If you pull up a soybean or bean plant and shake off the dirt, you might see odd swellings or bumps, like rheumatic finger joints, on its roots. Inside the cool, soil-covered bumps are bacteria that are making nitrogen with the help of an enzyme, something chemical factories can do only with the... Read More
Salmonella is a zoonotic foodborne pathogen and a public health concern. It has been estimated that this pathogen causes ~1.2 million illnesses, ~20,000 hospitalizations, and ~400 deaths in the US annually (Scallan et al., 2011). Salmonella has ~2,600 serotypes (serovars) and numerous hosts and ... Read More
In 2012 I wrote a story for Nature about a strange illness called Kawasaki Disease whose cause has eluded scientists for over 50 years. The diseases causes inflammation of the blood vessels in small children that leads to fever, rashes and reddening, and even coronary aneurysms that can cause he... Read More
Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses (HIV-1 groups O and P) have originated in western lowland gorillas, according to an international team of scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Montpellier, the University of Edinbur... Read More
A small team of researchers with Wageningen University in The Netherlands has found evidence that suggests that a type of virus that causes a species of caterpillar to climb higher up a plant, does so by causing a change to the victim's phototactic response. In their paper published in the journ... Read More
Banana lovers take note: The world's supply of the fruit is under attack from a fungus strain that could wipe out the popular variety that Americans eat. "It's a very serious situation," said Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida who in 1989 originally discove... Read More
Throughout the animal kingdom, mothers transfer microbes to their young while giving birth. Different species of tadpoles acquire specific skin bacteria from mother frogs even though they all live in the same pond with the same bacterial background. Emerging chicken eggs get inoculated with micr... Read More
One of the food industry’s major recurring challenges, detecting highly carcinogenic toxins that occur naturally in our most common crops, could soon be solved by groundbreaking research that exploits aflatoxins’ fluorescent properties.
Aflatoxins are present in a wide... Read More
Researchers 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 -- H... Read More
Yale University researchers have determined how a scarce molecule produced by marine bacteria can kill cancer cells, paving the way for the development of new, low-dose chemotherapies.
The molecule, lomaiviticin A, was previously shown to be lethal to cultured human cancer cells, but the mech... Read More
Modern Earth is nothing like it was in its early days. Our planet was formed some 4.56 billion years ago when a giant stellar cloud collapsed on itself due its massive size and gravitational force. The explosion also generated the sun and many other planetary bodies, including those that would e... Read More
Colorectal cancer develops in what is probably the most complex environment in the human body, a place where human cells cohabitate with a colony of approximately 10 trillion bacteria, most of which are unknown. At the 2014 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in San Diego, re... Read More
We received this query:
»I enjoyed the article on your blog 'Six Questions About CRISPRs' by Merry Youle. I am an ex-lambdologist, having quit phage lambda in the early 70s and moved to GM-plants. There is one thing about CRISPR that I do not understand: Why did lambdologists not find CRISPR?... Read More
Nearly 40 years ago, a young Belgian scientist travelled to a remote part of the Congolese rainforest - his task was to help find out why so many people were dying from an unknown and terrifying disease.
In September 1976, a package containing a shiny, blue thermos flask arrived at the Instit... Read More
A health worker who returned from West Africa and was found to have Ebola when she arrived home in Scotland was transferred on Tuesday to Britain’s designated treatment center for the disease in London.
The authorities also reported that two more people were being tested for the virus.
The... Read More
Lyme disease is a stealthy, often misdiagnosed disease that was only recognized about 40 years ago, but new discoveries of ticks fossilized in amber show that the bacteria which cause it may have been lurking around for 15 million years – long before any humans walked on Earth.
The findings w... Read More
A careful examination of frozen caribou poop has turned up two never-before-seen viruses.
The viruses are hundreds of years old: One of them probably infected plants the caribous ate. The other may have infected insects that buzzed around the animals.
The findings prove viruses can survive... Read More
A few weeks ago, I came across a new paper in BioScience called “Natural History’s Place in Science and Society” that contained the following graph.
On the right axis and indicated by the line surrounded by dots is the proportion of introductory biology texts devoted to natural history since ... Read More
The global initiative to eradicate poliomyelitis through routine vaccination has helped reduce the number of cases by more than 99% in 30 years. However, major epidemics are still occurring today. Researchers have identified the virus responsible for deadly and recent outbreaks, and have sequenc... Read More
The bed bug may be just as dangerous as its sinister cousin, the triatomine, or “kissing” bug. A new study from Penn Medicine researchers in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics demonstrated that bed bugs, like the triatomines, can transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that ... Read More