Assignment ll: Microbes in the News

Can airborne viruses survive in water?

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170421091523.htm

This article discusses an equine herpes virus and its ability to survive in water. This causes a problem for shared water among animals. It also gives insight into viruses that can survive outside of their preferred conditions.

The first thing that came to mind after reading this article is the infectious game we played with the beach ball. This was the same lecture we talked about possible ways an infection can be passed: airborne, contact. However, for me, a combination was never considered.

An airborne virus also being able to survive in water makes the area spreading of that virus that much wider. The article mentions that even when the animal with the virus is absent, other animals were getting the infection through the shared water. This is important because trying to maintain the spread of an infection is only possible when you know all of the pathways of infection.

My question is: Have viruses always been able to survive outside of their ideal environment?

Assignment ll: Microbes in the News

Bacteria’s DNA fingerprint suggests it could be spreading via food distribution

This article discusses the spread of Clostridium difficile, a microbe that causes gut infections. C. difficile  is an important topic of discussion because it appears to be transmitted through food, resistant in some people, seen in a lot of hospitalized patients, and it can be dangerous. To track the source of this bacterium, scientists have been using DNA fingerprinting. Dr. David Eyre, the researcher of this topic, has been promoting washing hands to prevent the spread however, he thinks it is beyond this because there are different strains appearing together in different countries.

This topic ties into a couple of our lectures. We’ve discussed resistance, the human microbiome, and washing hands (soap) as being a way to kill bacteria.

I find this topic important especially since Clostridium difficile appears to be widespread and affecting certain countries. DNA fingerprinting is a great method for finding the source of a spread and I think if scientists continue to practice this kind of research we could get to a place where we can stop a disease before it begins.

My question for you is: Will this be good enough? What other ways can we prevent the spread of an infection?

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170421210846.htm

 

Microbes in the News: Post #3

Article and link: “Microorganisms Make a House a Home?” — https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43840/title/Microorganisms-Make-a-House-a-Home-/

 

Summary: This is a brief article which overviews a study in which dust from homes were analyzed for bacterial and fungal species. The results indicate that the presence of certain fungal and bacterial species can indicate the geographical location you live and even the house’s inhabitants, from pets to people.

 

Connections: Using the presence of certain bacteria to ascertain information is similar to the idea of the human microbiome, as well as using the presence of certain fungi to determine geographical location.

 

Critical Analysis: The study found that, using the fungal data, one could predict the exact geographical location in which the home was located. Furthermore, they could predict using bacterial data whether or not there is a dog in the household — with 92% accuracy. The scientists could even predict if the house’s inhabitants were predominantly male or female, based on the presence of bacteria typically found in fecal matter (males) or the vaginal canal (females). The article itself was very brief and written for non-scientists, but it didn’t seem to have any inaccuracies. It was very interesting and insightful.

 

Question: What else could microbes be indicative of in everyday life?

Microbes in the News Assignment: Post #3

Article and link: “Too Clean for Our Children’s Good? The Checkup’ by Perri Klass, MD, The New York Times, April 17, 2017.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/well/family/too-clean-for-our-childrens-good.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FBacteria&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=collection&_r=0

Summary: This article talks about the many various ways in which our children are protected from interaction with microbes, including giving birth by caesarian section, bottle-feeding, and possible exposure to antibiotics. Such protection on the one hand affords protection from disease but on the other hand offers greater risk that children may experience complications of the “built environment.’ It is a concern that living in such a clean, controlled environment could lead to an underdeveloped immune system and subsequent health problems which may have otherwise been avoidable had the body been exposed to a diverse array of microbes at a young age. In order to combat this problem, it is recommended that young children be introduced to these microbes in the outside environment through “controlled exposures’ in the form of either “natural exposure’ consisting of interaction with their environment or through a type of vaccine yet to be developed.

 

Connections: This article include discussion of the development of the human microbiome, its importance in the overall health of an individual, the avenues by which children are typically first exposed to microbes, and also the concept of vaccination with microbes in order to improve health. All of these are topics which have been mentioned or discussed over the course of the semester.

 

Critical analysis: I liked the contrast that the author provided between the microbes found outdoors as opposed to those found within the “built environment.’ While I had naturally assumed that the inside of a house or apartment may be “cleaner’ than the outside world, I had not given much thought to the members of the microbial populations to be found in each of the two environments; in reality, the inside of a dwelling is not necessarily any more microbe-free than the outside, it is instead simply inhabited by a different, and possibly narrower, variety of microbes. I did not detect anything scientifically inaccurate or confusing in this article, and think that it did perform an adequate job in relaying this information to the public. The author did not get too technical in any of their explanations, yet clearly stated the anticipated problem, reasons behind that belief, and also the possible solutions to the problem.
Question: Are researchers suspecting that the health problems mentioned are primarily due to inadequate exposure to pathogenic bacteria? Or do interactions with the non-pathogenic bacteria also play a role in shaping the immune system of children? What kinds of “natural exposures’ are parents advised to pursue in order to assist their child’s immune system to develop properly?

A2: Microbes in the News

Antibody helps detect protein implicated in Alzheimer’s, other diseases

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/wuso-ahd041417.php

Summary: The article discusses research looking to find less invasive ways to identify and then track the progress of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. They have accomplished the first step by crafting an antibody which binds to the protein tau, which is present in tangles when damage to the brain is occurring. The antibody allows tau to stay present in the blood and accumulate long enough to be observable via blood tests.

