News in Brief
Losing one variety of gut bacteria may lead to type 2 diabetes as people age.
Old mice have less Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria than young mice do, researchers report November 14 in Science Translational Medicine. That loss triggers inflammation, which eventually leads cells to ignore signals from the hormone insulin. Such disregard for insulin’s message to take in glucose is known as...
Humans and other animals may have a way to control the growth of gut microbes: Eat less protein.
That’s because protein contains nitrogen. And, it turns out, the amount of nitrogen in the diet of mice governed the growth of bacteria in the animals’ large intestine, researchers report October 29 in Nature Microbiology. The finding may help researchers learn how to manipulate the types and...
Reviews & Previews
Never Home AloneRob DunnBasic Books, $28
As I write this in my basement office, a sticky trap lies beneath my desk catching whatever insects wander by. Its current haul is pretty typical: a cricket, a spider and some small flies. But as Rob Dunn writes in his intriguing new book, Never Home Alone, I’m missing a lot if I think that’s all that lurks beneath my slippers.
News in Brief
An intestinal pathogen that causes severe and sometimes life-threatening diarrhea is an opportunist that grows like gangbusters under the right conditions. Now, scientists may have discovered the opportunity that Clostridioides difficile waits for.
In mice, a disruption of the mix of microbes in the gut sets the stage for C. difficile infections. Such upsets allow the pathogen to...
Safety challenged —
Americans consume 8,000 tons of artificial sweeteners every year …confident that the chemical sweeteners are safe. Manufacturers insist that they are; the sugar industry … insists they are not.… [B]oth camps swamped FDA with detailed evidence pro and con. — Science News, October 26, 1968Update
Let’s not sugarcoat it: The debate isn’t over. Fifty years ago,...
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...
News in Brief
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...
Emily Balskus, 38Chemistry and microbiologyHarvard University09/26/2018 - 08:34 Microbiology, Chemistry, Health
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...
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...
Letters to the Editor
Melt away08/09/2018 - 07:00 Climate, Particle Physics, Microbiology
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...