Microbes always win

Category archives for Microbes always win

One of the things that bugs me most in pop-sci and woo-woo science is the obsession with “boosting” the immune system. The immune system is in a constant balancing act – tip it too far one way and even normally harmless bacteria become life-threatening. But tilt it too far in the other direction, and you…

A “potentially historic” blizzard is barreling down on us here in New England, and is poised to drop up to two feet of snow on Boston. All of the schools in the area preemptively closed, our public transit system is shutting down at 3:30pm, and trying to buy groceries last night was bedlam. The snow is just…

In case you missed it, over the past couple of days there have been reports of an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic  fever virus in Uganda. As of this writing, the most recent report I’ve seen puts the death toll at 16, with a few other suspected cases. Ebola is terrifying for a number of reasons – it’s…

When folks in my lab think about biological problems, we think about basics. A pathogen has some molecular component that trips a sensor on the outside of a cell. That sensor (the receptor) grabs on to some adapter proteins and starts a cascade of chemical reactions catalyzed by various enzymes, which eventually leads to the…

Bacterial Burglary

I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. A group of thieves need to gain entry to a highly secured vault. The vault door is nearly impregnable, and once inside, there are motion sensors, security cameras and laser trip lines, all of which sound the alarm. When the security guards hear what’s happening, they are…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – pathogens are devious little bastards: Discovery of a Viral NLR Homolog that Inhibits the Inflammasome In order to respond to a virus, a cell first has to recognize that it’s there. There are a lot of ways the cell tries to do this – some…

An so proceed ad infinitum

The vermin only teaze and pinch Their foes superior by an inch. So, naturalists observe, a flea Has smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite ‘em, And so proceed ad infinitum*: -Jonathan Swift Even though I study the immune system, it always amazes me just how many creatures make…

Cholera is shitty

(No pun intended) This just sucks: As cholera rampages through Haiti, some epidemiologists are warning that the country could face more than half a million cases over the coming year. Yet tracking and treating the disease is proving increasingly difficult as civil unrest grips the county. As if Haiti hasn’t already suffered enough. Vibrio cholerae,…

[This post was originally published at webeasties.wordpress.com] Antibiotics are awesome. They can be credited with saving more human life than any other invention and have been one of the best advancements in public health second only (maybe) to sanitation. But, as with all things pathogen related, the microbes are fighting back. Antibiotic resistance is on…