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  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers amazed by Jupiter discoveries, giant viruses and more

    Jazzed by Jupiter

    Polar cyclones, a surprisingly deep atmosphere and a spin reminiscent of solid masses are among the latest discoveries the Juno spacecraft has made as it orbits Jupiter, Christopher Crockett reported in “4 surprising things we just learned about Jupiter” (SN: 3/31/18, p. 10).

    The findings astonished readers on Reddit.

    “Jupiter is one of those things [that]...

    05/16/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Planetary Science, Microbiology
  • News

    ‘Nanobot’ viruses tag and round up bacteria in food and water

    NEW ORLEANS — Viruses engineered into “nanobots” can find and separate bacteria from food or water.

    These viruses, called bacteriophages or just phages, naturally latch onto bacteria to infect them (SN: 7/12/03, p. 26). By tweaking the phages’ DNA and decking them out with magnetic nanoparticles, researchers created a tool that could both corral bacteria and force them to reveal...

    03/27/2018 - 11:36 Microbiology, Chemistry, Health
  • 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