Florida fights Zika virus by releasing thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes

My article is called ” Florida fights Zika virus by releasing thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes.” The link is  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/florida-zika-virus-mosquitos-infected-bacteria-keys-wolbachia-aedes-aeqgypti-a7695706.html. The article was published on 04/21/17

Summary: The Mosquito Control District has injected 20,000 male mosquitoes with Wolbachia bacteria that prevents the eggs from hatching after mating. They’re going to release the male mosquitoes in several stages with the infected males outnumbering the wild males seven to one. The goal of this first trial is to prevent diseases like the Zika virus and Dengue fever from spreading to people through mosquitoes. This 12 week trial should dramatically lessen if not eliminate the amount of mosquitoes in the Florida Keys test area.

This applies to what we’ve been learning in class because it is a method to stop the transfer of pathogens. By using harmless to human bacteria, we can prevent the spread of disease to ourselves from other animals. If this works, it could also stop the spread of malaria and other diseases in Africa from mosquitoes.

I thought this article was interesting because mosquitoes are responsible for so many of the different diseases that are spread to humans. If we could find a way to stop this, then the quality of life rises for everyone. While I would prefer we didn’t have to eliminate the mosquito population, it could be worth it to lower the risk of disease for people.

Can you see any consequences from eliminating the mosquito population? Is it too good to be true?


A2: Microbes in the News #2

In a Dragon’s Blood, Scientists Discover a Potential Antibiotic

Donald G. McNeil Jr., 4/17/17, New York Times



Summary: Scientists from George Mason University have found a substance in from the blood of a Komodo dragon that may be extremely useful with fighting germs. They recreated the substance in the lab and called it DRGN-1. Tests were done on mice with infected skin wounds for this study. This study showed the DRGN-1 could get through the membranes of bacteria, dissolve the biofilms that connect bacteria, and that it could speed up the process of wound healing.


Connections: Komodo dragons can be extremely dangerous because they kill with shock-inducing venom. However, in that same body lies a “rich source’ of potential antibiotics in their blood. This article explains that the chemical can break through the membranes of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, which shows just how powerful it could be if used correctly.


Critical Analysis: It’s amazing to see that something so potentially dangerous can also be so helpful when it comes to medicine. I found this article to be a little too short and simple because it gave no evidence to how the chemical can help infections.


Question: How does the DRGN-1 chemical fight infections and does it have any other effect on the body after the infection has healed?

A2: Microbes in the News

WHO’s First-Ever List Of The Dirty Dozen Superbugs


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a list of pathogens  that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. This list was released in the hopes that it would encourage new research on antibiotics. WHO divided the list into three sections of varying severity: critical, high priority, and medium. The list includes bacteria, fungi, and viruses distributed throughout those categories. A few of the most prominent microbes listed are E. coli, gonorrhea, and salmonella. This article connects to many of the topics we’ve been learning about this semester though it mainly focuses on antibiotic resistance and spread of disease. The main reason for publishing this list was to increase research in the field of antibiotics, because these pathogens are quickly adapting and developing resistance to commonly used antibiotics. The article also discusses that some of the microbes are not only listed for their high drug resistance, but their ability to spread incredibly quickly. I thought it was interesting that it has taken this long to publish a list, and I also found it interesting that it wasn’t more publicized in the general public. While reading this it made me think and wonder just how fast will more infectious microbes be added to this list? And also how well is scientific research going to catch up to speed?


A2: Microbes in the News

Scientists Turn Food Poisoning Microbe into Powerful Cancer Fighter

Michael Price, 2/8/17, Science Magazine



Summary: Scientists have found a way to modify the bacteria Salmonella in order to trigger an immune response in the body to fight off cancer cells. They tested this by implanting human cancer cells in mice and the bacteria actually shrunk the tumors and prevented the cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body. Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacteria that causes food poisoning. It was genetically modified to secrete the protein known as FlaB. In one experiment, 20 mice were injected with human colon cancer cells and then injected with the bacteria. Three days later, the mice had cleared all of the bacteria from their body except for their colons, which were crawling with Salmonella. After 120 days, the tumors were gone in 11 of the 20 mice.


Connections: This article shows just how important microbes are in our every day life. With all that we have learned about them, we can do so much to manipulate and use them to our advantage.


Critical Analysis: Everything about the fight against cancer fascinates me. It is such a strong disease to have and so much has been done to try and fight it. This article is really interesting to me because it seems like it could really work. However, this study was only done on mice and I really want to know how it would actually affect humans. The author didn’t cover exactly how this bacteria was fighting the cancer cells so I wish they would’ve gone into more depth about that part of it. Overall, this article was easy to read and did a great job at conveying information to the reader.


