A2: Microbes in the News- Using tropical microbes to improve the environment

Article Title: Using tropical microbes to improve the environment

Source: phys.org

Date: 4-12-17

Link:  https://phys.org/news/2017-04-tropical-microbes-environment.html

Summary: Researchers have been investigating ways to use the rich and diverse microbiome of the tropic region to help advance farming and agriculture, often finding ways to use them to protect against disease or increase efficiency in some way. For example, the scientists cultured the bacterium found in the guts of tropical fish, which can possibly be probiotics for commercially grown fish by inducing it into their guts through their food. This would protect them from the same diseases that the bacterium prevent in the tropical fish, enhancing survivability and resistance to diseases that could otherwise wreak havoc on the fish. A similar method is also used to protect banana crops, using the Streptomyces bacteria as an antifungal and antibacterial in the soil.

Connections: This is similar to what we have studied about both oil spills and microbiomes, as they are using microbes to reduce man made chemical use and are introducing these bacteria to the microbiomes of the fish and the plants.

Critical Analysis: I thought it was interesting to see how microbes can be used to protect against disease and how introducing them to the guts of the fish is almost like a vaccine for the fish. Although the article is about a developing way of helping agriculture and farming, there is a good amount of depth and explanation to the story to explain what is going on to the reader. It provides what may otherwise be a little technical to read for the general public into an interesting read that explains what it is saying well.

Question: In hat other ways could this be applied? Could it be used in place of certain vaccinations in humans? Even if it is just temporary, it would be interesting to see if this could be used for things like traveling. Because different people, especially of different cultures, have different microbiomes, could this method make it easier to travel and tolerate things such as drinking water and foods in different countries?

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?

Microbes Play a Beneficial Role in Food

Miso soup
Source: SMarina/iStock

Title:  Fermented flavours

Source:  Chris Loss from Chemistry World

Date:  March 7, 2017


Summary: Microbes play a large role with the food that everyone eats and how various food items grow. Scientists and chefs are starting to team up to enhance the eating experience that people enjoy by examining how they can use different microbes contained within the food to enhance flavors and potential benefits to people’s health. Besides changing the how certain foods taste, microbes can increase the “nutritional” benefits these foods provide too.

Connections: In this article, the author mentions the importance of  the microbes that are being manipulated to help chefs better their customers’ food experience, which adds to the list regarding the importance of microbes.

Critical Analysis:  I have briefly heard how microbes are starting to be used to influence how food tastes and what food can provide for our bodies prior to reading this article. I found the fact that these microbes being manipulated to make some food dishes more nutritionally beneficial to be interesting because this is a field of science that can be explored more. In terms of the scientific accuracy of this article, I could tell that the author was catering towards the food theme, trying to link puns when describing the role of microbes or biochemical processes. Although this makes the article entertaining and easier to read, the author could provide a brief background as to how proteins are influenced by “biochemical cleavers,” for example. This article definitely did a good job at informing the public of the science that is going on and how this type of science can benefit people because the author primarily expressed the benefits of having microbes in food.

Question: Could experimenting with the microbes in fast food make fast food items more nutritional and beneficial to people while keeping the price relatively cheap?