Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Infectious diseases — including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria — are a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly in low income countries and among young children. A new study found that the vaccines aimed to prevent many of the world’s most deadly diseases may not be developed any time soon. The study, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, focused on 538 … Continue reading Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Why Mosquitoes Like You The Most

Carrying diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus and yellow fever, a few species of mosquitoes are responsible for more than one million deaths each year. Certain species of mosquitoes actually prefer feeding on humans, and even show preferences between people. A common wives’ tale suggests to kids that mosquitoes prefer sweeter blood (“eat more veggies!”). However, there is no scientific evidence supporting changing your … Continue reading Why Mosquitoes Like You The Most

Less of the Same: Rebooting the antibiotic pipeline

by Francesca Tomasi figures by Aparna Nathan Too Much of a Good Thing? Ninety years ago, Alexander Fleming happened upon the chemical compound penicillin and sparked a medical revolution. It was a serendipitous occasion – Fleming had been growing plates of bacteria in his lab when he noticed some mold growing on one of them. Just some classic contamination, he probably thought, ready to discard … Continue reading Less of the Same: Rebooting the antibiotic pipeline

Bacteria snatch up foreign material using specialized arm-like structures

In order to adapt to their environments, it is important that bacteria be able to mix up their genetic code. One way that bacteria do this is by taking up bits of free-floating foreign DNA that can be released by other kinds of bacteria into their environments when they die. This process is called ‘transformation.’ The pieces of DNA can occasionally encode components that make … Continue reading Bacteria snatch up foreign material using specialized arm-like structures

Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

Is this apple safe to eat? Did that course of antibiotics work? To answer these types of questions we often need to know how to find and count illness-causing bacteria. Several bacteria counting techniques already exist. However, these approaches are slow and sensitive to laboratory conditions. Sam Nugen and his team from Cornell University are streamlining this process using a type of virus called phages, … Continue reading Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

All About That Mucus: How it keeps us healthy

by Jenny Zheng figures by Rebecca Clements With winter soon coming to an end (hopefully), many of us have been plagued by seemingly endless hacking that’s accompanied by phlegm, a type of mucus produced by the respiratory tract. The body starts feeling better after a week of sickness, but even after that “hell-week,” one final foe has to be dealt with: the phlegm. It’s such … Continue reading All About That Mucus: How it keeps us healthy

Have antibiotic resistant bacteria met their match? A new method for antibiotic discovery that could change the arms race.

Antibiotic resistance is a rampant problem around the world. More than 23,000 deaths a year in the US are a result of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics in several ways. The antibiotic itself can be broken down, or the components of bacteria targeted by antibiotics can mutate. Over prescription leads to the development of further resistance. With each year there are increasing numbers … Continue reading Have antibiotic resistant bacteria met their match? A new method for antibiotic discovery that could change the arms race.

Colonies 5

The colonies in this image display some of the diversity of pigment production in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The blue-green colonies contain a pigment called pyocyanin, which is known to be toxic to human cells and helps the bacteria establish a niche during infections. The colonies containing a brown halo produce the brown pigment pyomelanin, which is thought to help the bacteria scavenge for iron, an essential … Continue reading Colonies 5

Bacteriophage: A solution to our antibiotics problem?

by Veerasak “Jeep” Srisuknimit figures by Jovana Andrejevic Our time with antibiotics is running out. In 2016, a woman in Nevada died from a bacterial infection caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae that was resistant to all available antibiotics. Bacteria that is resistant to colistin, an antibiotic of last resort, has been discovered on pig farms in China. Bacteria have been evolving to resist antibiotics faster than … Continue reading Bacteriophage: A solution to our antibiotics problem?

Colonies 4

To get around, Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium use a number of motility strategies, such as twitching and gliding. In this image, we see a special kind of bacterial motility behavior known as swarming, where a mass of bacteria moves collectively across a surface.  This is an example of singled celled bacterial species acting in a multicellular way. For a group of cells to swarm, the bacterium … Continue reading Colonies 4