It's a microbial world

sciencesourceimages:

Dirty Money: A Microbial Jungle Thrives In Your Wallet

Image BP5511 (Bacteria Growing On Dollar Bill)

Image BC0714 (Bacteria on Paper Money)

Story by Michaeleen Doucleff/NPR

You may have heard that dollar bills harbor trace amounts of drugs.

But those greenbacks in your wallet are hiding far more than cocaine and the flu. They’re teeming with life.

Each dollar bill carries about 3,000 types of bacteria on its surface, scientists have found. Most are harmless. But cash also has DNA from drug-resistant microbes. And your wad of dough may even have a smudge of anthrax and diphtheria.

In other words, your wallet is a portable petri dish.

Made from plastic, Canadian $100 bills are resistant to liquids and tearing. But are they better than cotton-based bills at keeping dangerous bacteria at bay?i

And currency may be one way antibiotic-resistant genes move around cities, says biologist Jane Carlton, who’s leading the Dirty Money Project at the New York University.

The project offers an in-depth look at the living organisms shacking up on our cash. One goal of the work is to provide information that could help health workers catch disease outbreaks in New York City before they spread very far.

"We’re not trying to be fear mongers, or suggest that everyone goes out and microwave their money," Carlton tells Shots. "But I must admit that some of the $1 bills in New York City are really nasty."

So far, Carlton and her colleagues have sequenced all the DNA found on about 80 dollar bills from a Manhattan bank. Their findings aren’t published yet. But she gave Shots a sneak peak of what they’ve found so far.

The most common microbes on the bills, by far, are ones that cause acne. The runners-up were a bunch of skin bacteria that aren’t pathogenic: They simply like to hang out on people’s bodies. Some of these critters may even protect the skin from harmful microbes, Carlton says.

Other money dwellers included mouth microbes — because people lick their fingers when they count bills, Carlton says — and bacteria that thrive in the vagina. “People probably aren’t washing their hands after the bathroom,” she says.

Read the entire article

Awesome pictures!  And remember, just because money has bacteria on it, doesn’t mean it will make you sick.

Ebola Virus outbreak in Guinea was caused by a previously unidentified strain
Baize et al. have just published preliminary research in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that the Ebola Virus that caused the recent outbreak in Guinea is new.  It is 97% similar to the Zaire strain, but distinctly different, suggesting that the strain has evolved in the Guinea region, in parallel with other strains, rather than being transported to the region recently.  It’s still not been determined what animal may be the reservoir for this new strain.
Emergence of Zaire Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea — Preliminary Report

Ebola Virus outbreak in Guinea was caused by a previously unidentified strain

Baize et al. have just published preliminary research in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that the Ebola Virus that caused the recent outbreak in Guinea is new.  It is 97% similar to the Zaire strain, but distinctly different, suggesting that the strain has evolved in the Guinea region, in parallel with other strains, rather than being transported to the region recently.  It’s still not been determined what animal may be the reservoir for this new strain.

Emergence of Zaire Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea — Preliminary Report

theolduvaigorge:

Life-style determines gut microbes

An international team of researchers has for the first time deciphered the intestinal bacteria of present-day hunter-gatherers

  • from Max Planck Institute
"The gut microbiota is responsible for many aspects of human health and nutrition, but most studies have focused on “western” populations. An international collaboration of researchers, including researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has for the first time analysed the gut microbiota of a modern hunter-gatherer community, the Hadza of Tanzania. The results of this work show that Hadza harbour a unique microbial profile with features yet unseen in any other human group, supporting the notion that Hadza gut bacteria play an essential role in adaptation to a foraging subsistence pattern. The study further shows how gut microbiota may have helped our ancestors adapt and survive during the Paleolithic.

Bacterial populations have co-evolved with humans over millions of years, and have the potential to help us adapt to new environments and foods. Studies of the Hadza offer an especially rare opportunity for scientists to learn how humans survive by hunting and gathering, in the same environment and using similar foods as our ancestors did.

The research team, composed of anthropologists, microbial ecologists, molecular biologists, and analytical chemists, and led in part by Stephanie Schnorr and Amanda Henry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, compared the Hadza gut microbiota to that of urban living Italians, representative of a “westernized” population. Their results, published recently in Nature Communications, show that the Hadza have a more diverse gut microbe ecosystem, i.e. more bacterial species compared to the Italians. “This is extremely relevant for human health”, says Stephanie Schnorr. “Several diseases emerging in industrialized countries, like IBS, colorectal cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, Crohn’s disease and others, are significantly associated with a reduction in gut microbial diversity.”

