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74 news posts in Frontiers in Microbiology

Featured news

08 Nov 2023

Could willow bark provide our next life-saving antiviral medicine?

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists have found that specially processed samples of willow bark extract have an antiviral effect which isn’t seen in already known medical compounds from willow bark, such as salicylic acid, the precursor to modern aspirin. The extract worked against two common types of virus with very different structures, enteroviruses and coronaviruses, suggesting the potential for a new broad-spectrum antiviral to help us fight viruses that are otherwise hard to treat. From a seasonal cold to a stomach bug, nobody likes catching a virus — and epidemics can be devastating. We need safe, sustainable antiviral options to treat the outbreaks of the future. Scientists in Finland have now shown that an extract of willow bark — a plant which has already provided several medicines, including the precursor to modern aspirin — has a broad-spectrum antiviral effect in cell sample experiments. The extract worked both on enveloped coronaviruses, which cause colds as well as Covid-19, and non-enveloped enteroviruses, which cause infections such as flu and meningitis. There are no clinically approved drugs which work against enteroviruses directly, so this extract could be a future game-changer. “We need broadly acting and efficient tools to combat […]



14 Sep 2023

Identifying polar bears just got easier: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Polar bear identity and sex can be established from paw prints The recent loss of sea ice is forcing polar bears – one of the Arctic’s biggest predators – to spend more time on land closer to human settlements. To prevent potential human-animal conflicts and to protect the species, polar bear populations must be monitored and managed. More often than not, this is a costly and difficult endeavor, in part because of the remote regions the bears inhabit. Now, a team of researchers in the US has developed a method to keep track of polar bears that might make scientist less reliant on having to capture the bears to get data. Writing in Frontiers in Conservation Science, they investigated the use of environmental DNA – cells which the animals shed when walking – collected from paw-prints in the snow to identify individual polar bears and their sex. They sampled 13 polar […]

Featured news

13 Sep 2023

Certain proteins in breast milk found to be essential for a baby’s healthy gut

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Researchers have shown that high concentrations of key proteins in human breast milk, especially osteopontin and κ-casein, are associated with a greater abundance of two species of bacteria in the gut of babies: Clostridium butyricum and Parabacteroides distasonis, known to be beneficial for human health and used as probiotics. These results suggest that proteins in breast milk influence the abundance of beneficial gut microbes in infants, playing an important role in early immune and metabolic development More than 320 million years of mammalian evolution has adapted breast milk to meet all the physiological needs of babies: it contains not only nutrients, but also hormones, antimicrobials, digestive enzymes, and growth factors. Furthermore, many of the proteins in breast milk, for example casein and milk fat globule membrane proteins, aren’t just sources of energy and molecular building blocks, but also directly stimulate immunity, at least under preclinical conditions. Likewise, the gut microbiome, composed of bacteria, archaea, and fungi, plays a vital role in the regulation of the immune system. This raises the possibility that the immune-boosting function of breast milk proteins might be two-pronged: not only by stimulating the immune system directly, but also indirectly, by […]


Featured news

15 Aug 2023

Scientists pinpoint the microbes essential to making traditional mozzarella

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists studied the microbes present at different stages of the mozzarella-making process at different dairies using DNA analysis. Most of the bacteria were either Lactobacillus or Streptococcus, but at a smaller dairy, more minor bacterial families were found. The general similarity of the microbiota involved between dairies suggests that, despite minor differences between manufacturers, the same microbes make the mozzarella. Mozzarella is far more than just a pizza topping. A unique Italian cheese, buffalo mozzarella from Campania has been recognized as a delicacy and protected under EU law for nearly 30 years. But what makes this mozzarella so special? The ingredients are simple: water buffalo milk, rennet, and natural whey starter, processed using fresh water and brine. But the natural whey starter contains microbes that are crucial to developing the mozzarella. Scientists from Italy used high-throughput 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, which gives a detailed picture of what microbes are present and in what proportions, to understand how microbes make mozzarella. “This study sheds light on the intricate interactions of microorganisms throughout the manufacturing process and fosters a deeper understanding of the craftsmanship behind this esteemed Italian cheese,” said Dr Alessia Levante of […]


