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 article.

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  • Tree-moving soil microbes

    12th May, 2017

    Some trees in the Rocky Mountains have been shifting uphill – a strange phenomenon that scientists at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA, may now be able to explain. The new study suggests that the community of soil microbes – the soil microbiome – may have a hand in helping these trees along upwards, so that the plants can continue to survive. As there are many temperature-sensitive trees threatened by warming climates, the researchers hope that this finding could be used to design specific soil microbiomes to encourage the plants to migrate to higher elevations.

  • Warmer temperatures bad for lizard gut health

    12th May, 2017

    A team of researchers from the University of Exeter, UK, and the University of Toulouse, France, have discovered that a small rise in temperature can negatively affect the common lizard’s gut microbiome. The new study showed that even just a 2–3°C increase in their environment, which could be a very real possibility with climate change, caused the lizards to lose over a third of the microbial diversity within their guts. The scientists warn that this could also be the case with other cold-blooded animals that need external sources of heat, like reptiles and amphibians.

  • Resistance acquired across eras by ancient bacteria

    12th May, 2017

    Enterococci, a group of bacteria that include many resistant superbugs, can be traced back to the Palaeozoic Era – around 425–500 million years ago – according to a new study by a team led by Harvard Medical School, USA. Through genome analysis, the researchers were able to tell which genes were gained by this group of microbes and how they were acquired, particularly the ones that helped them become more resistant to antibiotics and disinfectants. Being able to piece together how enterococci evolved into the micro-organisms we know now is important for understanding how they might adapt in the future, and help scientists predict and prevent their potential spread.

  • Defence against the dark bacteria

    12th May, 2017

    When our skin is pierced, bacteria get the chance to try to get into our body. So why is the human body so good at preventing infections from spreading uncontrollably? Scientists at Lund University, Sweden, believe they’ve unveiled the mystery: a blood protein found at wound sites is able to gather bacteria quickly, so that the invading microbes can be efficiently eliminated by inflammatory cells. The researchers believe that this knowledge could be used in the development of new methods for fighting bacterial infections.

  • Bacteria-fighting paper

    5th May, 2017

    Since developing a new antibiotic can cost up to £1.15 billion, how good would it be if there was an inexpensive antibacterial – made of paper? A team led by researchers at Rutgers University, USA, has found that they could generate a bacteria-zapping plasma, by charging thin layers of aluminium-laced paper with electricity. Initial tests have shown that the material can eliminate the spores of Saccharomyces cerevisiae – a non-dangerous species of yeast often used in experiments – as well as Escherichia coli, some of which can cause severe illness in people. However, more investigation will be needed to find out how effective the material is for killing spores, and if it can be used to sanitise things like laboratory equipment and bandages.

  • All that glitters is gold

    5th May, 2017

    According to scientists at the University of Adelaide, Australia, their recently published research may shine a light on how bacteria could help process gold ore more efficiently and make it easier to find gold deposits. Gold is a naturally occurring precious metal with its own biochemical cycle, but it may not be commonly known that part of the process involves bacteria. These microbes dissolve the bits of gold that have made their way into sediments and waterways, then reconcentrates them into gold nuggets. The new study now reveals that the bacteria can convert gold much faster than previously thought, and could help enhance current processes for extracting gold ore. The researchers also say that understanding gold’s biochemical cycle better could help with finding deposits.

  • Mutate to survive, but not too much

    5th May, 2017

    Bacteria alter their DNA in order to survive against stressors like antibiotics, but they have to find a happy medium; if they don’t mutate enough they could be killed off, but mutate too fast and they risk death. A new study by researchers at KU Leuven, Belgium, looked at Escherichia coli when it enters hypermutation mode – which sees the bacteria mutate faster than normal – and found that the pace of a microbe’s hypermutation can quickly change based on the amount of stress exerted on it. Once the stress is removed, the microbes attempt to stop mutating and go back to their normal state. A better understanding of hypermutation, and therefore how to stop it, could help to develop treatments in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

  • Who needs hosts?

    5th May, 2017

    Bubonic plague is a disease that most people think is consigned to the history books, but new research by scientists at Washington State University, USA, has revealed that Yersinia pestis – the bacterium that causes the disease – is able to survive within a common, soil-dwelling protozoan – the amoeba. Y. pestis, generally spread by rodents via their fleas, appears to be re-emerging, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so finding out where the bacteria continue to lurk is critical to stopping the disease. Amoebae feed on bacteria by engulfing them whole and then digesting them, but the recent study showed that Y. pestis produces proteins that protect them against being digested. This then allows the bacterium to survive in the environment, a finding that could potentially be used to predict where the disease might re-emerge.

  • Mutual relationship between bees and bacteria

    31st March, 2017

    Social bees have been passing down their gut bacteria for generations, and five of these microbes have been evolving along with their hosts, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. The investigation showed that the five species of bacteria entered bees’ gut microbiomes millions of years ago, and have been evolving into different strains that are specific to each species of bee. The bacteria have also shown to have adapted to only be able to live within their hosts’ guts – where the oxygen levels are much lower than in the atmosphere.

  • Just keep swimming or you won’t get dinner

    31st March, 2017

    Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is a bacterium that preys on other bacteria, including the common human pathogen Escherichia coli, making it an ideal candidate as a potential alternative to antibiotics. However, it wasn’t really known how they target their prey until now. A research team at Purdue University, USA, has revealed that the way B. bacteriovorus swims generates swirling, whirlpool-like forces that keep the bacterium near walls and surfaces, rather than in open water. Since E. coli moves in the same way, it means B. bacteriovorus is much more likely to bump into its prey, even though its movement is essentially random.

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