It's a microbial world
New Research Suggests Saharan Dust is Key to the Formation of Bahamas’ Great Bank

A new study suggests that Saharan dust played a major role in the formation of the Bahamas islands. Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science showed that iron-rich Saharan dust provides the nutrients necessary for specialized bacteria to produce the island chain’s carbonate-based foundation.
UM Rosenstiel School Lewis G. Weeks Professor Peter Swart and colleagues analyzed the concentrations of two trace elements characteristic of atmospheric dust – iron and manganese – in 270 seafloor samples collected along the Great Bahama Bank over a three-year period. The team found that the highest concentrations of these trace elements occurred to the west of Andros Island, an area which has the largest concentration of whitings, white sediment-laden bodies of water produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria.
“Cyanobacteria need 10 times more iron than other photosynthesizers because they fix atmospheric nitrogen,” said Swart, lead author of the study. “This process draws down the carbon dioxide and induces the precipitation of calcium carbonate, thus causing the whiting. The signature of atmospheric nitrogen, its isotopic ratio is left in the sediments.”
Swart’s team suggests that high concentrations of iron-rich dust blown across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara is responsible for the existence of the Great Bahama Bank, which has been built up over the last 100 million years from sedimentation of calcium carbonate. The dust particles blown into the Bahamas’ waters and directly onto the islands provide the nutrients necessary to fuel cyanobacteria blooms, which in turn, produce carbonate whitings in the surrounding waters.

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New Research Suggests Saharan Dust is Key to the Formation of Bahamas’ Great Bank

A new study suggests that Saharan dust played a major role in the formation of the Bahamas islands. Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science showed that iron-rich Saharan dust provides the nutrients necessary for specialized bacteria to produce the island chain’s carbonate-based foundation.

UM Rosenstiel School Lewis G. Weeks Professor Peter Swart and colleagues analyzed the concentrations of two trace elements characteristic of atmospheric dust – iron and manganese – in 270 seafloor samples collected along the Great Bahama Bank over a three-year period. The team found that the highest concentrations of these trace elements occurred to the west of Andros Island, an area which has the largest concentration of whitings, white sediment-laden bodies of water produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria.

“Cyanobacteria need 10 times more iron than other photosynthesizers because they fix atmospheric nitrogen,” said Swart, lead author of the study. “This process draws down the carbon dioxide and induces the precipitation of calcium carbonate, thus causing the whiting. The signature of atmospheric nitrogen, its isotopic ratio is left in the sediments.”

Swart’s team suggests that high concentrations of iron-rich dust blown across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara is responsible for the existence of the Great Bahama Bank, which has been built up over the last 100 million years from sedimentation of calcium carbonate. The dust particles blown into the Bahamas’ waters and directly onto the islands provide the nutrients necessary to fuel cyanobacteria blooms, which in turn, produce carbonate whitings in the surrounding waters.

Read more

Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious disease between individuals
Famous germophobe Howie Mandel was right all along, the fist-bump is a better way to great people if you want to prevent the transmission of microbes.  Researchers put E. coli bacteria onto sterile gloves, let them dry, then tried different hand greeting - the handshake, high five, and fistbump - to see how many bacteria would transfer to another researcher wearing a sterile glove.  The fistbump transfered the least bacteria, then the high five, followed by the handshake.  This research may sound silly, but could be important for doctors and nurses, who are a part of the chain of transmission of microbes.  So next time you see you doctor, give him a fist bump instead…it’s good enough for our President and First Lady, right?
Read more

Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious disease between individuals

Famous germophobe Howie Mandel was right all along, the fist-bump is a better way to great people if you want to prevent the transmission of microbes.  Researchers put E. coli bacteria onto sterile gloves, let them dry, then tried different hand greeting - the handshake, high five, and fistbump - to see how many bacteria would transfer to another researcher wearing a sterile glove.  The fistbump transfered the least bacteria, then the high five, followed by the handshake.  This research may sound silly, but could be important for doctors and nurses, who are a part of the chain of transmission of microbes.  So next time you see you doctor, give him a fist bump instead…it’s good enough for our President and First Lady, right?

