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Mosquito-borne illnesses may increase due to global warming

Mosquito bites are such a nuisance. They itch intensely for days, you can't help but scratch them, and you are left with a scar to remember them by. For much of the world, this is the aftermath of a mosquito bite. But in warm tropical climates, mosquitos are carriers of a variety of microbes pathogenic to humans. Dengue, malaria, West Nile, yellow fever, and Zika are all examples mosquito-borne illnesses. (more…)

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The CDC Climate Change and Health Meeting is back on... sort of

After just one week of the Trump presidency, it is already obvious that the war on science has begun. Trump's pick to run the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvany, questions whether government should fund research at all. Scott Pruitt, nominated to lead the EPA, actively denies climate change and in the past tried repeatedly to sue the EPA. In the last week freezes on EPA grants, bans on EPA and USDA employees from talking to the public about their research, and the possibility of censorship of scientific data and reports have all become realities in this uncertain time for science. (more…)

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How microbes flavor kefir

We can thank microbes for the tangy flavor and the effervescent creamy texture of kefir. This fermented milk product relies on dozens of bacteria and yeasts to convert the lactose and other compounds found in milk to small molecules that contribute to the taste and texture of kefir. As we know get to know more about the microbiology of food, food scientists may be able to streamline production, improve health benefits, and customize the flavors of fermented foods.

So what are these helpful microbes and how do they contribute to the fermentation of kefir? (more…)

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Milky microbes: the making of kefir

Foods containing live active cultures have been touted as beneficial for digestion and immune health. Yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt, has risen to the top of the probiotic trend in recent years. With the uptick of microbiome research and news lately, foods that allegedly improve the gut microbial community has acquired quite a following. Now another fermented milk product named kefir (not to be confused with kaffir lime) is slowly gaining in popularity in our health-conscious world. Though today, many may not know what kefir is or even how to pronounce it ("keh-FEAR"), kefir is sure to attract mainstream attention in the coming years. (more…)

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A year of microbes

Of course there are way too many microbiology stories than I can blog about. Here are some other fascinating finds throughout the year:

A bacteria that eats plastic: Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is a component of many plastic products that have accumulated in large quantities in the environment. Researchers have isolated a bacterium that uses PET as its main energy and carbon source. This bacterium can be further developed to efficiently degrade or ferment PET waste products. (more…)