Question: I would like to know how the Salmonella bacteria could be used to fight cancer cells, but how it doesn’t affect the normal cells of the body? Is it possible for a bacteria to interpret which one is which?

A2: Microbes in the News!

Fungi have enormous potential for new antibiotics


Summary: This article explores recent research into the genome of 24 different fungal species in order to identify antibiotic and other bioactive compound production genes. This study has resulted in the discovery of over 1000 pathways for generation of bioactive compounds with pharmaceutical application.

Connection:  The article could be characterized as part history of the use of antibiotics and the rise of antibiotic resistance. We have at length discussed the prevalence and mechanisms for bacterial antibiotic resistance as well as the known pathways for antibiotic production in microbes like fungi.

Critical Analysis:  The studied referenced in the article shows the promise of new antibiotic and even anti-cancer medications as a result of identifying these genomic pathways in fungi. The researchers believe that the knowledge gained from these sequences will also improve the efficiency of production and efficacy of existing antibiotics. At one point in the article, they refer to the predictive capability of the researchers experiments with the new sequencing data, claiming that not only could they predict the chemicals these fungi were capable of making, but identifying new versions of the same antibiotic chemicals. The reader must infer from the phrasing of this part that the researchers were able to trace the gene and find fungi that were previously unknown to have the ability to produce that particular antibiotic. The implications of information like that open the door wide to not only new means of production, but new variants of chemicals that have otherwise been fighting an uphill battle against antibiotic resistance.

Question:  If it is true that the researchers found antibiotic production previously undiscovered in some fungi, they use the example of the chemical yanuthone, are these inactive genes that must be activated, and how are they accurately and consistently activating these genes to produce this chemical?

Glowing bacteria offer hope for safe detection of 100m landmines

The title of my article is “Glowing bacteria offer hope for safe detection of 100m landmines.” It comes from an online news site called The Guardian. It was posted on 4/13/17.

Summary: Researches have modified a bacteria to fluoresce when it comes into contact with the vapors of hidden land mines. The researchers noticed certain plants react to these vapors and modified bacteria to do the same. They scan the area with a laser to see the fluorescing bacteria and find the land mines.

This relates to what we’ve talked about in class through applications of microbes to benefit human life. By taking microbes and making small changes to their genome, we can entirely change their function. By using these bacteria, we are able to find explosives that could have otherwise hurt people.

I just thought this whole story was pretty neat. I know there’s a lot of talk about modifying microbes, but you hear very few stories that are actually successful. This article seems to be true to me. They admit that this group of researchers are not the first to develop bacteria that glow when exposed to explosive vapors, but they are the first to discover a way to detect the fluorescing bacteria.

If you could modify a microbe, what would you make it do?



Microbes in the News Assignment: Post #2

Article and link: “New HIV reservoir discovered: Findings reveal a second target for cure research’, Science Daily (it should be noted that the article on Science Daily sites the University of North Carolina Health Care as their source and mentions that the original findings were published in Nature Medicine on this same date), April 17, 2017.




Summary: This article describes scientists’ recent discovery that there is another cell within the human body which can act as a reservoir for HIV in addition to T cells: the macrophage. This discovery that macrophages are susceptible to infection by HIV is very important to current research focusing on the treatment of AIDS: this tells researchers that a successful treatment or cure would have to be effective in ridding the virus from both T cells and macrophages. One investigation found that viral replication within macrophages is effectively repressed when antiretroviral therapy is administered; however, the study also found that this effect is only temporary. Following treatment conclusion, macrophages still act as reservoirs for the virus and therefore remain capable of reinfecting the host. More research must be conducted in order to find the most effective way to resolve HIV infection of macrophage cells.


Connections: This relates to information we have discussed over the course of the semester in that it discusses a virus, HIV, and also cells involved in the immune response (T cells and macrophages). It also relates to the resolution of disease through treatment and also the ways in which viral cells can find ways to persist inside a host even following treatment; both of these are subjects which were briefly touched on in class this semester.


Critical analysis: I found it interesting to learn that HIV can also afflict host macrophage cells in addition to the host’s T cells. It has been known for some time that HIV targets T cells, but I had not heard of any other types of cells being specifically targeted by the virus. I also found it interesting that the antiretroviral therapy typically used in treating HIV infections in T cells does not work effectively on macrophages. I expect that the story is scientifically accurate as I have not seen indications to the contrary. I also did not find anything confusing in the article that would need to be corrected.  I believe that they did a good job in relating this news; it seemed as though they kept their audience in mind, and focused on relating the pertinent details and implications of this discovery without making the article too technical for those who may not have the background to understand a technical explanation.
Question: What are the most significant differences in terms of structure between T cells and macrophages which would cause antiretroviral therapeutic (ART) agents to be effective on T cells but ineffective in macrophages? Which ART’s were tested on the macrophages? What is their mechanism of action? Are scientists already aware of the specific reason that the ART does not work on macrophages?

