This category contains 19 posts

The Chikungunya Virus is in the U.S.: Get to Know the Virus

Have you heard of the chikungunya virus? The virus (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) was discovered in 1952 in Africa, and has been slowly making its way around the world… although the pace has been quickened in recent years. The first U.S. case was reported just earlier this month, on July 17, 2014, and a second case soon … Continue reading »

Our Microbiomes: In Sickness and in Health

Last week, we took a look at the amazing diversity of microbes (bacteria, fungi, and others) that live on, and inside of, our bodies. This week we’ll dig deeper into our microbiomes and explore what’s known about how they help keep us healthy, and why they sometimes make us sick. Shown here are Lactobacillus bacteria … Continue reading »

Our Microbiomes: Who Are Our Microscopic Neighbors?

Our bodies are made up of many more microbe cells — bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic critters — than human cells. These microscopic organisms are clearly important for making us who we are. And yet, there’s so much we don’t understand about them. How do our microbiomes help keep us healthy, and why do they … Continue reading »

Life Beyond Earth

Are we alone, or is there life beyond Earth? It’s a question we’ve been trying to actively answer for decades now, with increased interest in more recent times. While there almost certainly is life outside of our world, we have yet to find it. Based on our understanding of the spectrum of organisms that live … Continue reading »

Bacteria and Stress May Trigger Heart Attacks and Strokes

Heart attacks and strokes have been thought to be prompted by stress. But why is this — why does stress trigger these dangerous medical events? Based on a study published earlier this month, a key player may actually be some specific species of bacteria. Certain bacteria species (like the Pseudomonas aeruginosa shown here in brown) … Continue reading »

Making Plastic from Food

As we become more aware of the resources that we’re quickly using up, we increasingly look for ways to recycle and reuse what we’ve got. For example, some people have been figuring out how to “reuse” food waste by turning it into plastic. And not just any type of plastic — it’s actually biodegradable plastic, … Continue reading »

MERS Update: Now in the U.S.

Since it was first discovered in a person in mid-2012, MERS (short for Middle East respiratory syndrome) has been a looming viral threat. MERS is a disease caused a type of virus called a coronavirus (CoV), which typically infects the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. (Many common colds and even cases of pneumonia are caused by … Continue reading »

Fecal Transplants and C. difficile

The bacteria Clostridium difficile is pretty terrifying — if it infects a person’s gut, it can cause severe diarrhea, bloating, and potentially death. In the U.S. alone, it hospitalizes nearly 250,000 people and kills at least 14,000 people each year. Why not just fight it with antibiotics, like we use to fight other bacterial infections? … Continue reading »

What is a “Healthy” Gut Microbiome?

Which types of microbes are good to have in our guts — belonging to our gut microbiome — and which microbes shouldn’t be there for us to be healthy? It turns out that this is a very complicated question. Over the past couple of years, the gut microbiome has been found to be related to … Continue reading »

Chocolate: It Does a Microbe Good

It’s always nice to find out that a food we enjoy eating — something we might even consider to be a treat — is actually healthy and beneficial for us to eat. For example, if you like dark chocolate, then there’s some good news for you. Earlier this week it was reported that eating dark … Continue reading »