Spores of fungus, Candida albicans

The long strands are the tubular filaments (hyphae) that have developed from the fungal spores. Yeast cells (rounded, yellow) are budding from the ends of the hyphae (red). Candida albicans causes the infection known as candidiasis which affects the moist mucous membranes of the body, such as skin folds, mouth, respiratory tract and vagina. Oral and vaginal conditions are known as thrush.

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Microbes are always hitting the headlines. Keep up to date with the latest microbiology news. Most stories are linked to the full article.

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  • Where on the tree of life?

    21st July, 2017

    Dicyemida are strange-looking, very simple little parasites found in cephalopods – like octopuses, squid and cuttlefish – and scientists have long debated their classification since they were first discovered. Now, a research team from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), Japan, believe they have cracked it – unlike previous studies, they used modern sequencing technology to focus on the oddball parasite’s amino acids, rather than its DNA. In the end, the researchers determined that Dicyemida belong in the Spiralia group, with their closest relatives being another kind of marine parasite called Orthonectida. This placement means that researchers may be able to track back over the parasite’s evolutionary history, and perhaps that of Spiralia as well.

  • Vertically is better than horizontally

    21st July, 2017

    The way beneficial microbes are acquired is key to how good the relationship is between host and micro-organism, according to researchers at the University of Oxford, UK. Their study has shown that when bacteria are passed vertically – from mother to offspring – the microbes play a much stronger role in helping the recipient thrive, as the bacteria can then pass down to further offspring, continuing the cycle. In the case of aphids, the study showed that they cannot survive if these bacteria are removed. On the other hand, plants that acquire bacteria from their environment – most notably the microbes living in the soil around their roots – don’t do as well without them, but also do not die. These results give an insight into the symbiotic relationships between microbes and their hosts, and could be used to inform medical understanding in the future.

  • Leishmaniasis on the (high) rise

    21st July, 2017

    Leishmaniasis is a disease normally confined to more rural parts of tropical and subtropical countries, so scientists from the University of Campinas and Instituto Adolfo Lutz, both Brazil, have been investigating why it seems to be spreading into urban areas. Leishmaniasis is spread by sandflies, whose bites transit the Leishmania protozoa that cause the disease. In 2009, the first case of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) – the most severe and sometimes fatal form of the disease – was reported in a dog living in condominiums built in the environmentally protected area around the Campinas municipality in São Paulo, Brazil. Following on from this, the research team sampled domestic dogs living in the development, as well as wild mammals and insects from the surrounding area, and found that over 1% of dogs, some opossums and several insects carried the parasite responsible for VL. Understanding the transmission paths of leishmaniasis and being able to track it is key to controlling the spread of the disease.

  • Epstein–Barr-like virus found in gorillas

    21st July, 2017

    Scientists from the University of California, Davis, USA, have recently discovered a virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the human Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), which causes glandular fever and is associated with different sorts of cancer. The research showed that infant gorillas seem to have the highest rate of infection, but do not show symptoms – similar to HPV infections in children. However, after studying baby gorillas that died of natural causes, the research team noticed that some of them had pulmonary reactive lymphoid hyperplasia, a lung condition linked to HIV-infected human children with a secondary EBV infection. These findings may have implications in gorilla conservation efforts, and could also impact EBV research in humans.

  • Like farmer like pig

    13th July, 2017

    A recent study by scientists at the South China Agricultural University, China, has found that working on a pig farm can affect your gut microbiome. Comparing the bacteria in both human and pig faecal matter, the researchers noticed that swine farm workers had gut bacterial compositions that were more similar to the pigs, and were significantly less diverse than the local villagers. The study also showed that the farmhands harboured more bacteria from the groups of bacteria that include a wide variety of pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella. On the other hand, the villagers’ faeces contained more bacteria from the Bacteroidetes phylum, many of which are considered important for gut health.

  • Mother grows best

    13th July, 2017

    New research from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, has revealed that young cacao plants can stay protected against a devastating pathogen if exposed to microbes from adult plants. The work showed that transplanting some of the micro-organisms living on a healthy adult plant halved the chances of seedlings getting infected by Phytophthora palmivora. Further investigation showed that the fungus Colletotricum tropicale was the most abundant microbe on the plants, suggesting that this may be the seedlings’ main protector. These findings could potentially have a massive impact on the cacao industry, as P. palmivora accounts for 10%–20% of harvest losses.

  • Beat tuberculosis with stuff from the sea

    13th July, 2017

    A new weapon to treat tuberculosis (TB) may have been found in the depths of the ocean, according to scientists at the University of Central Florida (UCF), USA. Mycobacterium tuberculosis can lie dormant during infection, making treatments ineffective, as most TB antibiotics target bacteria that are actively trying to replicate. Since natural compounds from marine sponges are known to produce compounds that might be used as treatments for various diseases, the UCF researchers looked to see if any could be used to tackle TB. Their findings show that 19 of the 26 compounds they found were able to kill dormant TB bacteria, with some better at eliminating the dormant version than the active, replicating bacteria.

  • What’s the difference in frog skin?

    13th July, 2017

    The make-up of microbial communities living on a frog’s skin can depend on its habitat, according to a new study by researchers at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. The team swabbed four species of frogs living in different types of forest and compared them for microbial diversity. As it turns out, the Proceratophrys boiei frog had significant differences in microbial diversity depending on whether they were in thick-forested areas or regions with only isolated patches of trees. The other frog species’ microbes did not differ much by forest type, suggesting that whether frogs’ skin microbiomes vary is potentially based on individual species.

  • Mysterious microbes on our skin

    6th July, 2017

    The communities of microbes on the human skin, known as the skin microbiome, are not just made up of bacteria, but other types of micro-organisms too. A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA, and the Medical University of Graz, Austria, have been looking at archaea – a particular group of microbes – and have discovered that that the number present in the microbiome varies with age. Sampling people between the ages of 1 and 75, the scientists found that archaea were most abundant in people younger than 12 years of age and those older than 60. The team also noticed that people who have dry skin have more archaea too. Further studies are needed to find out what role the mysterious microbes play in the skin microbiome, but the researchers suspect they are likely to be crucial to keeping skin healthy.

  • Fat makes fat cells

    6th July, 2017

    Researchers at Washingston University in St. Louis, USA, have revealed why some bacterial cells can grow large, while others stay small – it’s all down to fat. By studying the growth of Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis when subjected to different types of antibiotics, the scientists noted that the antibiotic that targeted fat synthesis caused the bacterial cells to become stunted. Further testing suggested that it didn’t matter if the bacteria could not produce their own fat anymore; if they were given other fatty acids, the bacterial cells could continue to grow. These findings could have an impact on future research on bacteria growth, as in the past researchers have focused their studies on proteins.

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