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Secrets Of C. Difficile's Protective Shell Revealed, Paving The Way For New Superbug Drugs And Vaccines

The detailed structure of a protective 'jacket' that surrounds cells of the Clostridium difficile superbug, and which helps the dangerous pathogen stick to human host cells and tissues, is revealed in part in the 1 March issue of Molecular Microbiology. Read More

Let's Get Small - Experiment

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Caught Dirty-handed - What infectious diseases could be spread by failure of people to adequately wash their hands?

There are many germs that can be spread or picked up through inadequate hand washing. For example, cold viruses can be spread by touching people or objects. The flu virus is often spread by contact with infected people. Salmonella, a bacterium that causes severe upset stomach, can be picked u... Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - What difference does soap make?

As the experiment showed, washing with water alone doesn't do as good a job as washing with soap. In the same way the soap lifts off the paint so it can be rinsed away, soap grabs microbes so they're flushed away by the water. You just can't see it happen as easily with invisible microbes as you... Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - How might hand washing affect your family’s health?

You can spread germs to anyone or anything in your home that you touch. You can also get germs from objects other people have touched. If members of your family make an effort to wash often at appropriate times (see When to Wash), you can help reduce the chances of each other getting ill. Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - Experiment

When was the last time you washed your hands? Did you use soap? What have you done since you washed? Have you eaten, put your fingers in your mouth or touched someone else?


Observations in public restrooms have revealed that only about 68 percent of Americans wash up before leaving. Y... Read More

Caught Dirty-handed - Experiment

When was the last time you washed your hands? Did you use soap? What have you done since you washed? Have you eaten, put your fingers in your mouth or touched someone else?


Observations in public restrooms have revealed that only about 68 percent of Americans wash up before leaving. Y... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - What would happen if you buried a polystyrene peanut and a starch peanut in your yard during the fall and dug up the spot in the spring?

As you probably already guessed, you'd still find the polystyrene peanut intact, although maybe a little more ragged. You wouldn't find any trace of the starch peanut. That's because of the presence of water in the soil and plenty of bacteria eager to break down the starch and use its sugars ... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Are live bacteria necessary for breakdown?

Water dissolves starch, but for starches to be broken down completely, the process depends on the many microbes commonly found in the soil. The microbes make digestive enzymes, like the acids in your stomach, that break down starch into its simple sugar building blocks (a starch is like a long c... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Why does a polystyrene peanut not degrade the same way the starch peanut does?

Polystyrene is the solid form of a clear liquid - styrene - which is a made from petroleum and natural gas by-products. The chemical bonds that make up polystyrene are very strong and stable; they do not break apart easily in water the way that the bonds in starch do. And while many common bacte... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Experiment

Maybe you’ve heard the term "biodegradable." It basically means something capable of being broken apart into simpler substances by natural biological processes.


But what are these biological processes that break some things down? Why do some things biodegrade more readily than other... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What would happen if you changed the temperature?

Most fungi grow best around room temperature. But they can grow at a range of temperatures from cold (like in a refrigerator) to quite warm (body temperature). At temperatures colder or warmer than their favorite temperature, they usually do not grow as rapidly. If the temperature is too cold or... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What would happen if you left the bags in a well-lit place instead of a dark place?

Molds grow best in the dark, so not as much mold would be present on bread slices kept in a well-lit place. Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What causes the different colors you see?

Many of the colors you see on the moldy bread are due to the spores the fungi have produced. Molds reproduce by making spores at the end of stalks that rises above the surface of the bread, giving molds a fuzzy appearance. Spores are like seeds-they spread molds to new places so that they can... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - Does it matter what kind of bread you use?

Molds grow better on some kinds of breads than others depending on the ingredients used and how the bread was made. Some breads are dry and some are moist. The amount of the sugar in different breads varies; some have sugar, honey or molasses added. Some breads are even acidic, such as sourdough... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - From this activity can you tell what helps mold to grow best?

Unless you used bread that had been sitting out for many days, you probably didn’t get much or any mold growth on the dry bread. Clearly, water is important for the growth of mold. The mold grew best on bread sprinkled with sugar water because the sugar serves as food for the fungi. The more foo... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - Experiment

As you know, we keep food in refrigerators so it will last longer. But still, sometimes you open a bag of bread or a jar of spaghetti sauce and what do you find? Mold!!


Ever wonder exactly what mold is? And how did it get there? And why sometimes it’s green and other times black or wh... Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What would happen if you covered your jars or bottles with different colored plastic wrap?

If the bottles or jars are covered with colored cellophane, different microbes will grow because different ones need different colors of light to thrive. For example, purple sulfur bacteria need red to near infrared light, while green sulfur bacteria need green to red light. And cyanobacteria ne... Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What would happen if you left a jar/bottle in intense heat?

A jar or bottle kept in intense heat will not show growth, unless the soil you collected came from a hot spring. That's because most living things can't survive temperatures hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degees Celsius). For comparison, your body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What would happen if you kept a jar/bottle in a dark closet?

A jar or bottle kept in the dark will not show any growth of bacteria because light energy is critical to the development of photosynthetic creatures. That does not mean there are no living microbes in the jar, however. Not all microbes need light to grow. Read More

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