Genetics

Mike the Mad Biologist

Category archives for Genetics

STEC Surveillance: UR DOING IT WRONG?

There’s some good news and bad news regarding E. coli surveillance in meat products. The good news: The pathogenic Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia Coli (pSTEC) serotypes known collectively as the “Big Six” will soon be banned from U.S. meat, a top expert told a meat industry conference Thursday. Action to declare the six non-O157:H7 serotypes as…

Note that I said cranky, not mad. Mad is reserved for moral degenerates who cut funding to assist people with cerebral palsy. But cranky? Yes. Recently, I’ve come across a couple of papers that describe interesting collections of E. coli. For example, one paper isolated a bunch of E. coli from soil and water in…

Or maybe wild-ass speculation. As the data continue to come in about the E. coli outbreak in Germany caused by E. coli O104:H4 HUSEC041 (well, everything but the public health and epidemiological data which are a contradictory, incoherent mess), it appears that one of the things that has made this strain so dangerous is its…

A seminal discovery of modern biology was Joshua Lederberg’s demonstration that bacteria can swap genes through a process known as bacterial recombination. Not only is recombination the mechanism by which antibiotic resistance genes are transferred, but it’s also been turned into a useful tool for genetically manipulating E. coli, which has led to so many…

Because we are human after all. Jason Collins at Evolving Economics, in response to my post about one economist’s misunderstanding of biology, asks a very good question: On the flip side, did Dawkins or Gould (or their respective supporters) ever concede to the other side that they were wrong and substantially change their world view?…

A couple of weeks ago, I found a post, “Is HIV ‘fingerprinting’ junk courtroom science?“, which argues: But calling the comparison of HIV strains’ genes “fingerprinting” — calling to mind the more-familiar matching of human suspects’ DNA to blood at a crime scene — is dangerously misleading, they warn. “By calling such investigations HIV fingerprinting,…

On Genetic Denialism

Mary Carmichael has a great video (and associated post) about the rise of genetic denialism–ridiculous arguments that ‘genes don’t cause disease.’* Carmichael offers two reasons why the argument is flawed; I’ll offer a third in a bit, but I do want to note one minor point of disagreement with Carmichael. If you go to roughly…

To paraphrase Mark Twain, biological understanding may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. There’s a recent commentary, “The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?“, from the Bioscience Resource Project which, if Twitter is any guide (and how could Twitter possibly not be?), is leading to some angry rebuttals, even as…

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief which argued that naturally-occurring DNA sequences can’t be patented: Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature…. “We acknowledge that this conclusion is contrary to…

A problem in genome-wide association studies (“GWAS”) is the”missing heritability” issue–identified genetic variation can only account for a small fraction of the estimated genetic contribution to variation in that trait. Razib has a good roundup of several explanations (and I added some speculation about nearly-neutral mutations). GWAS also have problems accurately characterizing the trait. For…