Tag Archives: E.coli

Microbiology Science Quickies: Coral Herpes, Dangerous Grilling, & Bacterial Communications

2 Apr

Ahhhh! So much science and health stuff to share! My poor web browser is drowning again!

You may have heard that the world’s coral reefs are collapsing, and while there are many theories, we have yet to fully explain why. It’s often assumed that climate change and pollution are the main culprits, and there is probably truth to that.
But now scientists are examining another culprit: a virus.
Particularly, a herpes virus.
From microbiologist Rebecca Vega-Thurber: “We were shocked to find that so many coral viruses were in the herpes family. But corals are one of the oldest animal life forms, evolving around 500 million years ago, and herpes is a very old family of viruses that can infect almost every kind of animal. Herpes and corals may have evolved together.”

That being said, I do not recommend you try to pick up chicks by telling them your penis can vanquish marine ecosystems.

As the days get longer and summer approaches, many people are firing up their grills to participate in the American tradition of consuming charred meat. However, grilling is not without it’s health risks. Along with E.coli and carcinogen formation, the traditional wire grill brush may also make you sick, NPR reports. SOme good news though: the use of antioxidant spices may reduce the negative effects of those delicious fatty meats, especially rosemary.  Additionally, proper grilling technique will typically kill the deadly E.coli o157:H7 strain.

Bacteria are pretty interesting critters that can not only talk to each other, they play prisoner’s dilemma to decide their fate.
“When faced with life-or-death situations, bacteria use an extremely sophisticated version of “game theory” to consider their options and decide upon the best course of action.” Of all the microbiology-related articles I’ve read lately, this is one of the most interesting.

According to Yale University, just the mere presence of a person in the room can cause bacterial levels to spike. When a person enters the room, they stir up bacteria. Says the article: “Many previous studies have surveyed the variety of germs present in everyday spaces. But this is the first study that quantifies how much a lone human presence affects the level of indoor biological aerosols.”

In biochemical news, researchers have captured the first images of vitamin B12 in action. In 3D, no less! Scientists from the University of Michigan Health System and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report they have created the first full 3-D images of B12 and its partner molecules twisting and contorting as part of a crucial reaction called “methyltransfer.” This reaction is vital both human cells and in bacteria that consume carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Such bacteria live in the guts of humans, cows, and other animals, and aid with digestion.

Glass E.coli

26 Mar

Glass E.coli sculpture makes me swoon with delight.

E.coli Is Pretty Damn Cute.

29 Feb

Not many people would consider Escherichia coli to be cute. Or any other bacteria, really.
But this little Gram-negative darling deserves some respect and appreciation. There are many strains, ranging from peacefully non-pathogenic to potentially fatal food poisoning, with an impressive range of genetic and phenotypic diversity. And don’t forget the menacing H0157:H7, a sneaky little punk who stole the notorious shiga toxin from Shigella.

E.coli 0157:H7 would totally have a mohawk.

Science owes a lot to E.coli.  It was one of the first organisms to have its genome sequenced. Since the initial sequencing in 1997, there have been 60 completely sequenced strains. So diverse is this organism that these 60 sequenced strains only share 20% of their DNA. The other 80% of each strain is wildly different!
In the 1940’s, Joshua Lederberg and Edward Tatum used E.coli to describe the phenomenon bacterial conjugation, where bacteria exchange and transfer genetic material via direct contact, much like a flash drive can transfer info between computers. In 1988, a long-term experiment involving 12 identical cultures of E.coli was set up.
In 2010, the cultures reached 50,000 generations, and display a wide variety of diversity, including one culture which can now utilize citrate. Citrate utilization is a common test used to differentiate Salmonella (positive) from E.coli (negative) in medical microbiology labs. While there has yet to be a known case of wild E.coli utilizing citrate, we now know that they can evolve to adapt that characteristic on their own.
You may have heard of Mutaflor, a probiotic used to treat gastrointestional disorders. That’s actually a specialized strain of E.coli! (I like to pretend that it wears those old-fashioned nurse uniforms).

E.coli has taught us so much about microbiology, genetics, and evolution. And if that isn’t adorable enough, E.coli is peritrichous, meaning that it has beautiful flagella everywhere!

Seriously, flagella everywhere! They probably give the best hugs! The flagella are like itty bitty rotary-powered protein tentacles. It’s basically the bacterial version of Cthulhu. Good thing they never bothered to evolve wings. (Yet.)

(First image from shardcore.com. They have wonderful art.)