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?

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?

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.