pathogens

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Meet a Microbiologist: Rachel Simpson

African Sleeping Sickness gets its name from the sleep disturbances it causes. Awake in the night and asleep in the day. A bite from a tsetse fly can transmit Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes African Sleeping Sickness. First come the fevers, headaches, and joint pain. Then weeks to months after the bite, the sleep disturbances set in. African Sleeping Sickness is in a category of diseases known as the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Like many NTDs, African Sleeping Sickness mainly affects underdeveloped populations in tropical regions. Unfortunately, this means that pharmaceutical companies don’t see reason to pursue research in these diseases. Hence the name “neglected tropical diseases.” (more…)

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Why are pathogens rarely resistant to vaccines?

We have all heard the horrifying tales of incurable bacterial infections due to antibiotic resistance. But why don’t we see pathogens becoming resistant to vaccines? Intuitively, it seems that vaccines, like antibiotics, put selective pressure on pathogens. The selective force should drive the evolution of vaccine resistance, right? David Kennedy and Andrew Read explore this quandary in their recent publication in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Historically, when vaccine resistance arises, it takes much longer compared to antibiotic resistance. Vaccines created as early as the 1920s are still effective today while resistance to a new antibiotic can develop within a few years. Because the evolution of vaccine resistance is so rare, vaccines may be a solution to the drug resistance problems we face today. Vaccines reduce the need for antibiotic treatment and also decrease the number of cases and spread of infections. (more…)

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Meet a microbiologist: Stéphane Benoit

Many graduate students call the lab their second home. I was fortunate enough to have a second “lab home”. Today, we meet Stéphane Benoit, a microbiologist from my second “lab home” who has taught me much of what I know about working with the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori.

Growing up in the French village of Saint Pierre La Palud near Lyon, Stéphane has spent countless hours observing the social behavior of ants in the woods. He has always been interested in the sciences, especially biology. After obtaining his Ph.D. from the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon, Stéphane came to the United States for what he thought was a two-year postdoc to study metal utilization in spirochetes at the University of Georgia. (more…)

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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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Eaten alive from the inside: predatory bacteria kill pathogenic bacteria from the inside out

When it comes to predators, we naturally think of large, agile, and powerful animals on the prowl. But we often don’t think about the most abundant predators on our planet, predators of the microscopic world. In the depths of the microbial universe, predatory bacteria (those that feast upon other bacteria) have emerged. These bacteria are now ubiquitous in terrestrial and marine environments. Predatory bacteria penetrate the outer membrane of bacterial prey and ingest their prized nutrients, killing the prey. (more…)