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.




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?

Deadly Antifungal Resistant Fungus

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

Source:  STAT

Date: 4-21-17

Link:  https://www.statnews.com/2017/04/21/superbug-cdc-fungus-candida-auris/

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?

Microbes in the News Assignment: Post #1

Article and link: “Zika-Fighting Sterile Mosquitoes Released Near Key West’, NBC News, April 19, 2017.


Summary: This article aims to describe the testing of new experimental methods for the reduction of Aedes aegypti mosquito populations, a species which has been previously linked to the spread of multiple diseases, including the Zika virus. The ultimate goal of this testing is to control the spread of the Zika virus through controlling these insect vector populations. One such method has recently been tested in Key West, Florida, where lab-raised male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia spp. of bacterium were released into habitats known to harbor populations of Aedes aegypti. The lab-raised male mosquitoes will breed with the wild female mosquitoes; however, due to the Wolbachia spp. carried by the male parent, the young produced by this coupling cannot survive to adulthood. While this method involves the use of microbes, there is another technique mentioned which instead involves genetic modification of lab-raised male mosquitoes to obtain a similar result.

Connections: This article related to the material in class through its association with Zika virus, which was covered both in our course material and also in the guest lecture given by Dan Stinchcomb. The use of these microbes by humans to alter a detrimental aspect of an environment is also an example of microbes functioning in environmental bioremediation, another topic covered in class.

Critical analysis: I found this method for mosquito population control extremely interesting. We had learned in class that certain microbes can be used to confer certain health benefits to a host organism through the transfer of particular genes, but I had not yet heard much of this particular strategy involving using members of a population as hosts for the microbe with the aim of stopping the spread of a disease from an insect vector to a human population. Both this method as well as the genetic engineering process mentioned towards the end of the article, if such methods prove effective in their goal and also harmless to the environment, would be extremely useful in inhibiting the spread of the Zika virus and thereby preventing further human infections.

This article was written in such a way as to inform the general public. As such, the scientific details and mechanisms behind the ideas discussed are not mentioned in great detail. In terms of the limited scientific details provided, I believe the article was scientifically accurate, though somewhat vague. The explanation of the science involved was somewhat simplified, and I did not detect any confusing aspects. While I personally feel that they could have included more detail behind the processes mentioned, I can see that the inclusion of too much detail could have been confusing to someone not well-versed in biological concepts. I think the article adequately communicated the highlights of the science to the public, as it stuck to the main ideas and results of the testing in an attempt to be clear and to communicate their ideas effectively.

Question: What is the mechanism by which Wolbachia spp. inhibits the development of the next generation of mosquito? Would the inhibition of mosquito populations through such methods reduce their numbers to the point where other organisms in the food chain might be affected (most specifically those organisms in the food chain which utilize mosquitoes as a food source)? In reference to the genetic engineering method for the control of mosquito population, what is altered or added in the genome of the mosquitoes in order to obtain the desired effect?

A2: Microbes in the News

Article title: Scientists turn food poisoning microbe into powerful cancer fighter

Date: Feb 8, 2017

Author :Michael Price

Source: Science

Link: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/scientists-turn-food-poisoning-microbe-powerful-cancer-fighter


Assignment author: Morgen Southwood



Cancer cells are not attacked by our immune system because they are considered to be ‘self.’ There has been some successful research into marking cancer cells for immune system attacks through the use of bacteria. One such treatment for bladder cancer is already approved by the FDA. Bacteria can target cancer cells because they tend to be necrotic and oxygen depleted, which is the kind of weekend tissue pathogens naturally target.     This article focuses on a study on the use of Salmonella. In mouse studies it has been found to eliminate/reduce tumors, and even help prevent secondary tumor formation from human colon cancer metastases injected into mice. The Salmonella used in the studies was altered to produce FlaB which is the protein the spurs the elevated immune responses.


This article strongly related to the lectures we are having on immunity. One element of the lectures that is particularly relevant is the way that the immune system has an amplified response the second time it encounters an antigen, and the specificity of antigen identification. From what I understand, this treatment would only deal with tumors that are present as long as the altered Salmonella is present. Since the Immune system is attacking Salmonella, and hasn’t been taught that the cancer cells were the danger all along, this treatment can not cure or prevent future cancers.

Critical analysis-

I really enjoyed the level of detail that this article went into, it described relevant methods and results in a clear and concise manner. I think the terminology used, the explanations provided made this article accessible and informative for the public. What I learned from this article is the targeting mechanism involved in bacterial cancer treatment. I find it very interesting that bacteria can be so relied upon to target the necrotic oxygen depleted cancer cells, and not healthy ones.  One thing I noticed in this treatment is that it has a narrow application. This is not the cure for cancer, it is only one more weapon. I do not this this treatment could be used on an immune compromised person, or on cancers that have morphological of physiological characteristics that cant be targeted by bacteria.


