Microbes



Professor Gerald Wright of McMaster University has conducted research in Lechuguilla Cave to examine a bacterium known as Paenibacillus sp. LC231. This bacterium has been isolated inside the cave for thousands of years, making it the perfect atmosphere to study how microorganisms have evolved without human contact and interference. According to Wright’s study published in the journal Nature Communications, Paenibacillus sp. LC231 is resistant to 26 of 40 antibiotics tested. In addition to the resistance of numerous antibiotics, the bacterium also inactivates 7 distinct classes.



"Companies will have a year to take the ingredients out of the products, the FDA said. They include triclosan and triclocarban. Soap manufacturers will have an extra year to negotiate over other, less commonly used ingredients such as benzalkonium chloride.

Triclosan used in 93 percent of liquid products labeled "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial" - at least 2,000 different products, according to the FDA. Triclosan breaks open the cell walls of bacteria, killing them. But it takes several hours to do this, so it does little good in the time it takes to wash and dry hands.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that soap doesn't need added antiseptics to make it work any better. The FDA is also reviewing hand sanitizers and products used by hospitals."



"Bacteria develop antibiotic resistance in two ways. Many acquire mutations in their own genomes that allow them to withstand antibiotics, although that ability can’t be shared with pathogens outside their own family. Other bacteria rely on a shortcut: They get infected with something called a plasmid, a small piece of DNA, carrying a gene for antibiotic resistance. That makes resistance genes more dangerous because plasmids can make copies of themselves and transfer the genes they carry to other bugs within the same family as well as jump to other families of bacteria, which can then “catch” the resistance directly without having to develop it through evolution.

The colistin-resistant E. coli found in the Pennsylvania woman has this type of resistance gene."



One bacterium known to have oil-eating abilities, Alcanivorax, was previously thought incapable of consuming the more stable hydrocarbons the spill left behind. Others, like Neptuniibacter, weren't known to be involved with degrading oil in the Gulf.

Marinobacter was enriched with n-hexadecane,” the study detailed, “and uncultured Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria populations were enriched in the polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbon-degrading communities and contained a broad gene set for degrading phenanthrene and naphthalene.”



"The exact mechanism of the oligodynamic effect is still unknown but some data suggest that the metal ions denature protein of the target cells by binding to reactive groups resulting in their precipitation and inactivation. The high affinity of cellular proteins for the metallic ions results in the death of the cells due to cumulative effects of the ion within the cells (Benson 2002). Similarly, silver inactivates enzymes by binding with sulfhydryl groups to form silver sulfides or sulfhydryl-binding propensity of silver ion disrupts cell membranes, disables proteins and inhibits enzyme activities (Thurman & Gerba 1988; Semikina & Skulacher 1990). The study also suggest that positively charged copper ion distorts the cell wall by bonding to negatively charged groups and allowing the silver ion into the cell (Hambidge 2001). Silver ions bind to DNA, RNA, enzymes and cellular proteins causing cell damage and death."



More importantly, they found that small changes in diets could lead to pretty drastic changes in gut health. Yogurt and buttermilk led to a more diverse microbiome, but full-fat foods like butter decreased diversity. And, in a big win for humankind, red wine and coffee increased diversity. Diets heavy in carbohydrates decreased diversity.

The researchers identified 60 factors that could influence microbiome diversity. But they aren’t entirely sure what that will mean in the long run—more research needs to be done. “But there is a good correlation between diversity and health: greater diversity is better,” said Alexandra Zhernakova, a researcher at the University Medical Center Groningen.



"In coal spoils and slag heaps, pill bugs come in handy. They take in heavy metals like lead and cadmium and crystallize these ions in their guts. The heavy metal toxins are then made into spherical deposits in the mid gut. With this special cleanup property, pill bugs survive where most creatures can’t, in the most contaminated sites. The magic of the pill bugs helps reestablish healthy soil and prevents toxic metal ions from leaching into the groundwater. This means pill bugs are also protecting well water from becoming contaminated while stabilizing soils."



Recent studies indicate that treatment with a specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, may be able to alleviate depression. The results so far suggest that simply inhaling the bacteria — you get a dose just by taking a walk in the wild or rooting around in the garden — activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain targeted by Prozac. “You can also ingest mycobacteria either through water sources or through eating plants—lettuce that you pick from the garden, or carrots,” Lowry says.



