hemorrhaging, convulsions, and death [1], humans are not susceptible. The carriers were among a total of 60 pigs shipped from Aichi Prefecture (愛知, center bottom) to four other prefectures on January 31st. The first case of CSF in Japan in 27 years was discovered September 2018 in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜, center top), spreading from there.


While we have not yet covered viruses or communicability in class, the precautions we take in lab to avoid communication of our unidentified strains is likely an afterthought on commercial farms. It’s no wonder that crafty and deadly pathogens could have such a devastating effect on food supply chains.

Critical Analysis:

This article is written more as an informative story than a piece of scientific literature. However, it does provide reliable information on what  Pestivirus CSFV is and the effects it can have. While it has been reportedly eliminated in many western countries, including America, Canada, and Australia, cases still arise such as East Anglia, United Kingdom in 2000 [1].


What makes pathogens selective in their attacking, and is it truly more advantageous to specialize and “hide under the radar” rather than diversify to obtain the maximum potential number of hosts?

Additional Info:

[1]:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_swine_fever

A2:Microbes in the News

Title:  Specific Gut Microbes Linked With Depression: Study

Source:  The Scientist

Author:  Ashley Yeager

Date Published:  February 4, 2019

Article Link:  https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/specific-gut-microbes-linked-with-depression–study-65427

Summary:  This is a small article that nicely states some findings from a project called the Flemish Gut Flora project. The results seem to conclude that two types of bacteria, in the gut are depleted in people who suffer from depression the bacteria, Coprococcus and Dialister, were found to be two of the main bacteria that were missing in those with depression. The article states if the results are further confirmed (as this is one of the first major studies and findings of its kind) it could lead to a plethora of information about the gut-brain connection and further provide new solutions for mental illness. Concluding this article are a few different statements from different scientists, both involved in the study and not, on its importance as being the first step in discovering the major role the microbiome plays in health and disease.

Connections:  This article connects very closely to what we’ve been talking about in class in the sense that an argument could be made for microbes ruling the world. If this study is further confirmed it would be a stepping stone to realizing that almost all of the problems people have are on a microbe level. Every decision people make, that changes the world, is influenced by their mental clarity and how they are feeling. Therefore, I would say microbes do rule the world, as they influence every aspect of the people, animals, plants and everything that make up the world.

Critical Analysis: I found this article interesting because of the implications it was hinting towards. Saying that this was the first real stab at understanding a huge unknown microbiome and that it could be a tool to cure mental illness. I had heard this theory of the gut biome having more of an influence on the entire body before, but it was very interesting to see an article talking about a large scale study that had been done. I believe the story was accurate scientifically, it was a smaller article, but all the information on the study and the results can be found quite easily. It was written in a fairly easy to read way, where anyone in the general public could understand the general idea that the gut biome plays a role in depression. So I think it does a good job communicating science to the public, however I will say it definitely is trying to paint a much bigger picture for people to grasp on. While this research was a big project, it is one of the first and much more needs to be learned about the gut biome before one can truly say a link for depression is only these two gut bacteria.

Question: Do you think one-day, microbial gut ‘supplements’ could be a viable cure to mental illness or other disease?

A2 Microbes in the News (P.gingivalis and Alzheimer’s disease)

Article and Link:

“We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s–and how to stop it’
By: Debora MacKenzie
Source: NewScientist.com
Date: 24 January 2019



Researchers have found that the formation of amyloid and tau proteins which are signs of Alzheimer’s disease, may be a response to bacterial infiltration. One of the major risk factors of Alzheimer’s is the occurrence of gum disease caused by the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis.
They have found that P. gingivalis has been found to infect areas of the brain with Alzheimer’s lesions as well as exacerbating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in mice who have been infected with P. gingivalis as gum disease. Similarly healthy mice (who have not been engineered to have Alzheimer’s) who have been infected with gum disease and the bacteria P. gingivalis, exhibit amyloid plaques, and neural damage similar to that found in Alzheimer’s affected brains.
Enzymes which P. gingivalis uses to feed on human tissue, have been found in 96% of brains analyzed by Cortexyme and P. gingivalis proper has been found in several brains upon autopsy. Higher rate of these “feeding enzymes’ called gingipains have been higher in those with a greater cognitive decline before their death as well as greater amyloid and tau accumulations.
Cortexyme has developed a molecule with inhibits these gingipains and has shown to effectively halt P. gingivalis infection in mice including stopping amyloid production and reducing the associated brain inflammation.


                      I can see a connection with the research that they are doing with Koch’s postulates. Not only have they found the pathogen in unhealthy mice, but also upon injecting the pathogen into healthy mice, they receive the same symptoms. I don’t know their exact procedure, however that they are not only exploring what they are finding within the diseased subjects, but duplicating the symptoms in healthy subjects is similar to how they have been identifying pathogens using these postulates.

