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?

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170421210846.htm

 

Microbes in the News: Post #3

Article and link: “Microorganisms Make a House a Home?” — https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43840/title/Microorganisms-Make-a-House-a-Home-/

 

Summary: This is a brief article which overviews a study in which dust from homes were analyzed for bacterial and fungal species. The results indicate that the presence of certain fungal and bacterial species can indicate the geographical location you live and even the house’s inhabitants, from pets to people.

 

Connections: Using the presence of certain bacteria to ascertain information is similar to the idea of the human microbiome, as well as using the presence of certain fungi to determine geographical location.

 

Critical Analysis: The study found that, using the fungal data, one could predict the exact geographical location in which the home was located. Furthermore, they could predict using bacterial data whether or not there is a dog in the household — with 92% accuracy. The scientists could even predict if the house’s inhabitants were predominantly male or female, based on the presence of bacteria typically found in fecal matter (males) or the vaginal canal (females). The article itself was very brief and written for non-scientists, but it didn’t seem to have any inaccuracies. It was very interesting and insightful.

 

Question: What else could microbes be indicative of in everyday life?

Microbes in the News Assignment: Post #3

Article and link: “Too Clean for Our Children’s Good? The Checkup’ by Perri Klass, MD, The New York Times, April 17, 2017.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/well/family/too-clean-for-our-childrens-good.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FBacteria&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=collection&_r=0

Summary: This article talks about the many various ways in which our children are protected from interaction with microbes, including giving birth by caesarian section, bottle-feeding, and possible exposure to antibiotics. Such protection on the one hand affords protection from disease but on the other hand offers greater risk that children may experience complications of the “built environment.’ It is a concern that living in such a clean, controlled environment could lead to an underdeveloped immune system and subsequent health problems which may have otherwise been avoidable had the body been exposed to a diverse array of microbes at a young age. In order to combat this problem, it is recommended that young children be introduced to these microbes in the outside environment through “controlled exposures’ in the form of either “natural exposure’ consisting of interaction with their environment or through a type of vaccine yet to be developed.

 

Connections: This article include discussion of the development of the human microbiome, its importance in the overall health of an individual, the avenues by which children are typically first exposed to microbes, and also the concept of vaccination with microbes in order to improve health. All of these are topics which have been mentioned or discussed over the course of the semester.

 

Critical analysis: I liked the contrast that the author provided between the microbes found outdoors as opposed to those found within the “built environment.’ While I had naturally assumed that the inside of a house or apartment may be “cleaner’ than the outside world, I had not given much thought to the members of the microbial populations to be found in each of the two environments; in reality, the inside of a dwelling is not necessarily any more microbe-free than the outside, it is instead simply inhabited by a different, and possibly narrower, variety of microbes. I did not detect anything scientifically inaccurate or confusing in this article, and think that it did perform an adequate job in relaying this information to the public. The author did not get too technical in any of their explanations, yet clearly stated the anticipated problem, reasons behind that belief, and also the possible solutions to the problem.
Question: Are researchers suspecting that the health problems mentioned are primarily due to inadequate exposure to pathogenic bacteria? Or do interactions with the non-pathogenic bacteria also play a role in shaping the immune system of children? What kinds of “natural exposures’ are parents advised to pursue in order to assist their child’s immune system to develop properly?

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?

Your A.T.M. Is Covered in Microbes, but Mostly Harmless

“Your A.T.M. Is Covered in Microbes, but Mostly Harmless”

This article talks about how A.T.M.’s show all kinds of different microbes from all over NYC. For this article they swabbed 66 keypads from all around the city, similar to what we have done for our culture experiments. Their results showed the machine had microbes that are  often found on human skin. Small traces of food were also found and also a mold that is found in spoiled baked goods. This study is a small part of an attempt to study the microbiome of NYC.

The article seemed to be reputable and fairly straight forward. They were just reporting the results they had received from the swabs. They possibly didn’t report all of the microbes they found to try and not scare anyone. I’m the the A.T.M.’s were also covered in diseases, but none of that was mentioned. It would be interesting to see the complete study and the other areas they decide to test to try and complete the NYC microbiome.

Do you think we’d have a pretty similar result of microbes on an ATM in Fairbanks? Why or why not?