As many microbiologists can attest, microbiome research is not for the squeamish. From swabbing roadkill carcasses to isolating the DNA present in human waste samples, microbiome researchers aren’t afraid to get dirty – they probably even enjoy it. Yet, it’s hard to imagine that Dr. Nathan H. Lents and his team from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, enjoyed their probing of 21 decomposing cadavers. As part of study published recently in PLOS ONE, Lents and his team collected and analyzed bacteria from the ears and noses of cadavers as the corpses decomposed over the course of weeks.
For an avid drug discovery spectator, a story about a biologist traveling to the geographic end of the Earth or an environment not yet examined by humans is nothing new. Faced with less effective antibiotics due to overuse, clinicians and drug developers are clamoring to find viable replacements for treatments with waning efficacy, making these adventurous stories more common. But even those who are familiar with zealous drug discovery efforts might be surprised by the research undertaken previously by a team of chemists and microbiologists from the University of Oklahoma: they sought new drug candidate molecules in roadkill.
As humanity strives to narrow the chasm between science fiction and reality by traveling in space for longer durations, it continues to be challenged by the health complications associated with microgravity. The side effects of space travel, like muscle atrophy and impaired eyesight, are well documented. While these and similar complications, in addition to logistical difficulties, are serious impediments to our future as a space traveling species, a study published recently in PLOS One now shows how microbes, too, could make long-duration space missions even more challenging.
Between the years of 1914 and 1918, 32 countries around the globe were engulfed in one of the deadliest wars in human history--an event that would come to be known first as the Great War, and then as World War I. Sadly, however, in the year that this conflict drew to a close, another global catastrophe began: one whose death toll would eventually eclipse the casualty count of WWI. That event was known as the Spanish Flu, and it claimed as many as 100 million lives while infecting roughly a third of the world’s entire population.