Antarctic bacteria live on air and use hydrogen as fuel

By Pok Man Leung, Monash University; Chris Greening, Monash University, and Steven Chown, Monash University Humans have only recently begun to think about using hydrogen as a source of energy, but bacteria in Antarctica have been doing it for a billion years. We studied 451 different kinds of bacteria from frozen soils in East Antarctica … Continue reading Antarctic bacteria live on air and use hydrogen as fuel

Bacteria looking sharp

An international team of researchers has captured the sharpest images ever of living bacteria, revealing the complex architecture of the protective layer that surrounds them and offering insight into bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics. The study, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, reveals that bacteria with protective outer layers … Continue reading Bacteria looking sharp

Bugs in space: the battle to keep the ISS clean

We share our lives with microbes, from the mites chowing down on our dead skin to the bacteria in our gut helping us digest food. Many are essential to how we function here on Earth – but did you know that the International Space Station (ISS) is brimming with them too? Turns out that if … Continue reading Bugs in space: the battle to keep the ISS clean

Down with the (antibiotic) resistance!

How do you stop a superbug from fighting an antibiotic? Try giving it another enemy. Acinetobacter baumannii is a bacterium fairly commonly found in hospitals that can cause infections in the lungs, blood and urinary tract. This fast-mutating bug easily overcomes antibiotics, so it’s difficult to manage. Now, a team from Australia’s Monash University, led … Continue reading Down with the (antibiotic) resistance!

When bacteria behave like liquid crystals

Two studies just released cast new light on the cunning ways of bacteria. Both involve collaboration – and prompt comparisons to smartphone screens. The first fits firmly into the quirky category. Scientists at Princeton University in the US have discovered that the way a type of “social bacteria” defend themselves has much to do with … Continue reading When bacteria behave like liquid crystals

Mining with microbes in space

The first mining experiments in space have revealed that microbes can efficiently extract elements from rocks in zero gravity. The tests, performed by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), open up possibilities for the human exploration and settlement of the Solar System. “On Earth, microorganisms play prominent roles in natural processes such as the … Continue reading Mining with microbes in space

Microbiota catalogue just got bigger

Scientists have deciphered 12,566 new species of microbiotas from DNA samples, expanding the diversity of bacteria and archaea by 44%. A large international team led by DOE Joint Genome Institute in the US unravelled the jumbled-up cocktail of DNA in thousands of samples from soil, oceans, animals and humans across the globe, assembling 52,000 genomes … Continue reading Microbiota catalogue just got bigger

Healthy bacteria thrive in gut before birth

Micro-organisms in the gut microbiome begin growing in foetuses as early as five months, new research shows. In a study described in the journal Scientific Reports, a team led by Australia’s La Trobe University found hundreds of bacteria in the intestinal tract of calf embryos that help the baby develop before birth.  “Our findings confirm, … Continue reading Healthy bacteria thrive in gut before birth

Latrines: A tale of two cesspits

Scientists have reported what they say is the first attempt to use the methods of ancient bacterial detection, pioneered in studies of past epidemics, to characterise the microbial diversity of ancient gut contents from two medieval latrines. The findings, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, provide insights into the microbiomes of pre-industrial … Continue reading Latrines: A tale of two cesspits

Add plasma to biomass to get better biogas

Producing biogas from the bacterial breakdown of biomass seems a relatively simple idea: just let the bacteria do their thing on a pile of plant or animal material. In reality, however, the complex composition of biomass presents challenges; not the least is that lignocellulose in plants (the woody bits) can be hard for bacteria to … Continue reading Add plasma to biomass to get better biogas

Exploring the mechanics of antibiotic resistance

Australian researchers say they discovered how bacteria share antibiotic-resistance genes. Writing in the journal Nature Microbiology, Mark Schembri and colleagues from the University of Queensland describe using a powerful genetic screening system to identify all of the components required for transferring a type of plasmid from one bacterial cell to another. Plasmids are self-replicating DNA … Continue reading Exploring the mechanics of antibiotic resistance

Bacteria from millions of years ago

Scientists studying sediments from the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand have found bacteria that appear to have survived since the time of the dinosaurs. “They’re violating our sense of the [microbial] world as we know it,” says Steven D’Hondt, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island. And it’s a finding that might be … Continue reading Bacteria from millions of years ago