Tag Archives: bacteria

Antibiotic resistance… the NEXT generation

MRSA- Picture courtesy of CDC's Public Health Image Library

MRSA- Picture courtesy of CDC’s Public Health Image Library

Antibiotic resistance is a growing- and serious- problem. Most antibiotics work by interfering with cell functions, but certain types of bacteria (like MRSA) have evolved in such a way that these antibiotics just won’t work. Researchers all over the world are working on this problem, and it seems that scientists at MIT have made a pretty significant breakthrough.

By using a genome-editing system called CRISPR, researchers have been able to target the genes that allow bacteria to resist antibiotics. And by targeting the genes responsible for antibiotic resistance and disrupting them, they were able to kill over 99% of the resistant bacteria. Using this method, they also successfully increased survival rates of waxworm larvae infected with a nasty form of E. coli.

Currently, research in mice is in progress. The goal is that one day, this technology could be modified to work on humans. As recent research hasn’t yielded many new classes of antibiotics, this method may ultimately play an important role in stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance in the human population.

Read more about it here: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/fighting-drug-resistant-bacteria-0921

Moms: Could there be such a thing as “too clean”?

iStock_000016947232LargeIf you are a parent, you undoubtedly know that children are magnets for germs. Literally- magnets. I’m sure that there is scientific evidence of this somewhere. I haven’t found it yet, but when I do, trust me- there will be a blog post about it.

Despite the obvious- yet unsubstantiated- theory of child/dirt magnetism, we all have that mom friend who has undoubtedly been recruited by the government to eliminate germs. And she is awesome at it. Her child is mid-cough, and a container of hand sanitizer magically appears out of her back pocket. Milk spilled from a glass hasn’t even hit the floor before her third arm appears with a mop. YOUR child is about to sneeze, and as you pretend to search for the tissue in your pocket that you should probably have ready, Super Mom produces a travel pack of baby wipes out of nowhere and comes to the rescue. You walk into her house and marvel at the lack of crumbs/ dust/ dog hair/ Cheerios imbedded in the carpet, and think “My God, this woman is amazing!”

We all love our germ-defying mom friends. They are the epitome of “Super Moms,” and give us something to strive for. But now, science is here to make the rest of us feel a little bit better about the crumbs/ dust/ dog hair/ Cheerios imbedded in our OWN carpets. Scientific research suggests that “exceptionally clean living environments” may be linked to a weakened immune system and food allergies in children.

Research studies showed that mice living in sterile environments lacked a certain gut bacteria, called Clostridia, that can protect against food allergies. The solution? Provide them with this bacteria (think mouse probiotics), and the sensitization to food allergens can be reversed. While this was a study in mice, other research studies have suggested that the use of disinfecting products, anti-microbial soap, and antibiotics can change the composition of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts.

So, when you start to feel inadequate as Super Mom wields her secret-weapon-germ-cleaning-abilities, maybe you can feel a little better about your toddler picking his nose while playing in the dirt. After all, you’re just trying to help boost his immune system- right?

http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Health/2014/09/11/Being-too-clean-weakens-your-childs-immunity/

Antibiotics from 20,000 leagues under the sea

iStock_000000307266SmallNature has always provided inspiration for human medicine. Aspirin, penicillin, quinine, taxol- the list goes on. But now, with the increase of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, we need inspiration more than ever! So researchers are getting creative.

With advances in technology, we’re able to explore more of our planet than ever before. And that includes the deepest parts of the ocean! The Peru-Chile trench is 8 km deep (OK, so maybe only a league and a half under the sea- still pretty deep!) and it’s home to a multitude of organisms and microbes that flourish in extreme conditions. This could potentially be a huge breakthrough in the development of new medicines and new antibiotics.

The goal is to isolate bacteria, let it grow, and then test it on hundreds of disease samples to see what happens. If there’s a positive reaction, zebrafish might be able to help researchers in the next steps of testing. Let’s hope that research in the Peru-Chile trench yields some lifesaving results! It’s estimated that within a couple of decades, antibiotic resistance could be such a huge problem that simple infections could kill you. While that’s definitely an unsettling thought, it’s reassuring to know that researchers are going to such lengths to make sure that no stone is unturned in the search for new options!

