Tag Archives | Bacteria

When Antibiotics Fail, Fecal Transplants Work

The idea of somebody else’s feces being implanted in your body may not sound great, but on the other hand pumping chemicals into your body often proves to be fatal. Denise Grady reports for the New York Times that the “natural” cure for Clostridium difficile infections is far more effective than antibiotics:

The treatment may sound appalling, but it works.

Transplanting feces from a healthy person into the gut of one who is sick can quickly cure severe intestinal infections caused by a dangerous type of bacteria that antibiotics often cannot control.

A new study finds that such transplants cured 15 of 16 people who had recurring infections with Clostridium difficile bacteria, whereas antibiotics cured only 3 of 13 and 4 of 13 patients in two comparison groups. The treatment appears to work by restoring the gut’s normal balance of bacteria, which fight off C. difficile.

The study is the first to compare the transplants with standard antibiotic therapy.

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Scientists Discover Bacteria That Turns Toxic Chemicals Into 24-Karat Gold

Alchemy by bacteria, via the Huffington Post:

Scientists have developed a bug which produces pure gold. The team at Michigan State University say that they found the bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans is able to take gold chloride, a toxic chemical found in nature, and turn it into 24-karat gold.

“Microbial alchemy is what we’re doing – transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable,” said Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.

Unfortunately however the process isn’t particularly cost-effective meaning that it is more expensive to enact the conversion than the actual value of the gold produced.

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OM NOM NOM! Oil-Loving Bacteria Help With Deepwater Horizon Clean-Up

Picture: Artist's Conception, Oil-Eating bacteria (PD)

Via LiveScience:

Scientists studying the after-effects of 2010′s Deepwater Horizon oil spill report that naturally-occurring bacteria have devoured 200,000 tons of the oil and natural gas that settled into the ocean floor in the days after the disaster. Before you get too excited, though, remember that this is less than ten percent of the total amount that was spilled into the gulf. Still, every little bit helps, even if it seems the oil-loving microbes seem to have lost their appetite:

Researcher John Kessler, of the University of Rochester, said the hydrocarbon-eating bacteria removed the majority of the oil and gas trapped in underwater layers more than a half-mile below the surface. But the bacteria’s appetite seemed to die down five months after the April 2010 explosion that set off the environmental disaster, Kessler and his team found.

Read more at LiveScience.

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Magnetic Bacteria Create a Biological Hard Drive

Hard DriveJacob Aron writes in New Scientist:

Computer virus destroyed your hard drive? Don’t worry, some day bacteria might build you a bigger and better one.

Hard drives store data on discs coated with a metallic film divided into tiny magnetic regions, each of which stores a single bit — the more regions you can squeeze on to a disc, the bigger the capacity. Now, a team at the University of Leeds, UK, have borrowed a trick from nature to build a new kind of hard drive.

Certain strains of bacteria absorb iron to make magnetic nanoparticles that let them navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. The team have extracted the protein behind this process and used it to create magnetic patterns that can store data. “We’re using and abusing nature because it’s had billions of years to do all of its experiments through evolution, so there is almost no point in us starting from scratch,” says Sarah Staniland, who led the research (Small, vol 8, p  204).

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How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy

catnapIs a microscopic, mind-altering parasite spread by cats responsible for car accidents, hoarding behaviors, and schizophrenia? Respected scientists are now saying that “crazy cat lady” disease is real and millions of people are infected. Shocker from Kathleen McAuliffe in the Atlantic:

Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s now discovering will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis — the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death.

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Flesh-Eating Bacteria Mutation Now Spread By Sneezing And Handshakes

4014611539_bfdaef47d5My bet for how civilization will end in 2012…The worst strains of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” have largely been found within hospitals, but the newest version can be contracted far more easily and is spreading through the streets in Britain and the United States, the Daily Mail reports:

A flesh-eating form of pneumonia that is easily passed between healthy people on public transport is spreading across the UK, experts have warned.