Air Pollution + Biofilms = Disease?

From  The Atlantic on April 12th, 2017 – Air Pollution Might Make Dangerous Bacteria Harder to Kill


This article discusses a recent study that examined the effects of black carbon (a major component of air pollution) on the growth and antibiotic resistance of common opportunistic pathogens within the human microbiome –  Staphylococcus aureus  and  Streptococcus pneumoniae. The researchers found that the addition of black carbon to plated cultures of the two species changed the morphology of their respective biofilms and increased their antibiotic resistance, as well as increasing their pathogenicity when applied to the nasal mucosa of mice.


We’ve discussed how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics in class, and while we don’t know which kinds of antibiotics were tested (other than penicillin), we can conjecture as to the mechanism through which the bacteria developed their resistance. Since I imagine black carbon is not a favored carbon source of bacteria, it may encourage the survival of bacteria with more efflux pumps, to remove the black carbon from the cells.

Critical Analysis:

It’s fascinating that research into the effects of air pollution on the microbes affecting human health was not done until so recently – especially when the effects of air pollution on  disease are  already well-documented. This article didn’t contain any factual errors (as far as I know), and was careful not to generalize the results of mouse studies to humans. The author also did a good job of defining terms that the lay reader may not be familiar with (biofilm, microbiome, etc.), and was careful to represent the results of the study accurately. Now, if only more science writing was this clear!


What mechanisms are used by bacteria to adapt to air pollution that also increase their pathogenicity?

A2: Microbes in the News

Ben-Gurion U. researchers develop membranes that remove viruses from drinking water



Summary:  In a cooperative research effort between the Israeli and US universities, a hydrogel was developed to coat exisiting  commercial ultrafiltration membranes in order to increase their ability to repel and filter viruses, specifically Adenovirus and norovirus. The impetus for its development, and the advantage over normal methods of filtering viruses, is because it can function without amounts of energy and without additional chemical disinfecting products.

Connections:  This article relates to our discussions in class regarding both water purification in the form of filtration of pathogens, as well as food/water safety methods on a large scale.

Critical Analysis:  This article is interesting because it addresses the issue of public waste water as a critical entry point for microbes into municipal drinking water. In our lecture discussion during class we did not delve much into the that particular issue. The article highlights the cost of current methods of waste filtration and treatment, but does not give much in the way of details for the size of the issue, nor the extent of contamination that these cities are facing. To that same point, they fail to explain how effective the hydrogel is at ‘repelling’ viruses. Though the article seems to be a brief overview for the layman, I don’t believe the readers would have been bored by statistics to reinforce the information they provided. However, if this is an effective method that can be applied to control measures already in place, the results could be outstanding for reuse of potable water.

Question:  How long are the researchers expecting the hydrogel coating to maintain efficacy? Will the gel last as long as the existing filter it is applied to, and what will the added costs for cities planning to implement this extra barrier in their water supply?

Want to Boost Test Scores? Stop Misinterpreting Science.

From the  Education Week blog “Inside School Research” on May 25th, 2010 – Want to Boost Test Scores? Try Eating Dirt



This blog post (sponsored by a leading periodical in K-12 education) attempts to summarize the findings of this study, which found that the ingestion of a common soil bacterium,  Mycobacterium vaccae,  temporarily improved the anxiety levels and maze navigation abilities of a small group of mice. The blog post suggests that school gardening projects may produce a similar effect in small children.


The study in question examined both mice that had been injected with dead  Mycobacterium, and mice who had ingested live  Mycobacterium.  Each group of mice experienced some effect, which suggests that the compound or compounds responsible for producing the anxiety-reducing and learning-enhancing effects in mice may be a passive component of the bacterial cell wall, rather than an active mechanism that only functions in live microbes.

Critical Analysis:

This blog post has an extremely misleading title, and the text of the post contains major misinterpretations of the scientific study in question. Though the author attempts to say that the study doesn’t mean that children who eat dirt are smarter, it does imply throughout that consuming certain bacteria can change the base level intelligence of a child.  Clearly, this is an absurd claim, and a misinterpretation of the research. Not only is generalizing small animal studies to humans thoroughly unreasonable, it is also entirely possible that the potential reduction in anxiety experienced by the mice is what contributed to their improved maze navigation, and any anxiety-reducing agent would have had a similar effect.

In a world where a 10 year old’s test scores can determine a teacher’s income, we simply cannot justify misusing microbiology to tell  tired educators that the solution to low test scores is to make students play in the school garden.


How can we more effectively communicate the implications of our research to both educators and the public at large?