More bacteria discovered using metagenomics strategy

[From the archives; originally posted November 16, 2005]

I know, everyone’s so sick of all the new “omics”es. But “metagenomics” is one that I don’t see going away anytime soon. At its core, metagenomics is a way of looking at organisms in concert as a complex ecology, rather than as an individual, as genomic analysis has traditionally been done. Rather than isolating 10 different species of bacteria from, say, a gram of soil and analyzing them all separately, a metagenomics strategy would investigate all the organisms in the soil (or in sea water, dental plaque, or even human feces). A huge advantage to this approach is that we can get sequence data even from organisms that we’re unable to culture; as such, it’s not surprising that huge numbers of novel microbes are found whenever researchers tackle a new area using this strategy. Also, as you may expect, one focus of this research in humans is to discover causes and/or cofactors of diseases.
Continue reading “More bacteria discovered using metagenomics strategy”

New malaria vaccine shows promise

[From the archives; originally published November 18, 2005]

Malaria is one of the world’s leading infectious killers. World-wide, almost 40% of the world’s population is at risk of acquiring this disease–many of them in poor countries with limited resources to control the disease. Each year, malaria causes 300-500 million infections, and up to 3 million deaths–about 5000 Africans die of the disease every day; one child succumbs every 30 seconds. Mosquito-borne, simple devices (such as mosquito nets over beds) have been shown to drastically decrease the incidence of disease. Though these only cost a few dollars each, many in developing countries lack the resources to purchase them. Additionally, evolution, as we often see, has caused both the parasites that cause the disease (one of four species of Plasmodium) and the mosquitoes that transmit it (Anopheles species) to become resistant to our efforts to stop them. The parasites have developed high levels of resistance to many of the anti-malarial drugs, and many insecticides are of little use in controlling the mosquito population due to a similar phenomenon.

(Continued below…)
Continue reading “New malaria vaccine shows promise”

Pili becoming a hot topic in gram-positives

[From the archives; originally posted October 27, 2005]

Pili (singular: pilus) are bacterial organelles–thin tubes of protein that function in attachment and bacterial sex, as well as immune evasion. Traditionally, studies of pili have been carried out in gram-negative bacteria, such as E. coli and Neisseria species; very little was known about pili in gram-positives. A few recent high-profile papers have changed that.
Continue reading “Pili becoming a hot topic in gram-positives”

On the road again…

It’s “vacation”–sort of. Thanks to the magic of scheduled posts, even as this pops up I’m probably somewhere in central Illinois at the moment. I’ll be in Ohio for a few days to play with my new nephews, and yet a third new nephew who was just born this past weekend. Then it’s off to D.C. for a few days, Ohio again, and then back to Iowa, jiggity jig. In the meantime, I have a number of posts scheduled, (and, hey, here’s a Grand Rounds to keep you busy as well), but I won’t be around often to clear any comments that get sent to the spam filter, or respond to questions or comments. I will, however, pop in tonight or early tomorrow to set up tomorrow’s edition of Animalcules, so this is your last chance to send in your entries!

US isn’t the only one with diabetes problems

Sunday’s New York Times has an article discussing the worldwide increase in diabetes:

The number of people around the world suffering from diabetes has skyrocketed in the last two decades, from 30 million to 230 million, claiming millions of lives and severely taxing the ability of health care systemsto deal with the epidemic, according to data released Saturday by the International Diabetes Federation.

While the growing problem of diabetes in the affluent United States has been well documented, the federation’s data shows that 7 of the 10 countries with the highest number of diabetics are in the developing world.

(More below)
Continue reading “US isn’t the only one with diabetes problems”

Evolution by gene loss

Sometimes it’s amazing just how little we know about the microbes around us. For precious few microbes, we know a good deal about virulence factors–genes and proteins that, when present, increase the severity of disease either in animal models or in humans (or both). However, much of this research has been done investigating acute infectious diseases, where one is infected, becomes ill, and gets better in the course of a few weeks to a month. Much less is known about factors that affect long-term (or chronic) infection. A recent study addressed one gap in this research, examining what happened in patients with cystic fibrosis who were chronically infected with the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Continue reading “Evolution by gene loss”

Fertile week for carnivals

Holy cow, they’re breeding like rabbits.

RPM and Paul have set up a genetics blog carnival, Mendel’s Garden:

So if you have posts about any aspect of genetics, send them on and let’s see what happens. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm on June 15.

Possible topics could include classical genetics(what ever that is), evo devo, population genetics and evolution, behavioral genetics, viruses, regulation of gene expression, medical genetics , genetic counseling and ethical issues.

The “perfect girl” and challenges of life after high school

About two weeks ago, Cognitive Daily linked an article discussing The Paradox of the Perfect Girl.

The perfect girl is everywhere. She is your niece, your daughter, your friend’s genius kid. She is the girl who makes the valedictorian speech at your son’s graduation and the type-A class president in the skimpy black dress that he brings to the prom. The perfect girl is thin and hungry, not for food, but for honors, awards, scholarships, recognition. The Princeton Review book is the perfect girl’s bible. Her appointment book, even at 14, is filled morning to night with scheduled activities. She speaks three languages. She has five varsity letters. She never stops to breathe. She is voted most likely to succeed. She knows she will because she devotes every last iota of her energy, and then some, into achieving.

I know, because I was one.

This could have been written about me as well, but I still completely disagree with the conclusions Ms. Martin draws from it, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on the topic.
Continue reading “The “perfect girl” and challenges of life after high school”