The Hadza gut microbiota is well suited for processing indigestible fibres from a plant-rich diet and likely helps the Hadza get more energy from the fibrous foods that they consume. Surprisingly, Hadza men and women differed significantly in the type and amount of their gut microbiota, something never before seen in any other human population. Hadza men hunt game and collect honey, while Hadza women collect tubers and other plant foods” (read more).

(Source: Max Planck Institute; bottom image: National Geographic)

Vaccination rates versus measles incidence in Europe.  Vaccination rates in Spain have since been reported at 62%.

Vaccination rates versus measles incidence in Europe.  Vaccination rates in Spain have since been reported at 62%.

Influenza drugs are not as effective as once thought 

Neuraminidase inhibitors are antiviral drugs that are marketed to prevent and decrease the duration of influenza. A new meta-analysis, shows that these drugs are not very effective at reducing duration or preventing complications:

We found that both drugs shorten the duration of symptoms of influenza-like illness (unconfirmed influenza or ‘the flu’) by less than a day. Oseltamivir did not affect the number of hospitalisations, based on the data from all the people enrolled in treatment trials of oseltamivir. ”

Maybe we should reconsider their use, considering cost and the fact that the drugs themselves come with side-effects?  

One set of microbes emits hydrogen sulfide, the gas that is also responsible for raw sewage’s unpleasant smell. This gas fills the empty space between the top of the pipe and the water flow. Another set of microbes living in this headspace turns hydrogen sulfide to sulfuric acid, which eats away at concrete”

sciencesourceimages:

The Beautiful Blooming Barents!

Image BZ9399 (Phytoplankton Bloom, Barents Sea) 

In this natural-color image from August 31, 2010, the ocean’s canvas swirls with turquoise, teal, navy, and green, the abstract art of the natural world. The colors were painted by a massive phytoplankton bloom made up of millions of tiny, light-reflecting organisms growing in the sunlit surface waters of the Barents Sea. Such blooms peak every August in the Barents Sea.

The variations in color are caused by different species and concentrations of phytoplankton. The bright blue colors are probably from coccolithophores, a type of phytoplankton that is coated in a chalky shell that reflects light, turning the ocean a milky turquoise. Coccolithophores dominate the Barents Sea in August. Shades of green are likely from diatoms, another type of phytoplankton. Diatoms usually dominate the Barents Sea earlier in the year, giving way to coccolithophores in the late summer. However, field measurements of previous August blooms have also turned up high concentrations of diatoms.

The Barents Sea is a shallow sea sandwiched between the coastline of northern Russia and Scandinavia and the islands of Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Novaya Zemlya. Within the shallow basin, currents carrying warm, salty water from the Atlantic collide with currents carrying cold, fresher water from the Arctic. During the winter, strong winds drive the currents and mix the waters. When winter’s sea ice retreats and light returns in the spring, diatoms thrive, typically peaking in a large bloom in late May.

The shift between diatoms and coccolithophores occurs as the Barents Sea changes during the summer months. Throughout summer, perpetual light falls on the waters, gradually warming the surface. Eventually, the ocean stratifies into layers, with warm water sitting on top of cooler water. The diatoms deplete most of the nutrients in the surface waters and stop growing. Coccolithophores, on the other hand, do well in warm, nutrient-depleted water with a lot of light. In the Barents Sea, these conditions are strongest in August.

The shifting conditions and corresponding change in species lead to strikingly beautiful multicolored blooms such as this one. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image.

© NASA / Science Source 

futureofscience:

A 50-cent microscope that folds together from a sheet of paper will make diagnosing diseases and citizen science disruptively accessible.
"Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than two nickels (8.8 g), is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person. Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education."

More information: Foldscope, Moore Foundation

futureofscience:

A 50-cent microscope that folds together from a sheet of paper will make diagnosing diseases and citizen science disruptively accessible.

"Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than two nickels (8.8 g), is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person. Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education."

More information: Foldscope, Moore Foundation

Somehow, these Giant microbes manage to make sexually transmitted infections cute.  My personal favorites are actually the aquatic microbes, especially the Anabaena, which is a nitrogen fixer.  They have a heterocyst and everything!

Somehow, these Giant microbes manage to make sexually transmitted infections cute.  My personal favorites are actually the aquatic microbes, especially the Anabaena, which is a nitrogen fixer.  They have a heterocyst and everything!

Take home message for me: it’s good to let your children eat dirt - it’s one of the ways we get good microbes into our guts!