Neanderthal Tooth Plaque Hints at Meals and Kisses

Neanderthal Tooth Plaque Hints at Meals-and Kisses

Nature 08 March 2017


Summary: The plaque of teeth from Neanderthal remains discovered in  El Sidrón cave in northern Spain, which are estimated to have been from 50,000 years ago, were used to reconstruct the first microbiomes from extinct species. The researchers were able to determine their diet consisted of mushrooms and plants while Neanderthals from Spy cave ate wooly rhinoceros and mushrooms all from sequencing of the DNA from the plaque. The data also suggests that Penicillium mold was consumed along with aspirin from poplar trees to treat infections. The genetic analysis also suggests that Neanderthals and humans were kissing or sharing food as well since they both shared the same species of microbe in their mouths as modern humans. This is supported by the fact the strains did not split off until Neanderthals went extinct.

Connections: In lab we tested for some of the types of bacteria often found in the mouth using a variety of differential and selective agars. Though we were testing specifically for opportunistic pathogens, we discussed the amount of bacteria that is found in the mouth. In class we discussed the necessity and dangers of the bacteria that live in and on us and also the transfer of bacteria between people such as mother and baby. In addition, we learned about using penicillin as an antibiotic.

Critical Analysis: I found it very interesting that they could sequence DNA from such a long time ago. I thought the DNA would have degraded too much to get whole reads. It is amazing that they learned more about the social behavior of Neanderthals and humans just by the transfer of microbes. Since kissing means an intimacy during mating instead of the aggressive way they thought Neanderthals mated, the relationship between the two species is now considered different than what archaeologists previously thought.

Question: How did they track the split of the bacterial strain found in the ancient Neanderthals and humans from the same species of bacteria found in modern humans?

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?

New Arms Race: Science versus Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs

article link:

Summary:  Alexander Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin in 1928 played a crucial role in increasing the death rate of microbes in the early 20th century. However, a few years later following its use in medicine, reports of penicillin-resistant bacteria arose. The first penicillin-resistant strain, Staphylococcus aureus, was identified in 1947. The European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published a report in 2009 stating that the number of deaths caused by infections due to antibiotic resistant bacteria in Europe, Iceland, and Norway was estimated to roughly 25,000 each year. A contributing factor the prevalence of antibiotic resistance infections has to do with the degree of use of a particular antibiotic. Despite the numerous technological advances have been made in the 21st century, combating antibiotic resistance has posed a major problem. Many pharmaceutical companies do not want to consider antibiotic development because they do not believe it to be a beneficial investment. Antibiotics are generally much cheaper to develop compared to other medicines and are typically used for only a short duration of time.  

Connections: I thought that this was a very appropriate article  since we are testing antibiotic resistance and susceptibility on our own isolates.

Critical Analysis: This article was really eye opening in regards to the prevalence of antibiotic resistant infections worldwide. Although the information and data collected for this article was primarily from the European region, antibiotic resistance is still a major issue in other countries. It was rather interesting to learn why the development of new antibiotics has not been utilized to combat this problem. For example, numerous pharmaceutical companies do not find it a priority to develop new antibiotics since they are typically cheaper to produce, but are used for a shorter period of time compare to more expensive drugs. To me, it seems as if this issue is becoming more of a political or economic issue

Questions: Would producing more antibiotics be enough to combat the prevalence of already existing antibiotic resistant infections?

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?

A2: The 48 uses of dragon’s blood

The Economist: The 48 uses of dragon’s blood. March 2, 2017

Summary:  Two scientists from George Mason University have just recently discovered 48 new types of potential AMPs (antimicrobial peptides) that have never been seen before in Komodo dragon blood. The goal is to be able to do more testing on these newly discovered peptides and hopefully use these peptides as  a base for new antibiotics for infections.

Connections:  In class we have talked a lot about antimicrobial resistance and how much of a problem it is. The scientists conducting this study  used spectrometers, they must have done DNA testing, and also have done some type of physiology testing to discover these peptides.

Analysis: One reason I enjoy The Economist is because it is a source that reports on EVERYTHING, and sometimes articles are very short and get straight to the point so they are easy to read fast. But for this article and articles about science short is not always good. This article needs more information. It leaves you on a cliffhanger! The idea of gaining new medicines possibly from Komodo dragon’s is incredibly interesting, I can not wait for a more scientific article to be published about this study. But thanks to The Economist we now know that this research is being conducted.

Question:  The article says that the Komodo dragon’s blood may be useful because the animal is so poisonous. What are other poisonous animals do you think could potentially be studied for this same type of experiment?

Antibiotic Pollution

“Bacteria in estuaries have genes for antibiotic resistance”

January 31, 2017


Journal reference: Nature Microbiology



Researchers have identified a diverse amount of antibiotic resistance genes within bacteria found in Chinese estuaries. These resistance genes come into the natural bacterial populations from antibiotic pollution and could dangerously propagate through the human population eating fish from these waterways.


While we haven’t explicitly discussed antibiotics in lecture yet I think this ties into the idea that microbes are important- not only because they’re super cool to us scientists- but because they can influence human health. Also, this explores the topic of how misuse/mishandling of antibiotics can accelerate the path to the creation of the, “superbug”.

Critical Analysis:

I find the history and development of antibiotics to be very interesting and I think it is important that the medical community (and society as a whole) is wary about what can happen if they are misused. I was also surprised to learn about this type of antibiotic pollution as I had not even thought about the effect of rare antibiotic resistance genes being introduced into ecosystems (bacteria—> fish —> humans) . This article was concise and appeared factually correct. I think that it was written in a way that presents the information in a way that the general population could comprehend it.


After reading this article I want to know just how prevalent this type of pollution is and by how much is it propelling the development of antimicrobial resistant genes

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.

Deadline: All posts and comments must be made by April 24 to receive credit.


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.