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  1. Anthrax Bacteria Can Breed In Dirt, Be Even More Terrifying

    You know what's not scary enough? Anthrax. I don't know when it was, but a disease that creates black ulcers on your skin and has the potential to make your innards basically fall right out of your body lost its capacity to inspire terror. The horrific disease and occasional means of spreading panic in government buildings could get a little bit of its groove back, though, with a new study showing that anthrax bacteria are capable of breeding  -- and spreading -- in soil, where the disease was once thought to lay dormant.

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  2. The Economics of Disease: Keeping Cells From Sharing Resources Can Collapse Bacterial Communities

    The cells associated with cystic fibrosis are very good team players, working together to build thriving communities in patients' lungs. Those communities have their share of freeloaders, though, who consume resources without contributing, and researchers at the University of Washington are working on a novel way to use those lazy cells to treat the disease. By making it more costly for cells to share so-called "public goods" that the entire community needs to survive, researchers made selfish cells more common, causing the bacterial community to collapse when resources run dry.

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  3. Laser Cage Traps Tiniest Bacteria For Study

    Studying things that are smaller than we can see often seems like no big whoop now that we're working with things like nanoparticles every day in labs across the world. However, seeing things is one thing, while actually being able to study them is another. Researchers at the University of Freiburg have developed a way to use tubes of light to trap microorganisms in a laser cage and image them for closer study.

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  4. Antibiotic Resistant Salmonella Epidemic Is Up To 45% Fatal, May Spread From Human To Human

    Researchers following the spread of salmonella in Africa, which has reached epidemic levels, have found that the spread of the disease may be linked to the emergence of HIV on the continent, implying that the blood-borne disease may have followed in the wake of HIV, finding good hosts in people with compromised immune systems and becoming more prevalent as it did so. The same study has also identified some of the genes for antibiotic resistance that are partly to blame for the disease's increased virulence and mortality in Africa.

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  5. Keep 32 Molecule Kills Cavity-Causing Bacteria, Could Make The World A Better Place

    Researchers Jose Cordova of Yale University and Erich Astudillo of Chile's Universidad de Santiago discovered a molecule they call Keep 32 that kills the bacteria responsible for all the trauma you suffered as a child, lying down blinded by the light as a masked man poked bits of metal in your mouth. Sometimes you don't feel anything. Sometimes you feel funny.

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  6. In The Future, Your Hard Drives May Be Grown From Magnetic Bacteria

    At the moment, your hard drives are all painstakingly manufactured, a process which is highly centralized. That's why things like natural disasters can drive up hard drive prices for years. In the future, however, this might not be the case.  A breakthrough by researchers at University of Leeds in the UK and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology might lead to growable hard drives through the use of bacteria that eat iron and turn it into magnetite.

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  7. Rugged Bacteria Survive In Cold, Dry, Mars-Like Environments By Eating Iron

    It's hard to imagine that life exists somewhere on the barren, dry, cold reaches of some place like Mars. It's even harder to look for any, on Mars at least. That's why many scientists have turned to studying the extremophile microbes that live in the most inhospitable places on Earth to discover what kind of off-the-wall, unpredictable survival techniques might be used to survive out in the wastes of Mars, or anywhere else for that matter. By studying extremophiles, researchers from Portland State University have discovered a particularly gritty kind of bacteria that survives by essentially eating iron.

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  8. Fecal Transplants Promising for Treating Intestinal Issues, Still Fecal Transplants

    Antibiotics, while being one of the greatest advances in medical history, have their downsides. Sometimes, they can do some collateral damage and destroy cultures of bacteria that rightfully belong in the human body, nice cultures of nice bacteria. When these get killed, problems start. One of the more common instances of this has to do with intestinal bacteria. When the intestinal bacteria landscape gets screwed up, sometimes the only way to right the situation is to reintroduce a culture of healthy bacteria to the area. How do you do that? A fecal transplant.

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  9. Study Finds That Gas Pumps Are Really Dirty, Sky Blue

    A recent study by the Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project found that gas pump handles are the foulest things most Americans come into contact with on a daily basis. This was a stiff competition, as the other surfaces examined in the study included public mailboxes, handrails on escalators, and the buttons on ATMs. While these three ranked in the top four, they were beaten soundly by gas pump handles. The study was fairly simple, using swab samples taken from several public objects with which people have frequent contact, the researchers looked for signs of bacteria or viruses. Specifically, the researchers were looking for adenosine triphosphate, which, according to Reuters, "signals the presence of animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast or mold cells." When it came to gas pump handles, the levels were high enough that researchers believe that it could be a site of disease transmission.

