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  • News

    Speeding up evolution to create useful proteins wins the chemistry Nobel

    Techniques that put natural evolution on fast-forward to build new proteins in the lab have earned three scientists this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry.

    Frances Arnold of Caltech won for her method of creating customized enzymes for biofuels, environmentally friendly detergents and other products. She becomes the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry since it was first awarded...

    10/03/2018 - 18:46 Chemistry, Microbiology
  • News in Brief

    In China, a deadly strain of bird flu now easily infects ducks

    Some ducks in China now carry a deadly strain of bird flu.

    Highly pathogenic versions of H7N9 — a bird flu strain that’s proven particularly deadly to people — and H7N2 viruses have turned up in ducks in the Fujian province. These viruses replicate easily in the ducks and can kill them, researchers report September 27 in Cell Host & Microbe. The discovery is worrisome because the...

    09/27/2018 - 11:00 Microbiology
  • Feature

    Emily Balskus uses chemical logic to study the microbiome

    Emily Balskus, 38Chemistry and microbiologyHarvard University

    Chemist Emily Balskus of Harvard University is out to expose the crimes and misdemeanors of microbes living in the human gut. She’s shown, for example, how a common gut bacterium interferes with a heart failure treatment: The microbe breaks down the medication before the drug can do its job.

    Balskus, 38, originally...

    09/26/2018 - 08:34 Microbiology, Chemistry, Health
  • News

    We may now know when hand, foot and mouth disease outbreaks will occur

    Enteroviruses, including the ones that cause hand, foot and mouth disease, trigger outbreaks in predictable patterns.

    Some of these viruses, which can lead to everything from fevers, rashes and blisters to meningitis and heart infections, circulate every year or every two or three years. But it’s been unclear how foreseeable those patterns are. Now, based on Japan’s birthrate and how...

    08/23/2018 - 14:00 Microbiology
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers question dark fusion, Antarctic ice melting and more

    Melt away

    In the last five years, Antarctica has lost ice nearly three times faster on average than it did over the previous 20 years — largely due to climate change, Laurel Hamers reported in “Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion metric tons of ice since 1992” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 6).

    “Isn’t there a volcano or multiple volcanoes recently found under Antarctica that might also be...

    08/09/2018 - 07:00 Climate, Particle Physics, Microbiology
  • News

    Nasty stomach viruses can travel in packs

    Conventional wisdom states that viruses work as lone soldiers. Scientists now report that some viruses also clump together in vesicles, or membrane-bound sacs, before an invasion. Compared with solo viruses, these viral “Trojan horses” caused more severe infections in mice, researchers report August 8 in Cell Host & Microbe.

    Cell biologist Nihal Altan-Bonnet had been involved in...

    08/08/2018 - 11:00 Cells, Immune Science, Microbiology
  • News

    The right mix of gut microbes relieves autism symptoms in the long run

    MADISON, Wis. — Giving children with autism a healthier mix of gut bacteria as a way to improve behavioral symptoms continued to work even two years after treatment ended.

    The finding may solidify the connection between tummy troubles and autism, and provide more evidence that the gut microbiome — the collection of bacteria and other microbes that live in the intestines — can influence...

    07/12/2018 - 13:00 Microbiology, Neuroscience
  • News in Brief

    Bobtail squid coat their eggs in antifungal goo

    MADISON, Wis. — When eggs go bad, bacteria usually get the blame. But some bacteria help bobtail squid keep their eggs fresh.

    Bacteria that female Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) deposit in the jelly surrounding their eggs can fight off a fungus called Fusarium keratoplasticum, Spencer Nyholm reported July 9 at the Beneficial Microbes Conference.

    A specialized organ...

    07/10/2018 - 17:32 Microbiology, Animals
  • Mystery Solved

    Finally, there’s a way to keep syphilis growing in the lab

    For more than a century, scientists have tried to grow Treponema pallidum, the corkscrew-shaped bacterium that causes syphilis. But the stubborn spirochete has refused to thrive any place outside of a human or rabbit for more than 18 days. That doesn’t give researchers much time to study it.

    “I’ve basically spent my entire career watching these organisms die,” says microbiologist Steven...

    07/02/2018 - 07:00 Health, Microbiology, Microbes
  • News

    Leprosy lurks in armadillos in Brazil’s Amazon

    Brazilians who hunt or eat armadillos are at a higher risk of catching leprosy than people who don’t interact with the animals, a new study finds.

    More than 60 percent of armadillos tested in Brazil’s Amazonian state of Pará carry the leprosy bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. And about 63 percent of people tested in two villages in the region have antibodies against the bacterium,...

    06/28/2018 - 14:00 Microbiology, Animals, Health