Featured news

02 Aug 2023

Fighting chronic pain with food: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Certain foods help ease chronic pain Chronic pain caused by rheumatic diseases often requires prolonged treatment using drugs which are associated with side effects. Eating a certain diet, however, has been suggested as a possible way to alleviate chronic pain symptoms. Recommended foods include berries, fatty fish, and avocados. In a pilot study, researchers in Spain have evaluated the efficacy of an anti-inflammatory diet in patients with chronic pain. They have published their findings in Frontiers in Nutrition. In a first step, the researchers designed a 13-item anti-inflammatory dietary guide, including anti-inflammatory foods like curcumin and coffee. Foods with inflammatory properties, for example red meat, gluten, and cow’s milk, were excluded from the list. In the second part of the study, participants followed the diet for four months. The researchers found a positive correlation between the anti-inflammatory food participants ate and physical characteristics, stress, and pain. Consuming the anti-inflammatory diet also […]


10 May 2023

Scientists discover microbes in the Alps and Arctic that can digest plastic at low temperatures

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Image: Beat Stierli Scientists from Switzerland have identified 19 novel strains of cold-adapted specialist bacteria and fungi from the Alps and the Arctic region that can digest biodegradable plastics at 15°C. This ability, if upscaled to an industrial scale, will save money and energy during recycling Finding, cultivating, and bioengineering organisms that can digest plastic not only aids in the removal of pollution, but is now also big business. Several microorganisms that can do this have already been found, but when their enzymes that make this possible are applied at an industrial scale, they typically only work at temperatures above 30°C. The heating required means that industrial applications remain costly to date, and aren’t carbon-neutral. But there is a possible solution to this problem: finding specialist cold-adapted microbes whose enzymes work at lower temperatures. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute WSL knew where to look for such micro-organisms: at high altitudes in the Alps of their country, or in the polar regions. Their findings are published in Frontiers in Microbiology. “Here we show that novel microbial taxa obtained from the ‘plastisphere’ of alpine and arctic soils were able to break down biodegradable plastics at […]

Featured news

06 Dec 2022

10 Frontiers articles that caught the world’s attention in 2022

By Frontiers’ science writers Image: As part of Frontiers’ passion to make science available to all, we highlight just a small selection of the most fascinating research published with us each month to help inspire current and future researchers to achieve their research dreams. 2022 was no different, and saw many game-changing discoveries contribute to the world’s breadth of knowledge on topics ranging from the climate crisis to robotics, and exercise to the lives of our ancestors. So to round of the year, here are 10 Frontiers articles from this year that got the world’s top media talking. 1. This illusion, new to science, is strong enough to trick our reflexes Have a look at the image below. Do you perceive that the central black hole is expanding, as if you’re moving into a dark environment, or falling into a hole? If so, you’re not alone: a study published to Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that this ‘expanding hole’ illusion, which is new to science, is perceived by approximately 86% of people. The researchers don’t yet know why a minority seem unsusceptible to the ‘expanding hole’ illusion. Nor do they know whether other vertebrate species, or even nonvertebrate animals […]

Climate action

04 Nov 2022

From ghost gear to microbe memories: 4 Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just four amazing papers you may have missed. The hunt for ghost gear 25-30% of the plastic waste in the sea is lost fishing gear, or ‘ghost gear’, some of it now up to 60 years old. This ghost gear devastates the environment not only through continuing to trap fish, but also by shedding microplastics into the environment which then enter the food chain. Once it sinks as far as the sea floor, it becomes invisible from above – a hidden threat to the marine ecosystem. A team led by Andrea Stolte from the World Wildlife Foundation, writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, reported a successful ghost-hunting collaboration between fisherfolk, scientists, and divers in the Baltic Sea. This coalition of stakeholders had several options for hunting down the ghost gear. Traditionally, when lost gear is spotted, fisherfolk use search hooks and other similar tools to try to retrieve it. However, this proved to be inefficient and damaging to the […]

Featured news

02 Nov 2022

Italian researchers discover new recipe for extending shelf life of fresh pasta by 30 days