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  10. Bacteriologist to Open Time Capsule and Wake Up 100 Year Old Bacteria For Study

    Way back in 1897, some doctors at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City decided that it might be a good idea to bury a time capsule. This wasn't just any time capsule with the typical yet-to-be-nostalgic odds and ends. No, this time capsule was sick; it was full of bacterial spores called Clostridium perfringens.

    These little guys still live in your average human intestine, but they don't do the same kind of damage they used to. Back in the day, they used to be responsible for infections that would often lead to gangrene. The spores are able to hibernate and that is why Dr. Martin Blaser, a bacteriologist at New York University, decided to crack it open and try to nurse the bacteria back to health. For science!

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  11. Scientists Discover Biofuel Producing Bacteria in Animal Poop

    Led by associate professor of cell and molecular biology David Mullin, researchers at Tulane University have discovered a strain of bacteria that can turn newspaper, or anything made from cellulose, into the biofuel butanol. The bacteria was reportedly found in animal manure in the New Orleans Zoo, and have been feeding happily on pages of the Times Picayune in laboratory experiments. This isn't the first bacteria discovered that can produce butanol, nor the first biological process to be tapped for making fuel. However, this strain, called TU-103, has the unique property of being able to produce butanol in the presence of oxygen. The fact that it produces butanol also intrigues researchers, since butanol has greater energy density than other biofuels like ethanol. This makes the fuel is more akin to conventional gasoline and can be burned in cars without any modification.

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  12. Study: Benedict Arnold Bacteria Betray Their Brethren, Go On Killing Spree

    In what seems to be a bacterial death match, researchers at Nanyang Technological University have genetically altered Escherichia coli to attack and kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is responsible for many infections in hospital patients whose immune systems are weakened. Led by Nazanin Saeidi and Choon Kit Wong, the researchers created E.coli that produces the protein LasR, which can recognize molecules that P.aeruginoa uses to communicate. According to the researchers, they are basically using P. aeurginosa's own defenses against it. When the E.coli's LasR detects the chemical signals that P.aeurginosa uses to communicate with other cells, it switches on two genes. This first gene creates a lethal (to P.aeeruginosa) toxin called pyocin. The toxin breaks through the outer cell wall of the bacteria, causing its insides to leak out. The second gene causes the E.coli to break apart, killing itself and releasing even more pyocin.

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  13. Researchers Create The First Living Nanowire From Bacteria

    Researchers have created what they call a "living nanowire" using an usual type of bacteria that has long filaments outside its body and conducts electrons better than some metals. This could be an important first step in merging biological systems with electronics for small organic batteries or biological superconductors that are much cheaper to produce than silicon-chip based technologies. The research was conducted by a team from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Lead author on the paper, Mark Tuominen, explains that humans and animals typically get rid of electrons through breathing, but the bacteria get rid of electrons through their pili, the long filaments that are used as the nanowire. In the bacteria these electrons are created as a byproduct of the digestive process, because bacteria living in anaerobic zones don't have oxygen molecules to carry any electrons like humans and animals do.

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  14. Recently Discovered Bacteria Can Live on Pure Caffeine

    However much coffee or Red Bull you gulp down in a given day, you're a lightweight compared to Pseudomonas putida CBB5, a recently discovered strain of soil bacteria that is capable of living on pure caffeine. When humans consume caffeine, it circulates through the bloodstream, is broken down into metabolites by the liver, and is then excreted in urine, all without being used for caloric energy; this is why the calorie count of a cup of black coffee is essentially nil. But caffeine is, after all, comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen (its chemical formula is C8H10N4O2), the four most important building blocks of life. Pseudomonas putida CBB5 uses special enzymes to break that caffeine down into carbon dioxide and ammonia, generating energy in the process.

    Within the caffeine molecule are three structures, known as methyl groups, composed of 1 carbon and 3 hydrogens atoms. This bacterium is able to effectively remove these methyl groups (a process known as N-demethylization) and essentially live on caffeine. Summers and his colleagues have identified the three enzymes responsible for the N-demethylization and the genes that code for these enzymes.
    If scientists are able to cheaply synthesize the enzymes responsible, they could potentially be used as building blocks for structurally similar drugs used to treat asthma and blood arhythmias, and, more straightforwardly, to decaffeinate coffee and tea without using the chemical solvents currently used to do so. (via Scientific American, Physorg. | Research abstract. title pic via

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  15. New Weapon Against Persistant Bacterial Infections: Sugar

    For a few patients suffering from a bacterial infection, antibiotics simply won't cut it. Some bacteria have developed multidrug tolerance, a clever defense against the best weapons doctors have to fight them. But a new study published in the journal Nature has shown that by simply adding sugar to a drug regimen, even the most persistant bacteria can be killed off. The crux of an assault on bacteria is that they, like organisms, must eat to survive. When antibiotics are introduced, the bacteria consume the drugs and eventually die off. But some more wily bacterial invaders have learned to shut down their metabolic processes when their breathern start to die off. During this time, they don't eat or reproduce. It could be compared to bears hibernating through the winter. These so-called persisters can remain dormant for months until finally waking up to reproduce once again. To counter the persisters, researchers sought to trick the dormant bacteria into eating even while the antibiotic was still present in the patients.

