microbiological

Two people have died from and dozens have been sickened by Legionnaire’s disease, an airborne bacterial infection similar to pneumonia, in the Bronx this week. Although the disease has often been traced to water systems such as “hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and large air-conditioning systems,” the cause of this particular outbreak is, at this point, unknown. 

So Bronxites (and even Manhattanites), be informed: early symptoms include “high fever, chills, and a cough,” as well as muscle aches and headaches. 

Read more about the outbreak at the New York Times here, and read more about Legionnarie’s Disease here.

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Why are oysters dying?

Increasingly, oysters are dying off largely due to ocean acidification, which is the reduction in the pH level of seawater when CO2 is absorbed by the ocean.

As a result, the acidic and corrosive water breaks down the calcium carbonate minerals in seawater that many calcifying organisms need to build their protective shells and skeletons, making it harder for them to survive and reproduce.

Another culprit of the oyster larvae deaths have been pathogenic bacteria that have been getting into the waters in the hatcheries.

So what are researchers doing to monitor the effects of ocean acidification? Watch the most recent episode of California Matters: What Oysters Reveal About Sea Change.

Diatoms | jecesq

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of assorted diatoms. The diatoms are a group of photosynthetic, single-celled algae containing about 10,000 species. They form an important part of the plankton at the base of the marine and freshwater food chains. The characteristic feature of diatoms is their intricately patterned, glass-like cell wall, or frustule. The frustule often has rows of tiny holes, known as striae.

Sporozoites of the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum emerging from their oocyst to infect gastrointestinal epithelial cells.

Cryptosporidium, commonly known by the comic book supervillian name “Crypto,” is transmitted by ingesting water or food contaminated with Crypto oocysts. Once ingested, the oocyte ruptures, and the sporozoites contained within infect the gut of their new host, causing watery diarrhea. 

Though outbreaks occasionally occur in the developed world, few infected in those outbreaks die from Crypto. However, in the developing world, some of those infected with Crypto develop chronic disease and die, particularly small, malnourished children.

For more on Crypto and how scientists are tackling this tricky parasite, check out this article on NPR’s All Things Considered about the work being done by the Striepen lab at the University of Georgia Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.

Image courtesy Boris Striepen and Muthgapatti Kandasamy, University of Georgia Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases

H5N1 | h.arderwiek

H5N1 avian influenza virus particles, coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM). Each virus particle consists of ribonucleic acid (RNA), surrounded by a nucleocapsid and a lipid envelope (green). The natural hosts of this virus are wild birds, which show few symptoms. However, infected domestic birds suffer a 90-100% mortality rate. Humans that have contact with infected birds can become infected. The first such infection was identified in South-East Asia in 1997, and the virus has steadily spread across the world, with an outbreak in a poultry farm in the UK in 2007. There are fears that the virus may mutate into a human-transmissible form, which could lead to millions of deaths worldwide. Magnification: x670,000 when printed 10cm wide.

Microbial Genomics

Microbial Genomics is a new fully open access, online-only journal from the Society for General Microbiology. Increasingly I try only to link to open access journals from MicrobiologyBytes, but I don’t write much about microbial genomics – why is that? Well for one thing it’s not really my area of expertise, but more importantly, the increasingly impenetrable jargon genomics papers are writen in…

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Are Viruses Alive Or Something Else?

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not viruses are actually alive but how long has this debate been circling the science world and have we reached a verdict?

By: TestTube Plus.