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?


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!

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?

Bacteriophages the Soldiers of the Future

Bacteriophages, natural drugs to combat superbugs


April 18, 2017


Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine as well as the VA have found a way to decrease the level of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in lab mice. They are using bacteriophages to target the resistant bacteria that they have infected mice with. They hope that this will be a way to combat superbugs in the future.


This is something that could be the answer bacteria becoming resistant to common antibiotics.  Bacteriophages will only attack the bacteria in a host and should leave the host unharmed. However, since bacteria adapt so quickly it might not be a solution for long.

Critical Analysis:

I found the body’s response to infections very interesting. When the body is overactive it often leads to more problems than the infection itself. Usually, antibiotics were used to control the growth of the bacteria causing the infections, however with antibiotic-resistance growth is becoming harder to control. The bacteriophages  could provide the answer to this and save countless lives in the future.


Is there a way for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop a resistance to the bacteriophages that are being used?

Deadly Antifungal Resistant Fungus

Article Title: Catastrophic threat’: CDC chief fears a deadly superbug’s spread

Source:  STAT

Date: 4-21-17


Summary: The CDC is very busy these day with antibiotic resistant microbes and various outbreaks, but there are other deadly lesser known microbes  spreading about in hospitals too. This article reports on one of the CDC’s most recent foes, the fungus  Candida auras. This fungus is very deadly to humans, resistant to many antifungals,  and like to infect people who are already injured. Where does it live? Hospitals. Just one more thing the CDC has to deal with while their budget is getting slashed by the president to make room for more military spending.

Connection:  This article made me think of the chapters on controlling microbial growth. Bacteria due to their many differences from  Eukaryote have lots of targets for antibacterial medications. However fungus are  Eukaryote and thus such harder to fight. Since this fungus is already resistant to many of our antifungal medications it is really scary. Our only hope might  good disinfectants to keep hospitals clean.

Critical Analysis:  The articles topic,  Candida auras is very interesting. When most people think of antimicrobial resistant microbes they only think of bacteria. However, fungus can also be resistant to antimicrobial agents. The article doesn’t really provide to much information on the fungus sadly. However I think its purpose was just to raise awareness.

Question:  I would love to know a little bit more about this fungus and how it has resistance to things. How do fungus fight antifungal medication?

How to disrupt bacteria to better treat infections












Date: April 12, 2017

Source: Nova Southeastern University


Summary: Researchers at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) are looking for ways on how to treat infections without depending too much on antibiotics, since microbe’s resistance to antibiotics are alarmingly rising.

Connection: In class, we talked about how different kinds of bacteria can be susceptible or resistant to antibiotics.

Critical Analysis: This article is pretty short, and I think the researcher’s result could be elaborated more. What I learned from this article is that the researchers from NSU wanted to find a different way of treating infections with minimal use of antibiotics. I think that it’s interesting that they want to find a different approach to treating infections. However, this is going to be extremely hard because humans are still dependent to antibiotics, even though bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics are increasing. With this in mind, researchers from NSU discovered, with the help from University of Minnesota and Duke university, that by shaking the biofilm that bacteria made,   bacteria’s ability to communicate with each other was negatively affected. I, also, learned that by applying a certain amount of frequency into the bacteria will cause them to be confuse in a way that it affects their growth and cooperation.

Question: Do you think that this method of shaking the bacteria in a perfect frequency will be efficient in treating bacterial infections in the future? Why or why not?


Staying Safe in Space

Date Published: April 17, 2017
Jennifer Tsang

Jennifer Tsang wrote mainly about safeguards with future microbial interactions in outer space. She touched upon safeguards against interplanetary contamination, about how NASA is preparing a lander destined for further investigation of Europa’s saltwater ocean underneath its icy surface (to look for extraterrestrial life, no less), and about their methods on how to handle any possible contaminants on the lander’s outer walls once it comes back from its long voyage.

Human gut microbiota from outer space, according to Jennifer’s research, decrease in diversity and compromise the immune system, which opportunistic pathogens may take advantage of. Bacteria also become more virulent and more resistant to antibiotics while exposed to increased radiation levels and microgravity.

The author actually mentioned L.G. Baas Becking’s Principle of Ubiquity, which states that we can find microbial life everywhere on Earth, in every environment, in every biome, but that certain microorganisms exist only in a particular habitat–“…The environment selects.”

Antibiotic resistance was also touched upon by the author, how in space bacteria actually experience an enhanced resistance against them due to conditions in the environment.

Lastly, this article goes well under the astrobiology category of our curriculum.

Critical Analysis:
This article was interesting to me because of the astrobiological implications of the topics Jennifer Tsang has discussed. I learned that in space, the microbial content in our bodies gets significantly altered in a way that could mean harm to us in the future and may pose a huge risk for future space endeavors, especially for the astronauts involved, who are directly handling the missions.

The author appeared more credible in my eyes once she started putting links to her sources throughout the article.

How do we prevent our gut microbe diversity from decreasing so much that our immune functions gets compromised while in a zero-gravity environment? Is there a way for us to retain them, using our knowledge right now, in order to help our astronauts cope in space?


A2: Microbes in the News- Scientists find a new treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria

CTV News

Article published April 3rd, 2017

Researchers from Birmingham University in the UK have developed an interesting alternative to using antibiotics for a certain rare lung disease that can be caused by several bacterium including P. aeruginosa. They would run a similar process to dialysis, called plasmapheresis, but instead of removing waste from the blood they would remove a certain antibody from the blood that was in excess, which prevented them from fighting the infecting bacterium. They would run this several times a week, replacing antibodies via blood transfusions, and this reduced hospitalization time and reduced the effects of it significantly, all without antibiotics. Research is being done to see if this is a viable replacement to some antibiotic treatments.

This relates to class material because we covered usage of antibiotics and how to prevent resistance. This would be a very good way to eliminate adding resistance to bacterium that can be fought this way significantly by not even using antibiotics.

I thought it was interesting how they are trying to find ways to avoid antibiotics completely, which would significantly decrease the worry of antibiotic resistance. It is a fairly new treatment, but it looks very plausible and accurate based on the reasoning in the article. It is fairly simplified for the public but is in depth enough so that the treatment process can be understood.

One question I would ask is how this could be expanded upon to more diseases beyond just filtering out antibodies from the blood. Could this be applied to other immune response diseases? People who are immune suppressed?

A Superbug That Resisted 26 Antibiotics

Title:    A Superbug That Resisted 26 Antibiotics



Summary:  A 70- year-old woman was hospitalized in Reno, Nevada with a superbug that was resistant to all 26 antibiotics that are available in the United States. The strain was even resistant to carpananbems; antibiotics usually given as a last resort against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Connections:  In class, we learned about different antibiotics and how they work to treat different bacterial infections. We also learned about antibiotics resistance, and pathogen’s abilities to circumvent antibiotic treatments. This superbug must have had mechanisms to avoid the chemicals in all antibiotics available to us.

Critical analysis:  Since this article is from NPR, I would assume it’s meant for the general public. I think it does a good job of communicating the concepts of antibiotic resistance simply enough for someone who may not have an interest in microbiology to understand. As far as I can tell, there are no inaccuracies in this article.

Questions:  This article made me wonder what kind of physiological methods that this particular strain of bacteria had that made it resistant to antibiotics. The article also mentions that CRE infections are most common in India and parts of China. Since some parts of these countries may not have access to a wide variety of antibiotics, how are superbugs occurring there? If they haven’t been exposed to all antibiotics, how are they developing resistance to them?