Microbiology

It could be geosmin.

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We encountered geosmin once before in our butter but most people notice it, about this time of year, in their tap water. Geosmin is a volatile compound that's made by soil bacteria like Streptomyces, as well as some plants like sugar beets, and ... Read more

What do malaria, sleeping sickness, yellow fever, and dengue virus have in common? Sure, they're all tropical diseases, but there's something else. All of these diseases have some kind of insect vector.
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image from the Public Health Library

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At one time, I thought it was ... Read more
Blogging from the NW ASM branch meeting, part II Yesterday, I wrote about the some of present (and future) methods that are (or will be) used in clinical labs to identify pathogenic microbes. In these next two posts, I want to describe the talks I attended on antibiotic resistance, from Xuan Qin and Fred Tenover (CDC), and some new things that I learned. How do bacteria survive when their human hosts take a lot of antibiotics? Children's ... Read more
It looked like just any other rainy Saturday morning in the Pacific Northwest, but no, this Saturday was a day for microbiology. Reluctantly, I crawled out of my warm bed and headed over to the University of Washington to attend a meeting of the Pacific NW branch of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). My goals for this venture were diverse. Of course, I wanted to go hear some good science and see some old friends. But I also wanted to learn more about what microbiologists are actually doing these days, out there in the wild. In my world, since all we hear about are ... Read more
How do microbiologists determine which microbe caused a disease? As Tara has eloquently described (I, II), we are covered with bacteria and other microbes. A reasonable question then, is when we get sick, how do we which little devil deserves the blame?

In many cases, pathogens (disease-causing organisms) are identified by a common series of steps, known as Koch's postulates. Robert Koch described these steps in ... Read more

Are viral and fungal infections always a bad thing? Maybe not if you're a plant. In fact, if you're a plant trying to grow in the hot (65°; C) soils of Yellowstone National Park, you're going to need all the help you can get. A new study by Márquez, et.al. (1) found that a type of grass (Dichanthelium lanuginosum) is able to grow in the hot soils of Yellowstone National Park because it gets help from some friends. A fungal friend. And that fungal friend is infected with a virus. If you're not used to thinking in degrees centigrade, it's hard to grasp immediately ... Read more
The University of Nevada in Las Vegas is looking for a few good undergraduates to come do research this summer in environmental microbiology. Environmental microbiology goes way beyond hot springs bacteria and Yellowstone Park. At UNLV, you can do science in the desert. It almost makes me wish I was an undergraduate again. The Microbiology faculty at the UNLV and the Desert Research Institute are looking for inquisitive and eager undergraduates to participate in a 10 week summer research experience in the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. Projects involve ... Read more
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Decan Butler, the Reveres, and Nature have written that verdict is in. The scientific evidence has been shunted aside. The nurses and doctor who traveled to Tripoli on a humanitarian ... Read more

The wind storms and heavy rains that hit Seattle a few years ago, and flooded the Battery Street tunnel, demonstrated why a bypass mechanism can be a helpful thing - for both bacteria and motorists.

When the weather is nice, I bike to work. But when the weather gets bad, (I consider rain and 69 mph winds to be BAD), I take the easy way out. On the day of the big windstorm, driving home was not so easy. A mudslide covered one of my usual paths, blocked two lanes on a very busy street, and stopped traffic well into the depths of the city. Since we had to get to a soccer ... Read more

There are five ways that I know of that allow bacteria to escape death. I call these the five paths to antibiotic resistance

1. Persistence is resistance: Most antibiotics kill by acting on the metabolic pathways needed for bacteria growth. Ironically, bacteria can survive by not growing. Read more about it.
2. The Star Wars Strategy: Destroy (or modify) the antibiotic before it destroys you.
3. Pump it out. ... Read more

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