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New powerful antibiotics discovered using machine learning
Bacteria are amazing creatures. They adapt rapidly to any stress that is put on them or at least some...
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Top Publishers Sued over Collusion in Textbook Market
Textbook prices are out of control and this is why I spent years of my life writing and running this...
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Americans are fatter than ever and processed food is to blame
Before diving into this article we need to clarify how being obese is measured. There are many ways to...
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Through the Microscope updates
An important feature of Through the Microscope is the animations that depict important processes. Often...
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Obesity and the Microbiome
A large body of evidence is emerging showing that the microbiome has a role in obesity and I cover some...
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Compound Produced by Ocean Microbes Could Treat Anthrax and MRSA

  Researchers at the University of California - San Diego have found a microbe in the Santa Barbara Bay that may produce a compound that could be used to treat anthrax and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) while conducting research. The microbe belongs to the Streptomyces family and is found in the sediment close to the shores of Santa Barbara, California. The compound it produces, called “anthracimycin”, was novel in structure, which was solved...

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Methamphetamine use can lead to deathly fungal infection

  According to available data, it is estimated that there are about 350,000 people in the US who are regular methamphetamine abusers.  The drug’s ability to impact the central nervous system as a stimulant might do more harm than what is known.  Recent studies have shown that injecting methamphetamine accumulates greatly in the lungs.  This information, combined with a fungus, Crytptococcus neoformans, can lead to a lethal combination.  

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Microbes can influence evolution of their hosts

  A new study shows that our microbial companions may play a significant role in the process of our evolution. Evolution can be defined as the change in the gene frequency of a population over time. Key to the process of evolution is natural selection. Natural selection is when certain heritable traits impart a greater chance of survival and reproduction for individuals that have said traits than individuals without, under prevailing environmental conditions. A new twist on these concepts is the h...

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Researchers Uncover Cellular Mechanisms for Attention in the Brain

  The brain controls the ability to pay attention and retain information.  The ability to generate attention in the presence of distractions is required for successful interaction in the world we live in today.  Attention in the brain has been heavily studied, but the cellular mechanism responsible for this phenomenon was unknown until the release of recent study results. Researchers at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and the University of California conducted a study...

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Immensely high internal pressure in Herpes virus facilitates DNA ejection from capsid.

  A new study reveals a key mechanism for viral infection that has been highly preserved in viruses that release their genome into the cell nucleus without disassembling the capsid. The study was conducted by Bauer et al at Carnegie Mellon University on the Herpes Virus (HSV-1), one of the most studied viruses with this kind of an infection mechanism. For the first time, it brings into light the presence of high internal pressure of tens of atmospheres due to an extremely condensed genom...

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Bacteriophage Therapy

  Viruses tend to have a negative connotation to them when in a human health context. What many perhaps do not know is that there are viruses that only attack bacteria. These naturally occurring viruses are called bacteriophages. This article denotes a potentially new way of treating bacterial infections that may be used in the near future.  When bacteriophages were first discovered, they were thought to be very beneficial to treating infections as they do not target human eukaryotic cells...

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Gut Microbes Can Split a Species

  For many years, scientists have defined speciation as an evolutionary event by which a new species arises due to genetic drift. However, a new study suggests that species may diverge because of the microbes in their gut, not their DNA. Biologists Seth Bordenstein and Robert Brucker of Vanderbilt University studied this phenomenon in three different species of parasitic jewel wasps, tiny insects that drill into fly pupae and allow their eggs to feed on the host. 

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Eliminating PRRSV in Pigs

  Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is costing farmers millions of dollars each year. Upon infection, farmers need to cull their herds due to slowed growth and reproductive issues. Although there is a vaccine available, it is not an ideal solution for this particular disease. The vaccine will not eradicate the virus, only lesson the impact of the disease on farms. Scientists are trying to determine the transmission of the disease, in order to solve the problem. A transmem...

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The Unculturables

  Unculturable bacteria are not necessarily uncharacterizable. Microbiological techniques, like PCR and DNA sequencing of "housekeeping" genes, has allowed scientists to continue to gain understand about microbes, whether or not they are culturable. However, the ability to fight human infections and develop cures requires these unculturables to become cultured, so the microorganisms can be grown and studied in laboratory settings.  The question remains, why are these or...

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Gut microbes’ role in species divergence

  It is well known that gut microbes play an important role in the health of many organisms.  Seth Bordenstein and Robert Brucker, biologists at Vanderbilt University, were curious to see what other effects these microbes may have on an organism.  They studied the role of microbes in three related species of parasitic jewel wasps.  Two of the species, Nasonia giraulti and N. longicornis, are closely related, whereas the third species, N. vitripennis, diverged about 1 million years a...

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