They have performed an experiment where they injected colon cancer cells into 20 mice. They used the treatment on half of them and observed them for 120 days to see if the cancer remained. In the next experiment they injected metastasizing colon cancer cells into six mice and after 27 days the six treatment mice and 7 control mice were examined for tumors. Briefly, describe what the next experiment on this treatment should entail.

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?

Discovery of an HIV reservoir marker: New avenue toward eliminating the virus

Date: March 15, 2017

Source: CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)

Summary:  A protein marker has been discovered that allows cells carrying dormant HIV viruses to be distinguished from healthy cells. This will allow the isolation, and hopefully the destruction of such HIV reservoir cells in order to make remission possible.

Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170315144033.htm

Connection: We have recently been discussing the reproductive cycles of viruses and how some varieties have the ability to go dormant for periods of time and remain undetected by the host.The dormant viruses inside of reservoir cells may reemerge at any given time.In the case of HIV, the ability of the virus to do so is the reason why patients must receive treatments for the rest of their lives in order to suppress the virus.

Analysis: This article is relatively short, but informative. The writing is easy to follow in layperson terms, but still conveys the discovery effectively. The journal is cited at the bottom of the page, so if one wanted to read the entire discovery in scientific terms, they would be able to. It appears to be scientifically sound, and considering it was published in Nature, that is another mark of its credibility. The fact that something like this has been discovered poses great possibilities in eventually curing HIV, and it was exciting to see this when I was looking up articles.

However, they did have a very small study group, and I hope to see this expanded upon in future studies. Only 12 HIV-positive individuals were checked for the marking protein, and while it was found in all the individuals, I think that for good  science it should have more verified successes before considering it a solidly proven fact.

Question: How long has this research been in progress? It states that the idea of identifying reservoir proteins has been around since 1996, so has this research been in progress for the last 21 years?

Candida auris Outbreak in the U.S.

Title: “Deadly Drug Resistant Fungal Infection Outbreak Causing Concern In U.S.”

Source: ReliaWire

Date:  March 12, 2017

Link:  https://reliawire.com/candida-auris/

Summary:  Candida auris  has led to almost 30 infections in the United States. The outbreak is troubling because the fungal strain happens to be multi-drug resistant and is linked to a high death rate.  Even though that the outbreak is fairly new, researchers are confident that there may be a way to work against it.

Connections: We’ve talked about antimicrobial resistance in class and this is an example of a drug resistant fungus. This also incorporates with the overarching theme that public health and science are intertwined.

Critical Analysis: I find it interesting that this fungus has been able to cause an outbreak despite how many downfalls it has. For example, C. auris cannot produce spores. This is surprising considering that it has been able to spread and infect  patients so easily in hospitals. Also, not every strain even has the enzymes that allow for infections in body tissues. It is strange that the fungus has been able to be so successful considering these things. This article seems to be factually correct. It quotes both the CDC and a professor at the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. The article may have had some scientific terms that could be tough to understand for someone that is unfamiliar with medicine or biology. Despite that, it was not written to be misleading and does not describe the infection in a way that would cause panic in the public. Instead, it describes what has happened to cause the outbreak and what researchers and healthcare workers are doing to prevent spread.

Question: The article mentioned that combatting this fungus is an issue because it can be especially hard to identify in labs. What could be a method to properly identify the pathogen?

New Factors Contributing to Parkinson’s Disease

Source: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Title: Even More Evidence Has Linked Parkinson’s Disease to Our Gut Bacteria

Source:  Mark McRae from Science Alert

Date:  March 4, 2017


Summary: Recent evidence has found that Parkinson’s disease may not only be influenced by the brain, but by gut bacteria too. Also, people’s bodies and the microorganisms they have may influence how they respond to the treatment provided to battle Parkinson’s disease. Even though studies are starting to make the link between microbes and Parkinson’s, these studies can help lead microbiologists and other scientists in the direction of making better medications and treatments for those fighting this disease.

Connections: There was a brief moment in the article that mentioned making medications specific to the individual that needs it based on the microbes within their system, which involved genetics. The bioinformatics lab gives us a glimpse into what goes into identifying bacteria based on their genetic sequence and the different functions that the bacteria’s genes carry out.

Critical Analysis: The title of the article caught my attention because I have been hearing more and more about Parkinson’s disease recently. Also, I was curious to see what the author had to say about other factors that play a role in this disease, instead of being just one component of the body. However, the way that the author wrote the article was a little confusing at times because it seemed as though the author would start to go into more details about the studies that they discuss, but then they would quickly become vague what the researchers were saying based on the results from the studies. Also, there were times that the author seemed to be a little disorganized when it came to presenting their thoughts and backing up their argument with a study.

Question:  Since more studies are starting to link bacteria with the cause of Parkinson’s disease, is there a way to protect against these specific bacteria increasing the chances of someone getting Parkinson’s?

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

Source:  https://phys.org/biology-news/microbiology/

Journal reference: Nature Microbiology

Link:  https://phys.org/news/2017-01-bacteria-estuaries-genes-antibiotic-resistance.html?hootPostID=5db3eb292813c7536ea6d98e47e7fc35


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