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129530.800-antibiotic-abyss-the-extreme-quest-for-new-medicines.html?page=1

Dogs REDUCE the risk of allergies??

iStock_000013017692XSmallIt sounds strange… but it’s possible that buying your baby a puppy might be a GOOD idea. Let me explain.

The dust in your house consists of dead skin cells, decomposing insects, fibers from clothes and other fabrics, dirt and plant debris from outdoors, bacteria, pet dander, and a lot of other stuff that you probably don’t want to know about. Another fun fact: the microbes found in household dust usually correspond to the microbes found in the homeowners’ guts. Gross, right?

Well, microbes in your gut can influence your immune system. And research has shown that owning pets increases the diversity of the bacteria found in your household dust. (Not surprising.) But when researchers at UC San Francisco fed this bacteria-rich dust to mice, they found that the mice that ingested the “dog dust” were less likely to have allergic reactions than mice that ingested bacteria found in a non-pet home.

So far, it seems that the protective effects have their greatest impact on young offspring- especially newborns. If these new findings are confirmed in humans, this could help researchers in the development of probiotics for infants that could potentially reduce the risk of allergies later in life. But as this isn’t the first study showing a correlation between animal exposure early in life and reduced sensitivity to allergens, that puppy doesn’t sound like such a bad idea! Read more:

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/38660/title/Dogs–Dust-Microbes–and-Allergies/

Virus-blocking mosquitos to the rescue!

mosquitosIn an interesting example of animal research in action, it was found that mosquitos carrying Wolbachia bacteria cannot transmit dengue. So, mosquitos engineered to carry this bacteria- as well as transmit it to their offspring- were painstakingly hand-transported to an island off the coast of Vietnam (where dengue is a serious problem) in an attempt to replace the indigenous mosquito population. Read more in a post earlier this month: http://fbresearch.org/dengue-mosquitos-infected-with-bacteria/

People on the island are welcoming their new ‘pests’- they take care to allow these mosquitos to live, understanding that an increase in the Wolbachia mosquito population is critical! Researchers estimate that people on the island will be protected from dengue when the Wolbachia mosquito population reaches 80%- and in recent news- it’s up to about 65% and climbing!

Amazing! While researchers are still working on vaccines and treatments for dengue (of which there currently are none), this creative approach to the problem is a great example of animal research at work. In an attempt to save human populations, while introducing a bacteria that won’t do any damage to the ecosystem, this is a great example of ingenuity in research. Keep it up, guys!

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/virus-blocking-insects-taking-over-vietnamese-island

Stress during pregnancy is bad for your baby, too!

iStock_000013924965XSmallThink that stress during pregnancy doesn’t affect your baby? Think again.

When a baby is born, the first bacteria that it receives is from the birth canal- and this bacteria is responsible for beginning the bacterial colonization in the baby’s digestive system.

Stress has been proven to cause changes in the bacteria in the mother’s birth canal. In mouse studies, it was found that stressed, pregnant mice not only produced more types of bacteria, but Lactobacillus, a common and helpful bacteria for babies’ gut colonization, was greatly reduced. After birth, it was also found that gene expression in the brain was negatively affected by a reduced amount of Lactobacillus- specifically, genes related to neuron grown and connections in the brain.

Understanding this could lead to helpful therapies for human patients. By discovering the most useful bacteria to begin gut colonization, doctors can give newborns a dose of this beneficial bacteria after birth- this would be particularly helpful for babies born via C-section (who do not travel through the birth canal) and babies born to mothers who were on antibiotics (further altering the types of bacteria present).

So for pregnant moms out there- take it easy! Less stress for you ultimately means a healthier, happier baby.

Read more:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24586-pregnant-mothers-stress-affects-babys-gut-and-brain.html#.UoZF49KX9yJ