Connection: The article discusses the use of an human antibody, but in a way we didn’t really cover in class. The antibody is not used as a flag for the destruction of a microbe or “not-self” entity in the body, but rather keep an entity around long enough to track its concentrations.

Critical Analysis:  This article does an excellent job of explaining the issues related to diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the way in which the protein tau is associated and was identified as a potential measurable product for blood tests. Though the study has only done limited preliminary human trials, they were able to magnify the presence of tau in the blood of individuals with known neurodegenerative diseases. I believe the article did a great job of translating the innovative way in which scientists approach problems like that of diagnostics, and the interdisciplinary cooperation and literacy that is at the command of these researchers to accomplish what was discussed.

Question:  Would this antibody have the ability to track damage as it accumulates in individuals like football players, perhaps as a longitudinal study to gain more data and a predictive model for brain damage?

Microbes in the News: Post #2

Article and link: “The Mycobiome” — https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/45153/title/The-Mycobiome/

 

Summary: This article discusses the commonly overlooked mycobiome, which is those fungi which are in and on our bodies. In recent years the microbiome has gained much more attention in both health and human medicine, but the mycobiome is still very much understudied. This article characterizes the human mycobiome and asserts that it is similarly important to human health, and even influences microbial communities. The researchers explored the presence of many different fungi in the oral cavity. As of yet, this field is still in need of scientific development and research.

 

Connections: I connected this to our brief lectures on fungi, and also to the attention on the human microbiome.

 

Critical Analysis: I found the idea of the human mycobiome to be interesting. The author ascertains that most people, scientists included, often overlook it. I had never thought of a mycobiome until reading this article myself. I think that the article is well written. It is more directed to readers who have some scientific background, as he provides a detailed outline of his research involving the mycobiome.

 

Question: What are the implications of the mycobiome, and how much influence does it have on the microbiome and overall human health?

Microbes in the News: Post #1

Article and link: “Scientists turn food poisoning microbe into powerful cancer fighter” — https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/scientists-turn-food-poisoning-microbe-powerful-cancer-fighter

 

Summary: Scientists in Korea are researching how to use microbes to fight cancer. Genetically modified Salmonella, known to cause food poisoning, is being used to target necrotic tissue found in tumors. So far, the tumors tend to come back after treatment and there is a risk of the bacteria turning toxic, but the research is promising and is continuing to develop.

 

Connections: I made the connection between microbes and the immune system. Many pathogens have great, innovative ways in which they evade the immune system. Scientists are using this immune evasion as a treatment in humans.

 

Critical Analysis:  Using a microbe that has enough pathogenicity to “infect” bad tissue but isn’t particularly life threatening is an interesting concept. Microbial treatments in medicine are particularly interesting to me, since I’m interested in human medicine and am focusing on infectious diseases. I think this article explained the science in a very basic way, since it is for the non-scientist reader. There didn’t seem to be any scientific inaccuracies. It is written in an informative way that is still interesting.

 

Question: What makes scientists distinguish which microbes to use in human medicine, particularly a treatment such as this?

A2 Microbes in the News

A Taste For Pork Helped A Deadly Virus Jump To Humans

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/02/25/515258818/a-taste-for-pork-helped-a-deadly-virus-jump-to-humans

In 1999, in a small town in Malaysia, a scientist named Dr. Kaw  Bing Chua made a discovery crucial for the restructuring of the agriculture and farming industry across Malaysia (as well as Singapore, the Philippines, and several other countries). Chua discovered the virus later to known by the name of Nipah. Chua, a grad student studying virology at the time pinpointed this virus as one spreading across the country, yet no one at the time believed it.  Over the course of the next year a disease more deadly than Ebola was spreading rapidly throughout the town of Nipah, Malaysia. It eventually caught the attention of the government, and since most common viruses were spread through mosquitoes, the government treated it that way. However, after months of efforts to decrease the rate of spreading, nothing was working. This is when Chua comes back into the story. Chua was adamant that the virus in question was not in fact spread through mosquitoes, but actually through pigs. He came to this conclusion when he observed that the only demographic of people not getting the disease were Muslim, and hence were not eating pigs. Chua connected with a lab in Fort Collins, Colorado where he was able to see the virus through a special camera at their lab. The virus was identified and confirmed to be one that spreads through livestock. This led to the researchers at the CO facility contacting the Malaysian government,  who then immediately switched procedures and began focusing on stopping the spread between pigs and pigs to people.

This relates strongly to what we’ve been discussing most recently in class.  Learning how a disease spreads is critical for studying how to stop or slow it. Once the Malaysian government realized that Chua’s observations were correct, they changed policies throughout their nation. The entire farming industry was turned over and reshaped in order to minimize the spread of infectious diseases, such as the deadly Nipah virus. It really struck me in this article that the key to reducing outbreaks is to start by preventing them in the first place. The article elaborates on how serious a threat diseases like measles pose for humans. Nipah, like measles, is a respiratory virus. It spreads through close proximity, like when the pigs lived in extremely close quarters, but it also can spread just through the air. This is why taking advantage of any available immunizations is key to reducing outbreaks of potentially deadly pathogens. One question that stuck with me after reading this article was how specifically is this virus adapting to its conditions? The first outbreaks of Nipah were only due to pig to human transfers, but as of late, the virus spreads from human to human.

 

 

A2: Microbes in the News!

Fungi have enormous potential for new antibiotics

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/cuot-fhe041917.php

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?

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.

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170417114806.htm

 

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?