By Peter Rejcek, science writer Image credit: Raimunda Losantos / Pasta is one of the most popular food staples in the world, but fresh pasta has a limited shelf life. Scientists in Italy have cooked up a novel process for preventing or delaying spoilage by changing packaging protocols, as well as adding antimicrobial probiotics to the dough. Not only does this new method extend storage of fresh pasta by 30 days, it helps reduce food waste. Pasta is serious business in Italy, with reportedly more than 300 specific forms known by some 1,300 names. There is even a 55-year-old ‘pasta law’ that governs its production and manufacture. But that doesn’t mean the beloved food staple is shut off from innovation. ► Read original article► Download original article (pdf) Now, Italian researchers have cooked up a new process for extending the shelf life of fresh pasta by 30 days, using a novel packaging process that also involves applying bioprotective probiotic cultures to the dough. They published this new recipe for better preserving fresh pasta in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. The problem with fresh pasta Most fresh pasta sold in stores today is produced through an industrial process that includes heat-treating the […]


19 Oct 2022

Mushroom that grows on insects could help develop new anti-viral medications and cancer drugs

By Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: bob.leccinum.Robert Kozak/ Scientists studying the medicinal potential of a rare insect-eating mushroom have found a way to grow the elusive fungi in the lab, opening the way for the development of new anti-viral and cancer medications. The Cordyceps mushroom is best known for its gruesome eating habits: famously, its spores infect insects and kill them, growing into fully-fledged fruiting bodies that sprout from the insects’ flesh. But Cordyceps also has significant medicinal potential, containing a bioactive compound cordycepin which could potentially be developed into powerful new antiviral medications and cancer drugs. The mushrooms are rare in the wild, and until now, growing healthy Cordyceps in the lab has been a challenge which impedes scientific research – but Professor Mi Kyeong Lee of Chungbuk National University and her team including Dr Ayman Turk, publishing today in Frontiers in Microbiology, have found a way to grow these elusive fungi in a controlled setting without losing their potency. “Cordycepin is one of the cytotoxic nucleoside analogs with complementary therapeutic activities in anti-proliferation and anti-metastasis in cancer cells,” said Dr Lee, senior author of the study. “In addition, recent research findings strongly urge preclinical and clinical […]

Featured news

21 Jul 2022

Microbial ´dark matter´: centuries-old lava caves of Hawaiʻi Island contain thousands of unknown bacterial species

By K.E.D. Coan, science writer Thick microbial mats hang under a rock ledge in steam vents that run along the Eastern Rift Zone on Hawaiʻi Island. Image Credit: Jimmy Saw Volcanic habitats in Hawaiʻi are rich in bacterial diversity, including many yet undiscovered species, shows a new study. These lava caves and geothermal vents are similar to what may have once existed on Mars and the bacterial communities that co-exist there provide clues about how life can exist in extreme environments. This work also suggests that there is still much to learn about as-of-yet unknown bacteria here on Earth.  The lava caves, lava tubes and geothermal vents on the big island of Hawaiʻi have higher bacterial diversity than scientists expected, reports a new study in Frontiers in Microbiology. These habitats represent how life might have existed on Mars and early Earth in the past, and this study explores the diversity and interactions within these microbial ecosystems. Surprisingly, the results revealed that a group of bacteria called Chloroflexi are often ‘hub’ species, meaning that they are connected with many other species and usually play key ecological roles in the community. Little is known about many Chloroflexi species and further study will […]


05 May 2022

How bees prove to be skilled mathematicians and 3 other amazing science stories you may have missed

By Colm Gorey, Science Communications Manager Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just four amazing papers you may have missed. What are the odds? Honeybees join humans as the only animals known to be able to tell the difference between odd and even numbers A study published to Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution has created quite a ‘buzz’ among academics after it was found honeybees possess maths skills beyond what was originally thought. Previous studies have shown honeybees can learn to order quantities, perform simple addition and subtraction, match symbols with quantities, and relate size and number concepts. However, this time around, the bees were tasked with solving a parity experiment which involves categorizing two sets of objects as ‘odd’ and ‘even’. The bees were split into two groups: one trained to associate even numbers with sugar water and odd numbers with quinine, a bitter-tasting liquid familiar to gin drinkers. The second group was trained in the reverse with odd numbers linked to sugar water, and even numbers with quinine. Amazingly – […]