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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  • Walls? Not an obstacle for this parasite

    31st March, 2017

    Wouldn’t it be great to be able to walk through walls? New research by a team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Australia, has revealed how Plasmodium falciparum – the protozoan parasite that causes malaria – can do just that. In order to multiply, the parasite needs to travel through the human body to reach the liver, but it is only transmitted through mosquito bites, which occur far away at the skin. The study identified two proteins that help P. falciparum traverse through the host’s cell walls, so that they can reach liver cells quickly and start multiplying. The scientists say that pinpointing these proteins may lead to new treatments that help break the cycle of infection, by targeting the parasites before they can spread.

  • Phages to the rescue

    17th March, 2017

    Phage therapy could be an effective, safer alternative to antibiotics in treating cystic fibrosis lung infections, say researchers from the University of Liverpool, UK. A phage (full name bacteriophage), is a virus that specifically targets certain bacteria, meaning that using them to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa – a common cause of lung infections – would have fewer side effects than traditional antibiotics. The new research from Liverpool has shown that phage therapy is able to eliminate multi-drug resistant P. aeruginosa that is causing respiratory tract infections, which occur often in people with cystic fibrosis. The results offer a potential new treatment for individuals with difficult to treat lung infections.

  • A giant leap for HIV treatments

    17th March, 2017

    A problem with currently available HIV treatments is that the virus often lies dormant, ready to return as soon as treatment is interrupted. However, a team of scientists from The Rockefeller University and the National Institutes of Health, both USA, may have found a longer-term solution. Their research has shown that there are two antibodies that allow monkeys’ immune systems to control a simian version of the virus (SHIV) for an extended period of time – but only if used early on in the infection. The antibodies helped the animals’ immune systems to suppress SHIV to near or below detection levels, lasting for as long as six months. Although SHIV levels increased once again post-treatment, the researchers observed that several months later, some of the monkeys were able to once again keep the virus in check without further therapies for another five to 13 months. If viable in humans, this could be one giant leap for future HIV therapies.

  • Don’t let a sleeping bug lie

    17th March, 2017

    New research from the collaborated efforts of scientists at iMM Lisboa, Portugal, and Southwestern University, USA, has revealed that the parasite responsible for sleeping sickness has its own internal clock. Trypanosoma brucei was already known to disrupt its hosts’ internal clocks – also known as circadian rhythms – but this study has shown that the parasite also has its own, which allows it to change its cellular functions based on the time of day. Further investigation found that the alterations meant that T. brucei becomes more sensitive to a specific drug in the evening. The results could potentially allow doctors to understand when it would be best to target the parasite while treating patients affected by sleeping sickness.

  • Virus evolution will make you jump jump

    17th March, 2017

    Viruses jump between host species more often than previously thought, which may have an impact on virus evolution, according to researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia. By comparing ‘virus trees’ that show how virus families and their hosts evolved, the scientists found that cross-species jumps occurred much more commonly than co-divergence – when the virus evolved alongside its host. The study showed that cross-species transmission was particularly likely in virus families that use RNA rather than DNA as their genetic material. These findings mean that researchers are potentially better equipped to predict which viruses are more likely to jump hosts in the future.

  • Sponge bacterium might save the day

    3rd March, 2017

    Arsenic is a difficult substance to remove from groundwater, but researchers at Tel Aviv University, Israel, may have found the solution in the form of a bacterium that lives within sea sponges. According to a new study, the Entotheonella bacterium protects its host – a species of sponge called Theonella swinhoei – from metal poisoning, including arsenic. Further investigation showed that Entotheonella collects high levels of environmental metals like arsenic and barium, then it detoxifies them into a harmless, inert version. The scientists note that there is still plenty of work to be done to be able to exploit these natural processes, but it may perhaps one day lead to efficient, cost-effective bioremediation.

  • Aging makes specialist yeast a better generalist

    3rd March, 2017

    Many people dread aging, but for yeast it might not be a huge issue, according to scientists at the Babraham Institute, UK. New research suggests that the changes that happen when yeast cells age might in fact be beneficial to them. Yeast specialise on consuming glucose and, with age, their systems to convert glucose start to degrade. However, losing their specialised ability caused the yeast cells to be more efficient when processing other foods – older cells were outcompeting younger ones when growing in a different kind of sugar called galactose.

  • ‘Corpse’-eating bacteria

    3rd March, 2017

    In a macabre new study, researchers at The Francis Crick Institute, UK, have discovered that Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the bacterium that causes TB – can kill immune cells from the inside, then hide inside them for days. Macrophages are white blood cells that hunt down and consume invading microbes like M. tuberculosis. However, previous studies showed that the TB-causing bacterium is able to survive inside macrophages only to burst out of them later, and supposed that it was this rupturing that killed the immune cells. Further investigation by The Francis Crick Institute team revealed that M. tuberculosis in fact kills the macrophages, then feasts on the remnants of the dead cell from inside it before emerging. Better understanding of how M. tuberculosis infects and spreads will be key in finding better treatments.

  • Urgent: antibiotics needed

    3rd March, 2017

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently published a list of high priority bacterial families that we need to urgently develop antibiotics for. Split into three priority categories, the list includes Enterobacteriaceae, which contains familiar pathogens like Escherichia coli and Salmonella, as a ‘critical’ priority. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, better known as MRSA, and Campylobacter, a common cause of food poisoning, are listed as ‘high’ priority; Streptococcus pneumoniae – the main cause of community-acquired pneumonia and meningitis – is among the bacteria listed as ‘medium’ priority. The WHO hopes this list will help to direct research and development efforts towards the increasingly resistant bacteria that are posing the biggest threats to humanity.

  • A Salmonella cause for deadly epidemic

    24th February, 2017

    In the 16th century, up to 80% of Mexico’s native population died from an unknown plague. In a new study, researchers at the Natural History Museum of Denmark report that the microbe responsible for killing a huge proportion of Mexican highland inhabitants in 1545 and 1576 may have been a form of Salmonella. Various scientists had previously suggested that the major disease outbreaks in the region could have been measles, smallpox, typhus or even a viral haemorrhagic fever. However, by comparing the bacterial DNA extracted from people buried in the region with a database of modern bacterial genomes, the Danish research team were able to reconstruct two genomes of a strain called Salmonella Paratyphi C. As this now-rare strain is transmitted through faecal matter, the chaos that occurred during the Spanish conquest may have allowed S. Paratyphi C to run rampant.

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