“It’s not so much making the compost, but it was the change in plant growth we observed when we shifted the soil microbial community structure, moving it from bacterial-dominated to fungal,” NMSU professor David Johnson said. “That’s what we’re now trying to do in agriculture – trying to shift the microbial community structure in soils.”




“Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach. They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA. Their findings will be presented at a national microbiology conference... The remedy was found in Bald's Leechbook — an old English manuscript containing instructions on various treatments held in the British Library.

Anglo-Saxon expert Dr. Christina Lee, from the University of Nottingham, translated the recipe for an ’eye salve,’ which includes garlic, onion or leeks, wine and cow bile. Experts from the university's microbiology team recreated the remedy and then tested it on large cultures of MRSA ... In each case, they tested the individual ingredients against the bacteria, as well as the remedy and a control solution. They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.”



"Plants respond to nutrient deficiency by altering root morphology, recruiting the help of microorganisms and changing the chemical environment of the rhizosphere. Components in root exudates assist plants in accessing nutrients by acidifying or changing the redox conditions within the rhizosphere or directly chelating with the nutrient. Exudates can liberate nutrients via dissolution of insoluble mineral phases or desorption from clay minerals or organic matter where they are released into soil solution and can then be taken up by the plant."



"Researchers from the University of Texas, Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute ran computer models on data from more than 200 soil profiles from around the world. They found that soils dominated by ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal (EEM) fungi contain as much as 70% more carbon than soils dominated by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. That’s because the EEM fungi produce more nitrogen-degrading enzymes, which allows them to extract more nitrogen from the soil. They essentially outcompete the soil microbes, which slows down their ability to decompose dead plant matter and return carbon from the soil to the atmosphere. Perhaps unfortunately for us, though, AM fungi symbiosis is far more common, occurring in approximately 85% of plant families, while just a few plant families have a symbiotic relationship with EEM fungi."



"No one knew glomalin existed until it was discovered in 1996 by Sara Wright, a soil scientist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Maryland. She named it after glomales, the taxonomic order that includes arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Not only did she uncover its role in soil-building and carbon sequestration, but a subsequent four-year research project under her direction demonstrated that levels of glomalin could be maintained and raised with regenerative farming practices, including no-till planting.

In the study, Wright observed that glomalin levels rose each year after no-till was implemented, from 1.3 milligrams per gram of soil (mg/g) after the first year to 1.7 mg/g after the third. A control plot in a nearby field that was plowed and planted each year had only 0.7 mg/g. In a further comparison, the soil under a fifteen-year-old buffer strip of grass had 2.7 mg/g of glomalin. She also discovered that some plants don’t attract arbuscular fungi to their roots, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustards, rapeseed, and canola."



"To identify the mechanism behind this unusual link, NYU’s Ken Cadwell and colleagues studied mice that lacked the gene Nod2, which confers susceptibility to Crohn’s disease. The mice developed abnormal gut morphology, including increased numbers of Bacteroides vulgatus bacteria. But infecting the mice with the intestinal worm Trichuris muris restored the animals’ guts to a healthy state, the researchers found. It did this by blocking B. vulgatus with the immune signaling molecules interleukin 4 (IL4) and IL13, and by promoting the growth of beneficial Clostridiales bacteria. Infection with another worm, Heligmosomoides polygyrus, had an even stronger beneficial effect, the researchers reported."



Modern Farmer:
Corn: Corn-derived ethanol is big business in the United States — 2014 production is expected to hit an all-time high of 14.2 billion gallons, with exports at around 1 billion gallons.

Wheat: The U.K. has been experimenting with bioether produced from wheat, but the fuel’s density is so low that it’s more likely to be used as an additive than to fuel cars by itself.

Vegetable Oils: Pretty much any vegetable oil (think rapeseed, sunflower, soy, hemp, flax) can be turned into biodiesel, which can be found at many European gas stations. But don’t look for a pump near you anytime soon…the EU produces over 50% of the world’s biodiesel, and international trade is currently being stifled by technical and export issues.

Sugar: Sugar beets are gaining steam as an ethanol producer, and sorghum is being pushed as a sustainable use of the Mississippi Delta region’s 0.8 million tons of the crop. Expect controversies like the recent fight between Nebraska corn and sugar beet farmers to draw even more attention to sugary biofuel.

Food Waste: Sewage treatment plants around the world are adding food to waste processing systems (formerly hogged by systems that take advantage of pig, cow, and human waste) to create methane biogas that helps generate electricity and heat homes.

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