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41 news posts 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 […]


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

12 Jan 2023

Simple blood test shows promise for screening common and dangerous pregnancy complications

By Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists find that short-chain fatty acids in blood can be used as biomarkers in testing for dangerous pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Scientists at Ningbo University, China have identified biomarkers that could provide an early warning system for three common and dangerous pregnancy complications: pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis. All three conditions are dangerous; early diagnosis and treatment is key to preventing poor outcomes and lifelong consequences. Their causes are not fully understood, and nor is their connection to the gut microbiome, which is affected by pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. A team led by Dr Siqian Chen at the Affiliated Hospital of Medical School decided to investigate whether specific changes in the microbiome — detected using levels of short-chain fatty acids, metabolites which are produced following the fermentation of microbiota — could be used as biomarkers for pregnancy complications. “We analyzed and correlated the distribution of short-chain fatty acids during normal pregnancy and during three specific types of complicated pregnancy, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and intrahepatic cholestasis,” said Dr Rongrong Xuan, senior author of the study, published today in Frontiers in […]


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

12 Aug 2021

Are enteroviruses behind mysterious outbreaks of chronic fatigue syndrome?

By Prof Maureen Hanson, Cornell University Image: Andrea Piacquadio/ Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms, no known treatment, and undetermined origins. However, with as many as 65m people across the world living with the illness, researchers continue to search for answers. Now, Prof Maureen Hanson of Cornell University discusses how she and graduate student Adam O’Neal searched through the research archives to see whether a genus of RNA viruses called enteroviruses are the most likely culprits and whether the findings have implications in future ‘long Covid’ research. Like SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, viruses, enteroviruses (EVs) are RNA viruses that can lead to cause serious illness and death. One type of EV causes poliomyelitis, which is now largely conquered through near-universal vaccination. But no vaccine exists against many other types of EVs, which are free to circulate widely. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates between 10m-15m enteroviral infections occur each year in the US. EVs have long been suspected as causal agents in outbreaks of an illness that is now usually named ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). Outbreaks have been documented since the turn of the previous century and may have […]

Featured news

15 Mar 2021

3 bacterial strains discovered on space station may help grow plants on Mars

By Colm Gorey, Frontiers science writer Interior view from the International Space Station cupola. Image: NASA Swab samples of 8 surfaces aboard the International Space Station have led to the identifying of 4 strains of bacteria, 3 of which belong to a newly discovered novel species within the genus Methylobacterium. According to researchers, these new strains might be useful in helping future space missions grow food in extreme environments. In order to withstand the rigors of space on deep-space missions, food grown outside of Earth needs a little extra help from bacteria. Now, a recent discovery aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has researchers may help create the ‘fuel’ to help plants withstand such stressful situations. Publishing their findings to Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers working with NASA described the discovery and isolation of 4 strains of bacteria belonging to the family Methylobacteriaceae from different locations aboard the ISS across two consecutive flights. While 1 strain was identified as Methylorubrum rhodesianum, the other 3 were previously undiscovered and belong to a novel species novel. The rod-shaped, motile bacteria were given the designations IF7SW-B2T, IIF1SW-B5, and IIF4SW-B5 with genetic analysis showing them to be closely related to  Methylobacterium indicum. Methylobacterium species are […]

Earth science

03 Feb 2021

Why we cannot ignore the place of viruses on the ‘Tree of Life’

By Dr Hugh Harris, APC Microbiome Ireland/University College Cork Image: Corona Borealis Studio/Shutterstock One particular virus has come to dominate our lives. Now Dr Hugh Harris of APC Microbiome Ireland and University College Cork writes that viruses deserve a place on the ‘Tree of Life’. A single virus has dramatically changed our lives. SARS-CoV-2 is keeping most of us at home, often with other members of our family. The next time we get annoyed by a relative, some perspective might be achieved by thinking about how inclusive the concept of family can be. A family tree is a familiar sight to many people. There is something intriguing and even nostalgic about looking into the past, beyond our parents and grandparents. We all want to know where we came from. How far back do the branches of kinship reach? A visit to the zoo might have us looking at the chimpanzees and gorillas as they go about their day – these are our cousins. Richard Dawkins described a thought experiment where a female chimpanzee held the hand of her mother. The mother, in turn, held the hand of her own mother and so on back across the generations, forming an unbroken […]