The deadly strain of MRSA called USA300 passes easily through skin-to-skin contact. It can also survive on surfaces and so has the potential to be picked up on crowded buses and tubes. It was first seen in the U.S but cases are now being reported in the community and not just hospitals in Britain.

USA300 is resistant to treatment by several front-line antibiotics and can cause large boils on the skin. In severe cases, USA300 can lead to fatal blood poisoning or a form of pneumonia that can eat away at lung tissue.

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Stomach Bacteria Influences Your Mood And Behavior

bacteria These little guys may be doing the thinking for you. Science Daily reports:

For the first time, researchers have conclusive evidence that bacteria residing in the gut influence brain chemistry and behavior.

The findings are important because several common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated with anxiety or depression. In addition there has been speculation that some psychiatric disorders, such as late onset autism, may be associated with an abnormal bacterial content in the gut.

For each person, the gut is home to about 1,000 trillion vital bacteria with which we live in harmony. Any disruption can result in life-threatening conditions, such as antibiotic-induced colitis.

Working with healthy adult mice, the researchers showed that disrupting the normal bacterial content of the gut with antibiotics produced changes in behavior; the mice became less cautious or anxious. This change was accompanied by an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been linked to depression and anxiety.

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Will Nanotechnology Save Us From Drug-Resistant Bacteria?

staphThe future: injecting tiny nanoparticles into our bodies to fight the superbugs against which our immune systems are powerless. How could that ever go wrong? Via Technology Review:

Researchers at IBM are designing nanoparticles that kill bacteria by poking holes in them. The scientists hope that the microbes are less likely to develop resistance to this type of drug, which means it could be used to combat the emerging problem of antibiotic resistance.

IBM’s labs aren’t equipped for biological tests, so the researchers collaborated with Yi Yan Yang at the Singapore Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to test the nanoparticles. They found that the nanoparticles could burst open and kill gram-positive bacteria, a large class of microbes that includes drug-resistant staph. The nanoparticles also killed fungi.

The IBM researchers believe the drug could be injected intravenously to treat people with life-threatening infections. Or it could be made into a gel that could be applied to wounds to treat or prevent infection.

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Half Of Supermarket Meat Contains Drug-Resistant Bacteria

MeatWebMD‘s Brenda Goodman reports on this shocking new study:

There’s a new reason to be careful when handling raw meat at mealtimes.

Researchers testing raw turkey, pork, beef, and chicken purchased at grocery stores in five different cities across the U.S. say that roughly one in four of those samples tested positive for a multidrug antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacterium.

“The findings were pretty shocking,” says study researcher Lance B. Price, PhD, director of the Center of Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Ariz. “We found that 47% of the samples were contaminated with Staph aureus, and more than half of those strains were multidrug resistant, or resistant to three or more antibiotics.”

The presence of drug-resistant staph bacteria, a category that includes methicillin-resistant Staphylococccus aureus (MRSA), in farm animals and food has been a closely watched problem in Europe, where it has been traced to outbreaks of human disease.

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Losing The War Against Drug-Resistant Superbugs

NEWS-US-ANTIBIOTICSWe’ve all heard warnings that overuse of antibiotics would breed drug-resistant superbugs, but the day of reckoning seems to be approaching faster than anyone anticipated, and science is at a loss for what to do. The pharmaceutical industry is proving to be little help, having abandoned the field of medicines that cure things for the golden revenue flow of drugs that individuals consume chronically until death (e.g. antidepressants and cholesterol-controlling medicine). Are we headed for a future of human helplessness against bacterial plagues, as in the Middle Ages? Via News Daily:

Welcome to a world where the drugs don’t work. For decades scientists have managed to develop new medicines to stay at least one step ahead of an ever-mutating enemy.

Now, though, we may be running out of road. MRSA alone is estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States — far more than HIV and AIDS — and a similar number in Europe.

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