Critical Analysis

I am very interested in this news story, not only because the community is expanding their thinking on the amyloid and tau protein buildup (previously thought to build up due to cell component aging) being a response to something, rather than an inevitable state of neural tissue. I also like that it goes into light detail on the reasoning behind why they began the studies, what the studies are doing and what the future of the studies are going to be. Also, it is interesting that they have not only made this correlation, but that Cortexyme has already begun developing a vaccine and medications to stop the proliferation of P. gingivalis in the brain (which could also help with gum disease, but I really just love the brains).
As for the article, I think that it is a lot of information for one article but that it is very well put together in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm the reader. There are also links embedded within the article that reference journal articles for further reading, which is beneficial for those who would like a deeper understanding.


The main question that I have is one of correlation vs. causation. There is evidence form the research on healthy mice that the P. gingivalis causes the anomalies within the brain tissue, but they did not find evidence of the bacterium in all cases of Alzheimer’s that they studied. So my question is still the age old question: Is this THE cause of Alzheimer’s disease or is it A cause of Alzheimer’s disease? Does it simply exacerbate the disease or increase the rate at which the disease presents?


Samantha Smith

A3: Epithet Epitaphs

Walborg Thorsell  (1919-2016) was a Swedish veterinary scientist who studied mosquitos and mosquito repellents because there was talk about malaria infected mosquitoes being used as biological warfare. Thorsell found that diethylamide was more effective than the common repellent deet.


Thorsellia bacteria are named after Thorsell because they are found in mosquito species that are common vectors for malaria in Africa, Asia, and South America. Thorsellia is founded in waters were mosquitoes breed, and can live in alkaline conditions, and grow faster in blood culture. Alkaline conditions are found in mosquito larvae. Thorsellia has also been found in mosquitos that are carriers of West Nile virus and encephalitis.





A2: Microbes in the News: 1

A Silver Bullet Against the Brain-Eating Amoeba?

-New York Times

-January 14, 2019

I found an interesting article about a new way to stop  Naegleria fowleri, a brain eating amoeba found in freshwater ponds in the US. They are using silver particles covered in anti-seizure medication, which can kill the amoeba.

This article intrigued me because I haven’t heard of anyone having brain eaten amoeba in the United States, I didn’t know that there were any diseases like this occurring here. This article appears to be scientifically accurate. I think this article did a good job at communicating a new discovery by mixing quotes and scientific information.

This article mentions using crickets, mice and cockroaches as animal models for future testing. My question is why are they using these bugs to carry out these experiments rather than a model species?



A2: Microbes in the News Assignment

Microbes in the News !

Over the course of the semester, post 3 different stories involving microbes  from the popular media and then read and comment on 3  posts by other students.


Points: Total possible = 30 points. Earn up to 8 pts for making a post and 2 points for posting a comment. Create 3 posts and 3 comments over the course of the semester.

Deadlines: Posts can be made as soon as you’d like, but for full credit you must post them by these deadlines:

Post 1: Feb. 8

Post 2: April 1

Post 3: April 15

All comments: April 15


Learning Objectives:

– Increase your awareness of microbiology and its role in society

– Expand and apply your knowledge of microbiology

– Practice critical thinking by analyzing popular news media for scientific accuracy

– Develop questions about microbiology

– Help your peers and yourself understand microbiology by answering their questions



Over the course of the semester, create 3 separate Microbes in the News posts on the course website, and then read and comment on 3 Microbes in the News posts by other students. Be sure to follow the guidelines below in order to qualify for  full credit.


Guidelines for creating a post:

Article and link: Enter the title, source, and date of the article and create a link to it. Articles should be from any popular media source (newspaper, magazine, podcast, blog,  etc.) that others can access without hitting a paywall. Any relevant story is acceptable, but challenge yourself to find stories that are current (~within the last 3 months) and that haven’t yet been posted by your peers, whenever possible.

Summary: Write a short summary of the story (just a few sentences is sufficient).

Connections: Explain briefly how this connects to what we’ve covered in class.

Critical analysis: Explain what you found interesting about this story, and what (if anything) you learned. Comment on whether you think the story was scientifically accurate or not. If you noticed any factual inaccuracies or aspects of the story that might inadvertently confuse or misinform readers, identify those and provide a more accurate explanation. Also comment on how this was written. Do you think it did a good job of communicating science to the public? Why or why not?

Question: Write a question about microbiology that you had as a result of reading this story.

Categorize: Categorize your post as “A2: Microbes in the News’ using the categories menu on the right. This will ensure I can find it and give you credit.

Tag: Tag your post based on any relevant microbiological themes by choosing from the tag menu (below categories on the right). Use existing tags when possible, but you can add new ones if needed by clicking “+Add New Category’ link just below the list of tags. This will help us find stories on relevant themes. You can also use these tags to search for other students’ stories on themes that interest you.

Guidelines for commenting on a post:

– Read the news story and the students’ post about it

– Create a comment and write a response to their critical analysis. Do you agree, disagree, or have more to add?

– In your comment, answer their question to the best of your ability. This might require some independent research.