Read more

Become a disease detective!

CDC has released an Android version of theSolve the Outbreak app, the popular, free app puts you in the shoes of a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. The app has exciting outbreaks, giving you the opportunity to climb the ranks and achieve your Disease Detective badge. Do you have what it takes to solve “The Queens Killer” scenario, or are the clues “Hiding in Plain Sight”?

More here
Also, the CDC has a program called the Epidemic Intelligence Service (love the name!) that gives training to health officials in applied epidemiology.  So if you love the app, EIS could be something to aspire too

Become a disease detective!

CDC has released an Android version of theSolve the Outbreak app, the popular, free app puts you in the shoes of a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. The app has exciting outbreaks, giving you the opportunity to climb the ranks and achieve your Disease Detective badge. Do you have what it takes to solve “The Queens Killer” scenario, or are the clues “Hiding in Plain Sight”?

More here

Also, the CDC has a program called the Epidemic Intelligence Service (love the name!) that gives training to health officials in applied epidemiology.  So if you love the app, EIS could be something to aspire too

heythereuniverse:

Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy | NewScientist

Stick an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these “electric bacteria” are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.

[Read more]

currentsinbiology:

Mosquitoes transmit chikungunya in continental US (Nature News)

Two people have acquired the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus in the continental United States, the state of Florida’s Department of Health announced today. The cases, one in Miami-Dade County and another in Palm Beach County, confirm that the virus has infected US mosquitoes.
Chikungunya is an illness marked mainly by discomfort: a high fever, rashes, and severe joint, back and muscle pain. It is rarely fatal, and most recover within days or weeks. However, joint pain can sometimes persist for months. Chikungunya cannot be transmitted from person to person; it can be contracted only from a mosquito.
The United States is only the latest destination for the globetrotting virus. First described in the 1950s in East Africa, it has spread throughout central and southern Africa, India and Southeast Asia, generally through the mosquito Aedes aegypti. But a mutation that is suspected to have occurred in a 2005–06 outbreak on Réunion Island appears to have allowed it to infect Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. This enabled the virus to spread as far north as Italy in 2007.
The photo is the structure of a Togaviridae family virus and represents the photo of a Chikungunya virus. The structure has a diameter of about 50nm to 70nm. Chikungunya virus consists of a single stranded positive sense RNA.

It’s here!

currentsinbiology:

Mosquitoes transmit chikungunya in continental US (Nature News)

Two people have acquired the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus in the continental United States, the state of Florida’s Department of Health announced today. The cases, one in Miami-Dade County and another in Palm Beach County, confirm that the virus has infected US mosquitoes.

Chikungunya is an illness marked mainly by discomfort: a high fever, rashes, and severe joint, back and muscle pain. It is rarely fatal, and most recover within days or weeks. However, joint pain can sometimes persist for months. Chikungunya cannot be transmitted from person to person; it can be contracted only from a mosquito.

The United States is only the latest destination for the globetrotting virus. First described in the 1950s in East Africa, it has spread throughout central and southern Africa, India and Southeast Asia, generally through the mosquito Aedes aegypti. But a mutation that is suspected to have occurred in a 2005–06 outbreak on Réunion Island appears to have allowed it to infect Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. This enabled the virus to spread as far north as Italy in 2007.

The photo is the structure of a Togaviridae family virus and represents the photo of a Chikungunya virus. The structure has a diameter of about 50nm to 70nm. Chikungunya virus consists of a single stranded positive sense RNA.

It’s here!

nprglobalhealth:

Feeling The Heat, Burning The Suits: Reporting On Ebola From Sierra Leone

NPR’s Jason Beaubien is in Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. When we spoke Thursday, he had just toured the treatment center built by Doctors Without Borders in the town of Kailahun. With 64 beds, it’s the largest Ebola isolation ward ever built. Currently there are 31 patients.

How’s it going?

Never a dull day here.

