New to Science – microbes from raw cow’s milk, corals and millipedes

Each month, the Microbiology Society publishes the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM), which details newly discovered species of bacteria, fungi and protists. Here are a few of the new species that have been discovered and the places they’ve been found. 

Welcome to 2017! Here are some highlights from the latest issue of IJSEM, published last week.

Scientists from China have isolated a new species of actinomycete from a millipede. The bacterium, which they name Streptomyces kronopolitis, produces chemicals known as phoslactomycins, which could potentially be used as antifungal agents.

Researchers in Thailand have discovered a new microbe in the roots of the Jerusalem artichoke, a plant that produces edible tubers. The microbe, Pseudoxanthomonas helianthi, forms yellow circular colonies – fitting as its plant host is actually a sunflower.

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Raw cow’s milk (milk that hasn’t been pasteurised) is full of bacteria, some of which can be pathogenic. Scientists from Germany investigating the microbiota in raw cow’s milk found several Corynebacterium species, including a novel one that they name Corynebacterium crudilactis.

Two new bacterial species have been found living in a fish pond this month. A group from Taiwan gave them both suitably fishy names: Piscinibacterium candidicorallinum and Sphingomonas piscinae. The same group also isolated the species Thalassotalea euphylliae on the beautiful torch coral, which has distinctive colourful tips on the end of its polyps.

Continuing the underwater theme, a group of Norwegian microbiologists have discovered a thermophilic bacterium on the wall of a hydrothermal vent, called Marinitoga arctica. And a pair of researchers from the United States have isolated the species Acidobacterium ailaaui from a geothermally heated microbial mat in Hawaii.

The full papers describing these species are available to journal subscribers, but the abstracts are free to read. Articles can also purchased individually with the pay-per-view option.

Anand Jagatia

Image credit: Bernard DUPONT on Flickr, under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Antibiotic spider silk that can heal wounds

Spider silk is pretty much the world’s coolest material. It’s extremely flexible, tougher than Kevlar, and weight for weight it’s stronger than steel. If that isn’t enough, there’s even evidence that some spider silks might have antimicrobial properties.

For example, peoples of the Carpathian Mountains reportedly used the webs from Atypus spiders as bandages. And experiments have shown that silk from the common house spider can inhibit the growth of some bacteria. Spider silk is also biodegradable, non-antigenic and non-inflammatory – which are all ideal properties for wound dressings.

Now, researchers from the University of Nottingham have taken things one step further by augmenting the natural properties of spider silk with the power of current antibiotics. Previous methods for going about this essentially involve soaking the fibres in an antibiotic solution, so that the molecules diffuse out. But, as reported in Advanced Materials, it’s also possible to modify the silk itself, chemically linking antibiotic molecules directly to the fibres.

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Posted in Clinical and Medical Microbiology, Technology | 1 Comment

On the Horizon: Monkeypox

On 8 May 1980, after a global vaccination campaign, the WHO declared that smallpox had been eradicated. Wiping out this viral disease, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout history, should be considered one of humanity’s greatest achievements. In fact, to date, smallpox is one of only two diseases that we have managed to completely eliminate.

However, this incredible feat has come with some unexpected negative consequences. Just as, centuries before, cowpox virus protected people from getting smallpox, scientists today are discovering that smallpox vaccination may have been preventing the emergence of another related disease: monkeypox. Without the smallpox vaccine to protect people, monkeypox cases are on the rise.

Monkeypox is a member of the genus Orthopoxvirus, and causes similar symptoms to its famous cousin, although thankfully much less severe. Although estimates vary, fatality rates are believed to be less that 10% (compared to around 30% for smallpox). Human-to-human transmission can occur, but is rare. Continue reading

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Best videos and podcasts of 2016

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We’ve been busy this year producing lots of multimedia content about microbiology! If you missed some of it the first time, we’ve rounded up some of our favourites below.

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and to our podcast too. Continue reading

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Best blog posts of 2016

16501630086_c74f4db698_z2016 is almost coming to a close, and what a year it’s been.

Bowie, Prince, Trump, Brexit… Pokemon Go. It’s been momentous to say the least.

Before 2017 rolls around, it’s time again to look back at the top ten most viewed articles from the blog this year, in classic reverse order. Continue reading

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Microbe Talk: Brewing Better Beer

 

What gives beer its taste? Why do some ales taste of berries, bananas or chocolate?

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A big part of the answer is the type of yeast used to ferment it. There are hundreds of different strains that brewers can use to make beer, and many of them can be found at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in Norwich.

We went for a pint with scientists from the NCYC to find out how different yeasts affect the taste of ales, and learn about their research to find strains that can produce new and better beers.

Anand Jagatia

Posted in Food Microbiology, Mycology | 1 Comment

New to science: November 2016

Each month, the Microbiology Society publishes the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM), which details newly discovered species of bacteria, fungi and protists. Here are a few of the new species that have been discovered and the places they’ve been found. 

Let’s start with a discovery from China, where scientists have found a novel Actinobacterium in the faeces of the bird Columba livia. Or, to be more prosaic about things, in pigeon poop. They name the species Microbacterium faecale. Meanwhile in India, researchers have discovered another member of the genus, Microbacterium aureliae, from a moon jellyfish in the Bay of Bengal.

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