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Once upon a slide…the first microbiology book for 5 year olds!

At last! No more bed time fairy tales about damsels in distress, princesses in pink and knights in white shining armor.

Move over Disney. This is a world we should be opening our kids up to. Steeped in reality. A world 1000x more exciting than those lands too far far far away, and it is all playing out under our very noses, inside our refrigerators, outside our back doors and throughout our own bodies.

Thank you to Nicola Davies (author) and Emily Sutton (illustrator) for this beautiful non-fiction children’s book that introduces young readers to microscopy.

I can’t wait to buy this for my nieces.

Let me know if you need help with the histological sequel ;)

i-heart-histo

Sources:

View more of Emily’s beautiful artwork at her website

Find out more about award winning author Nicola at her blog/website

Images and book (ISBN:1406341045) seen at amazon.com and via Walker Books 

The oldest living thing in the world: These actinobacteria, recovered from the subterranean brrrrr-osphere that is Siberian permafrost, are estimated to be 500,000 years old. While many ancient microbes have been revived from ancient dormant states, these bacterial cells have been continuously living for half a million years. It’s known that the bacteria aren’t mobile in the frozen Earth, so by radioactively dating the layers of soil around the microbes, scientists were able to estimate their age.

Unable to divide and reproduce, these microbes were shown to be actively repairing their DNA despite the frigid temperatures, their enzymes uniquely adapted to an environment that would mean certain death for perhaps every other creature on Earth. While not growing, moving, or reproducing, this sort of cryostasis counts as living if you ask me (and the scientists who study them).

What do you think this means for the possibility of life on other planets?

(via Rachel Sussman and Brain Pickings. Check out the original 2007 research paper here)

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Ebola outbreak.

An ongoing epidemic of the Ebola virus disease has spread throughout Guinea and beyond the nation’s borders in West Africa. The outbreak, which began in Guinea in February 2014 and has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, is the most severe in recorded history, both in the number of cases and fatalities. A suspected 1,323 cases with 729 deaths have been reported as of 27 July 2014, with 909 cases and 485 deaths confirmed to be Ebola.

But what is actually Ebola?

Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is the human disease caused by the ebola virus.

Ebola virus (formerly officially designated Zaire ebolavirus, or EBOV) is a virological taxon species included in the genus Ebolavirus, family Filoviridae. The Zaire ebolavirus is the most dangerous of the six species of Ebola viruses of the Ebolavirus genus which are the causative agents of Ebola virus disease and it is responsible of the outbreak.

Signs and symptoms: Manifestation begins with a sudden onset of an influenza-like stage characterized by general malaise, fever with chills, sore throat, severe headache, weakness, joint pain, muscle pain, and chest pain. The development of hemorrhagic symptoms is indicative of a negative prognosis. However, contrary to popular belief, hemorrhage does not lead to hypovolemia and is not the cause of death (total blood loss is low except during labor). Instead, death occurs due to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS) due to fluid redistribution, hypotension, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and focal tissue necroses. 

Transmission: Ebola virus is transmitted to a human index case via contact with an infected animal’s bodily fluids. Human-to-human transmission occurs via direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from an infected person (including embalming of an infected dead person) or by contact with contaminated medical equipment, particularly needles and syringes. Medical workers who do not wear protective clothing, such as gloves and surgical masks, may also contract the disease.

Treatment: No ebolavirus-specific treatment exists. Treatment is primarily supportive in nature and includes minimizing invasive procedures, balancing fluids and electrolytes to counter dehydration, administration of anticoagulants early in infection to prevent or control disseminated intravascular coagulation, administration of procoagulants late in infection to control hemorrhaging, maintaining oxygen levels, pain management, and administration of antibiotics or antimycotics to treat secondary infections.

Sterilization procedures, isolating patients and good hygienic practices are the only way to prevent transmission.

