Huge bacteria-eating viruses close gap between life and non-life

Scientists have discovered hundreds of unusually large, bacteria-killing viruses with capabilities normally associated with living organisms, blurring the line between living microbes and viral machines. These phages — short for bacteriophages, so-called because they “eat” bacteria — are of a size and complexity considered typical of life, carry numerous genes normally found in bacteria and … Read more Huge bacteria-eating viruses close gap between life and non-life

Scientists solve structure enabling cyanobacteria to thrive in low light

Scientists have determined the structure of the protein complex that gives cyanobacteria their unique ability to convert weak, filtered sunlight into useable energy. Their findings could one day be used to engineer crops that thrive under low-light conditions. Tiny photosynthetic organisms that live virtually everywhere on earth, cyanobacteria helped to create an oxygen-rich atmosphere on … Read more Scientists solve structure enabling cyanobacteria to thrive in low light

Color-changing bandages sense and treat bacterial infections

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health. Sensing and treating bacterial infections earlier could help improve patients’ recovery, as well curb the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have developed color-changing bandages that can sense drug-resistant and drug-sensitive bacteria in wounds and … Read more Color-changing bandages sense and treat bacterial infections

Plants from diverse European habitats associate with the same small group of highly abundant microorganisms

A continental-scale census and analysis of root-inhabiting microorganisms reveals that plants across Europe consistently harbour a small group of unexpectedly abundant ‘core’ microorganisms, irrespective of soil conditions and climate. This contrasts to strong effects of the local environment on the composition of surrounding soil microbial communities and on the relative fitness of different populations of … Read more Plants from diverse European habitats associate with the same small group of highly abundant microorganisms

Simple steps to avoid food poisoning this Christmas

Summer is a ‘danger period’ for food poisoning in Australia, but there are simple steps we can take to reduce the risk, say researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). Hot weather promotes the growth of foodborne bacteria, so it’s important to avoid leaving food out in the heat for extended periods, particularly meat. Dr … Read more Simple steps to avoid food poisoning this Christmas

Breathing? Thank volcanoes, tectonics and bacteria

Earth’s breathable atmosphere is key for life, and a new study suggests that the first burst of oxygen was added by a spate of volcanic eruptions brought about by tectonics. The study by geoscientists at Rice University offers a new theory to help explain the appearance of significant concentrations of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere about … Read more Breathing? Thank volcanoes, tectonics and bacteria

Genes borrowed from bacteria allowed plants to move to land

Natural genetic engineering allowed plants to move from water to land, according to a new study by an international group of scientists from Canada, China, France, Germany, and Russia. “This is one of the most important events in the evolution of life on this planet–without which we as a species would not exist,” said Gane … Read more Genes borrowed from bacteria allowed plants to move to land

Salmonella – how the body fights back

New research from the University of East Anglia shows how the human body powers its emergency response to salmonella infection. A study, published today in the journal PNAS, reveals how blood stem cells respond in the first few hours following infection – by acquiring energy from bone marrow support cells. It is hoped that the findings … Read more Salmonella – how the body fights back

Turning a dangerous toxin into a biosensor

Some types of bacteria have the ability to punch holes into other cells and kill them. They do this by releasing specialized proteins called “pore-forming toxins” (PFTs) that latch onto the cell’s membrane and form a tube-like channel that goes through it. This hole (structure?) across the membrane is called a pore. Punctured by multiple … Read more Turning a dangerous toxin into a biosensor

Koala epidemic provides lesson in how DNA protects itself from viruses

In animals, infections are fought by the immune system. Studies on an unusual virus infecting wild koalas, by a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Queensland, reveal a new form of “genome immunity.” The study appears October 10 in the journal Cell. Retroviruses, including pathogens like HIV, incorporate … Read more Koala epidemic provides lesson in how DNA protects itself from viruses