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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News

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

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  • Protected by a mutation

    5th January, 2017

    While investigating a case of a persistent bacterial infection in a six-week-old baby, researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, USA, have uncovered a mutation in vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) that allows it to survive last resort antibiotic treatment. The mutation appears to trigger increased levels of a signalling molecule called alarmone, which helps VRE under stress to tolerate antibiotics, but usually this isn’t enough to fight off linezolid and daptomycin, two last resort antibiotics used to treat VRE infection. A further study showed that the formation of biofilms – colonies of bacteria that stick together – made it difficult for treatments to get through and prevented the drugs from working. As biofilms often form on medical devices such as catheters and heart valves, this finding helps towards understanding the impact of potential mutations in already resistant bacteria.

  • Following the white-nose

    5th January, 2017

    White-nose syndrome is a disease, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which has killed an estimated 6 million bats in North America since its discovery in 2006. P. destructans is clonal, meaning it is genetically identical even as it spreads across different regions, which makes it difficult to track its movements. However, a research team at Pennsylvania State University, USA, has recently found a virus infecting P. destructans that does evolve variations depending on where the fungus has colonised. So despite the fact that P. destructans remained the same wherever it went, the genetic material of viruses isolated in Pennsylvania were different to that of viruses found in New York – providing a very useful marker for researchers to see the route P. destructans took and where it might strike next.

  • How a bacterium can survive in the gut

    5th January, 2017

    Although the human gut is full of gastric acid that helps to inhibit the growth of microbes, somehow Helicobacter pylori – a bacterium that can cause gastritis – is able to survive. Now, scientists at the Institut Pasteur, France, have revealed its secret: a new nickel transport system. This may seem unusual, but nickel helps to regulate an enzyme called urease, which is a protein that can neutralise stomach acid, so an efficient system for transporting the metal makes it much easier and quicker for H. pylori to stop the acid from inhibiting its spread. This discovery may be able to help researchers develop ways of fighting infections by H. pylori and other pathogenic bacteria that have similarly adapted to their environment.

  • Using carbon monoxide for good

    5th January, 2017

    In light of the rise of drug-resistant gonorrhoea, scientists at the University of York, UK, are developing a new carbon monoxide-based antibiotic to fight Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium responsible for the disease. After finding that N. gonorrhoeae is particularly susceptible to the toxicity of carbon monoxide, the research team harnessed the power of carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) and used them to target the bacterium’s respiratory system. The CO-RMs bind to the bacteria and prevent them respiring oxygen, so that N. gonorrhoeae can no longer produce energy. The researchers aim to use these results to go on to develop a drug treatment.

  • It’s a bacterium eat bacterium world

    8th December, 2016

    Researchers at the Centre for Biological Research (CIB-CSIC), Spain, have developed a new way of using predatory bacteria to extract materials from other bacteria that can be used to create plastic. Polyhydroxyalkanoates, or PHAs, are compounds naturally produced by certain types of bacteria to store energy, and being able to harvest PHAs has been a great step forward for environmentally-friendly, cost effective plastic production. The new system uses Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, which has been engineered to kill PHA-producing bacteria without degrading the bioplastic compounds produced by its prey.

  • What makes an easy journey?

    8th December, 2016

    A team of scientists at Iowa State University, USA, have identified what it is that makes Campylobacter jejuni so infectious among animals like sheep and cows, and could inspire new ideas for preventing the loss of livestock. C. jejuni is a bacterium that spreads easily among herds of ruminants, often causing miscarriages in pregnant animals, but it was previously unknown why it’s so virulent. Using modern sequencing technology, the research team were able to isolate the specific mutations that allowed the bacterium to spread so easily. Understanding these could mean new treatments or even potentially the development of a vaccine for livestock.

  • Helping things along

    8th December, 2016

    Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, have found that by releasing an enzyme, a bacterium called Vibrio fischeri sends the protozoa Salpingoeca rosetta into a mating frenzy. As S. rosetta is considered to be one of the closest genetic relatives to animals, these findings suggest that environmental bacteria and potentially even symbiotic bacteria may be able to influence mating in animals as well.

  • Build your own fish guts

    8th December, 2016

    A new project led by researchers at the University of Glasgow, UK, will investigate the relationship between a salmon’s digestive health and its microbiome – by building an artificial salmon gut. The project, called SalmoSim, will look into how the fish’s gut microbes can help to efficiently absorb nutrients from new types of feed. The team hope that better understanding of the salmon gut microbiome could help improve future farming and aquaculture practices.

  • There be dragons (and microbes)

    2nd December, 2016

    A new study by researchers from various institutions in the USA has found that captive Komodo dragons transfer microbes from their environment in a cyclical nature – the same way as humans and their pets do within the home. Sampling Komodo dragons and their zoo enclosures showed that the reptiles spread a lot of bacteria and other micro-organisms around their environment, but also reacquire these microbes in an ongoing exchange where micro-organisms from outside their enclosures do not have a huge influence on their microbiome, as would be the case with their wild counterparts. The study findings shed some light on our understanding of the effects of captivity and an animal’s microbial diversity, and could help zookeepers and vets in their care of captive animals.

  • Ancient Antarctic microbes

    2nd December, 2016

    A group of scientists from Georgetown University, USA, are travelling to Antarctica in search of ancient microbes, to find out how they adapted to live in incredibly inhospitable places. The research team hope to be able to find micro-organisms in former lake beds, and then sequence them onsite. The results may help to understand what it is about the microbes’ genetic make-up that allows life to persist in this environment all this time.

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