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After almost two months of working in the laboratory for 6 days a week, my partner and I have successfully cultured and purified five bioluminescent bacteria isolates from four different fishes. We can’t wait until June to begin the next phase of our study which is to identify these bacteria at the molecular level. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even discover a new species!

We’re not stopping with five isolates, though. While we wait for our kits to arrive, we’ll continue surveying which fish species harbors BLB. We hope to get more isolates from more fish species. Crossing my fingers!

P.S. What shall be the name of our new species if we ever discover one? Vibrio fabulosum? Photobacterium glamourosum? Whatever! Be fab, have fun!!!

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Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy | NewScientist

Stick an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these “electric bacteria” are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.

[Read more]

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Vaccine-preventable diseases.  Getting my nerd on for The Lacquer Legion’s Weird Science challenge— I wanted to celebrate vaccines by showing some of the pathogens they protect against.  From pinky to thumb: diptheria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae), polio (poliovirus), smallpox (variola virus), measles (measles virus), and rabies (rabies virus).

Sex in the Sink: gene swapping bacteria are making new superbugs (NBC News)

Bacteria appear to be having the microbial equivalent of inter-species sex in hospital sinks, swapping chunks of DNA that render them impervious to antibiotics, researchers reported Wednesday.

The findings may help explain the rise in drug-resistant “superbugs” in hospitals, and they suggest that they may sometimes be breeding on site, as opposed to being carried in by patients.

The team at the National Institutes of Health found carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) that appeared to have exchanged pieces of genetic material called plasmids that gave them resistance to antibiotics. CRE resist most, if not all antibiotics, and they are becoming more common: they are found in about 4 percent of hospitals now and 18 percent of long-term care facilities.

Yep…bacteria will do it anywhere

Herpes infected humans before they were human 1.6 million years ago

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the evolutionary origins of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 and -2, reporting that the former infected hominids before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago while the latter jumped from ancient chimpanzees to ancestors of modern humans – Homo erectus – approximately 1.6 million years ago.

The findings are published in the June 10 online issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"The results help us to better understand how these viruses evolved and found their way into humans,” said Joel O. Wertheim, PhD, assistant research scientist at the UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center and lead author of the study. “Animal disease reservoirs are extremely important for global public health. Understanding where our viruses come from will help guide us in preventing future viruses from making the jump into humans.”

Approximately two-thirds of the human population is infected with at least one herpes simplex virus. The viruses are most commonly presented as cold sores on the mouth or lips or blisters on the genitals.

"Humans are the only primates we know of that have two herpes simplex viruses," said Wertheim. "We wanted to determine why."

The researchers compared the HSV-1 and HSV-2 gene sequences to the family tree of simplex viruses from eight monkey and ape host species. Using advanced models of molecular evolution, the scientists were able to more accurately estimate ancient viral divergence times. This approach allowed them to determine when HSV-1 and HSV-2 were introduced into humans with far more precision than standard models that do not account for natural selection over the course of viral evolution.

The genetics of human and primate herpes viruses were examined to assess their similarity. It became clear that HSV-1 has been present in humans far longer than HSV-2, prompting the researchers to further investigate the origins of HSV-2 in humans.

The viral family tree showed that HSV-2 was far more genetically similar to the herpes virus found in chimpanzees. This level of divergence indicated that humans must have acquired HSV-2 from an ancestor of modern chimpanzees about 1.6 million years ago, prior to the rise of modern humans roughly 200,000 years ago.

"Comparing virus gene sequences gives us insight into viral pathogens that have been infecting us since before we were humans," said Wertheim.

source

Loving this Salami Microbiology poster that you can download from MicrobialFoods.org:

Ever wonder what makes your salami fuzzy, crusty, and tart? Our Visual Guide to Salami Microbiology provides an overview of everything you need to know about microbes in and on your favorite artisan salami. Print it out. Hang it up.  Marvel at the microbiological wonders growing on your salami! Download our Visual Guide to Salame Microbiology here.

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