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  • Science Visualized

    Meet the giants among viruses

    For decades, the name “virus” meant small and simple. Not anymore. Meet the giants.

    Today, scientists are finding ever bigger viruses that pack impressive amounts of genetic material. The era of the giant virus began in 2003 with the discovery of the first Mimivirus (SN: 5/23/09, p. 9). The viral titan is about 750 nanometers across with a genetic pantry boasting around 1.2 million base...

    03/21/2018 - 07:00 Microbiology
  • Rethink

    Inked mice hint at how tattoos persist in people

    Tattoos may have staying power because of a hand off between generations of immune cells known as macrophages, say a group of French researchers.

    If true, this would overturn notions that tattoo ink persists in connective tissue or in long-lasting macrophages.

    Immunologist Sandrine Henri of the Immunology Center of Marseille-Luminy, in France, and colleagues tattooed mice tails...

    03/16/2018 - 16:22 Microbiology, Immune Science
  • News

    Human skin bacteria have cancer-fighting powers

    Certain skin-dwelling microbes may be anticancer superheroes, reining in uncontrolled cell growth. This surprise discovery could one day lead to drugs that treat or maybe even prevent skin cancer.

    The bacteria’s secret weapon is a chemical compound that stops DNA formation in its tracks. Mice slathered with one strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis that makes the compound developed fewer...

    02/28/2018 - 15:49 Health, Cancer, Microbiology
  • News

    A new way to make bacteria glow could simplify TB screening

    A new molecule that reveals active tuberculosis bacteria in coughed-up mucus and saliva could simplify TB diagnoses and speed up tests for detecting strains of the disease that are resistant to drugs.

    This synthetic molecule is a modified version of a sugar that TB bacteria consume to help build their cell walls. The sugar is tagged with a dye that lights up under a fluorescent...

    02/28/2018 - 14:03 Microbes, Microbiology, Biomedicine
  • News

    A rare rainstorm wakes undead microbes in Chile’s Atacama Desert

    Chile’s Atacama Desert is so dry that some spots see rain only once a decade. Salt turns the sandy soil inhospitable, and ultraviolet radiation scorches the surface. So little can survive there that scientists have wondered whether snippets of DNA found in the soil are just part of the desiccated skeletons of long-dead microbes or traces of hunkered-down but still living colonies.

    A rare...

    02/27/2018 - 14:33 Microbiology, Astrobiology
  • News in Brief

    These giant viruses have more protein-making gear than any known virus

    Two newly discovered giant viruses have the most comprehensive toolkit for assembling proteins found in any known virus. In a host cell, the viruses have the enzymes needed to wrangle all 20 standard amino acids, the building blocks of life.

    Researchers dubbed the viruses Tupanvirus deep ocean and Tupanvirus soda lake, combining the name of the indigenous South American god of thunder,...

    02/27/2018 - 14:06 Microbiology
  • News

    Americans would welcome alien life rather than fear it

    AUSTIN, Texas — If alien microbes crash-land on Earth, they may get a warm welcome.

    When people were asked how they would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial microbial life, they give generally positive responses, researchers reported at a news conference February 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    This suggests that if...

    02/16/2018 - 17:00 Astrobiology, Microbiology, Science & Society
  • News

    Scientists find 10 new defense systems used by bacteria

    Since long before it gained fame as a precise gene-editing tool, CRISPR has had another job defending bacteria against viral invaders. And it’s far from alone. Ten sets of bacterial genes have similar, newly discovered defense roles, researchers report online January 25 in Science.

    The discovery “probably more than doubles the number of immune systems known in bacteria,” says Joseph...

    01/25/2018 - 16:16 Genetics, Microbiology
  • 50 years ago, synthetic DNA made its debut

    Viable synthetic DNA

    [Scientists] produced in a test tube a totally artificial copy of a type of DNA virus.… The particular type of viral DNA (called Phi X174) the researchers made is an extremely simple molecule of only five or six genes. Their achievement, however, lays the foundation for eventual synthesis of more complex DNAs. — Science News, December 30, 1967



    12/28/2017 - 07:00 Genetics, Microbiology, Cells
  • News

    Bats in China carry all the ingredients to make a new SARS virus

    Viruses in bats may have mixed and matched genes to create the virus that gave rise to the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003, a new study suggests. And it could happen again. All of the ingredients needed to create a new SARS virus are found among viruses currently infecting horseshoe bats, researchers report November 30 in PLOS Pathogens.

    The viruses “are poised to cause future outbreaks,”...

    11/30/2017 - 14:00 Genetics, Microbiology, Animals