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  16. To Study Bacteria, Scientists Blast Squid Into Space

    There's a lot that we don't know about living in space, especially about how organisms will adapt to life in low gravity. In an attempt to answer some of these questions, several baby bobtail squid will launch into orbit on the final mission of Space Shuttle Endeavor. This will be the first time that a cephalopod has traveled in space. The study will look at how benifical bacteria function in space. Most complex animals, humans included, are hosts to troves of bacteria that aid in vital biological functions. A simple version of this is the relationship between the bobtail squid and Vibrio fischeri bacteria. In the wild, these bacteria find safe harbor within the baby squid, and the squid in turn uses the bacteria to create light. In the experiment, squid will be exposed to the bacteria while the space shuttle is in orbit. After 28 hours, the squid will be killed and preserved, their bodies analyzed once the shuttle returns to Earth. It's hypothesized that the low gravity environment could make it difficult for the bacteria to set up shop within the squid as easily as they do in nature. Previous experiments using ecoli bacteria found that life off earth did change how the bacteria function. In that case, the results were unsettling: After returning to earth, the bacteria were found to be three times deadlier than normal. That aside, this research will give scientists and mission planners a better understanding of organisms in space, and hopefully give us the knowledge to keep astronauts safe and healthy far from home. (New Scientist via Gizmodo, image via Wikipedia)

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  17. Human Gut Bacteria May Come in Three Flavors

    New research published in the journal Nature suggests that the human microbiome -- that is, the community of organisms that live symbiotically within humans -- may occur in certain set varieties. The study, which sequenced the all the available genes in a fecal matter sample, found that those people sampled fell into three categories they call "enterotypes." This research hinges on the growing acceptance of viewing humans as microbiomes. Humans are, after all, made up of many different bacteria and other tiny critters that help us perform fundamental metabolic functions. How these communities are formed is still not well understood, leading scientists to begin identifying the non-human organisms that make up humans. The possibility that humans fall into distinctive enterotypes could lead to a deeper understanding of what goes on within individuals, and possibly better medical treatment.

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  18. Titanic Wreckage Being Consumed by Massive Super-Organism

    The Titanic has loomed large in the public imagination since her sinking in 1912, bolstered by her rediscovery in 1985, and a certain late-90s film. However, the boat will not be large for much longer, as it is being consumed by metal-munching bacteria. The stalactite-like structures that the bacteria leave behind, called "rusticles," have been observed since the wreck's first exploration in 1986. However, these bacteria aren't working alone. Instead, they have formed a massive colony that functions like a single organism.

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  19. Today in “Uhhh…”: 7 Out of 10 Single Men’s Coffee Tables Have Fecal Bacteria on Them

    Here's a statistic that will make foul bachelor frogs rejoice and will probably not give many women confidence in the hygienic abilities of their boyfriends: According to a recent microbiological study of single men's apartments, seven out of ten coffee tables surveyed were host to coliform bacteria, "a variety of bacteria abundant in the feces of warm-blooded animals." So, uh, how did it get there?

    “I would suspect the guys probably put their feet up on the coffee table. About 90 percent of shoes have fecal bacteria on the bottom after you wear them for three months,” said Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “My wife never puts her feet on the table. I do, and I keep getting told to take them off.”
    To be fair, coliforms were discovered on the same surfaces in some of the bachelorettes’ homes. The bugs just weren’t quite as common — or plentiful — at the ladies’ digs. Except for one spot: 33 percent of the women’s front doorknobs harbored colonies of coliforms.
    To be fair, the study was commissioned by Clorox, so a little skepticism may be warranted. Sadly, though, this seems all too plausible. We wonder if these guys have anything to do with it. (MSNBC via LiveScience)

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  20. Growing Belly Button Bacteria, for Science!

    The above picture shows belly button bacteria growing in petri dishes, harvested from scientists, journalists and bloggers attending the ScienceOnline 2011 Conference. One may wonder why this is a thing, and the answer--as it usually is--is because of science, of course. The growing bacteria are part of the Belly Button Biodiversity project, which is also a thing, headed by North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and is part of a larger project with the goal of teaching humans the kinds of things that live in and on us. To gross us out. But, you know, for science.

    (via Boing Boing)

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