Can you describe the treatment center?

It’s basically a compound with a series of different tents. There are tents where people get suited up to go in. Another tent seems to be for storage, and one of the tents contains a lab. Then there’s a double fence about 3 1/2 feet high, made of orange plastic mesh. They designed the fence so people can see where the patients are, so it wouldn’t seem as if the patients are completely walled off.

Why a double fence?

So no one can get within 6 feet of someone who has Ebola. In case a patient from the isolation area reaches out or vomits, [Doctors Without Borders] wants to make sure there won’t be any accidental contamination.

How do the doctors record information on the patients?

Doctors go into the isolation area completely suited up, do their rounds and write down what’s happening with patients. Then they stand next to the fence and shout out to people on the other side of the fence [information about each patient]. Say, for patient 105, the doctor says, “diarrhea, vomiting.” Then the doctor’s notes [made inside the isolation area] are burned.

Where do they burn the notes?

They have a big pit in the back.

What else do they burn?

They burn everything. They say nothing comes out of isolation — although obviously they’re taking blood samples out. People come out. They strip off their protective gear, the Tyvek suits they put over their entire body and shoes.

Continue reading.

Top: Construction workers repair the roof inside the isolation area at the Doctors Without Borders treatment center in Kailahun.

Bottom: All workers in the isolation area must wear a head-to-toe protective suit.

Photos by Tommy Trenchard for NPR

Eosin methylene blue (EMB) agar

EMB agar is used to identify coliforms and fecal coliforms (the bacteria they are looking for when testing water quality at the beach, for example).  Coliforms are gram negative lactose fermenting bacteria that can indicate the presence of fecal mater.  EMB agar is selective for gram negative bacteria (the methylene blue dye prevents the growth of gram positive bacteria) and differential for lactose fermentation (eosin dye turns black/purple when acids are produced during lactose fermentation).  The reason this is one of my favorite microbiological media is what happens when you grow a vigorous fermenter like E. coli on the plate (upper picture) - you get this beautiful green sheen to the colonies!  The lower picture on the left shows a regular lactose fermenter (K. pneumoniae), where the colonies have turned a dark purple color, and the lower right picture shows a gram negative, non-lactose fermenter (P. aeruginosa)

Sources: Images, EMB protocol, history and theory

What does a Biosafety Level 4 lab look like?  Watch this video to find out.

With the recent anthrax and smallpox incidents at the CDC, many of you might be wondering what security typically looks like at labs that work with the most dangerous microbes.  Microbes used for research are classified into 4 Biosafety levels, with level 4 reserved for things like the hemorrhagic fevers, smallpox, and weaponized anthrax.  This video shows a tour of the National Emerging Infectious Disease Lab, a BSL4 facility in the Boston Massachusetts area.  It’s long, but really interesting.  A few of the interesting design features:

  • The building and grounds have to be built to the standards of a US Embassy, with fencing that will prevent a truck from driving through it to the building
  • Eyescanning, and lots of other security measures are used to prevent unauthorized people from getting in
  • People working in the labs wear fully sealed suits while they work.
  • The BSL4 lab is separately poured concrete and completely self contained within the larger building
  • All the air in the building is filtered before it is released
The West Africa Ebola outbreak is now the largest on record.  Nearly 1000 people have been infected, with a mortality rate of ~60%.  Ebola has no vaccine or cure, but its spread can be easily prevented by avoiding contact with the body fluids of people sick with Ebola virus.  Doctors suspect that the scope of the outbreak has been caused by fear and misinformation about the cause of the disease and how to prevent the spread.
More information: WHO press release, CBS News

The West Africa Ebola outbreak is now the largest on record.  Nearly 1000 people have been infected, with a mortality rate of ~60%.  Ebola has no vaccine or cure, but its spread can be easily prevented by avoiding contact with the body fluids of people sick with Ebola virus.  Doctors suspect that the scope of the outbreak has been caused by fear and misinformation about the cause of the disease and how to prevent the spread.

More information: WHO press release, CBS News