Here Is What Scientists Are Doing to Combat the Dangers of the Healthcare Environment

Understanding the role of microbes in our environment and how antimicrobial resistance and hospital acquired infections are spread in the healthcare environment are some of the highlights of modern science.

Our new environment

People living in the United States spend 90% of their time indoors (Klepeis et al 2016). We live in our homes, work in our office buildings, and spend recreational time in the gym. One such common indoor environment- where we  are born, and get treated for illnesses- is the hospital. How has this shift into the indoors impacted human health? Studies have linked this new environment to diseases like asthma and allergies (Fujimura et al 2014). In 2011, there were an estimated 722,000 hospital acquired infections in the U.S. (Magill et al 2014). And these infections- termed nosocomial infections- are reported as a  leading cause of patient deaths (Anderson 2002). Continue reading “Here Is What Scientists Are Doing to Combat the Dangers of the Healthcare Environment”

Changes in Microbiota of Amniotic Fluid Might be Critical to Predict Spontaneous Preterm Births

Introduction:

Is there something that affects more individuals worldwide than cancer, (either directly or through someone we know)? The answer is pregnancy. There are many complications that can arise throughout pregnancy, with spontaneous preterm labor affecting 5-18% of pregnancies. Preterm labor is childbirth that happens before a healthy delivery date, where the baby is not fully developed to survive on its own. Depending on where you live, preterm labor can be considered a death sentence not just for the infant, but for the mother as well. Infants who survive are more at risk for infection and health issues the earlier they were born (Romero et al. 2014). Logically and morally, it is imperative for civilisations to decrease the amount of pregnant women who go into preterm labor so as to decrease risk to mother and child. Continue reading “Changes in Microbiota of Amniotic Fluid Might be Critical to Predict Spontaneous Preterm Births”

Which came first, antibiotics, or antibiotic-resistance? A study of Uncontacted Amerindians.

The geographical location of the Yanomami tribe as a whole. The specific village exists in the highlighted region.  (Image courtesy of Viralfast)

Background

The Yanomami people are patches of isolated South American tribes who occupy mountainous regions of southern Venezuela. Recently, a Yanomami tribe of 34 subjects discovered by helicopter, was investigated by a team of researchers who accompanied medical care professionals who were providing care to the villagers. These researchers, Clemente et. al. (2015), then wrote the paper, “The microbiome of uncontacted Amerindians” to analyze this population which was uniquely untouched by Western Society. An interesting topic that this research paper addresses is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic-resistance are the adaptations of a bacterial species in response to antibiotics. Antibiotics are medications that have been developed in more recent times to destroy bacteria cells but not human cells. They do this by targeting specific differences between the two types of cells, for instance, penicillin inhibits the synthesis of the peptidoglycan layer of bacterial cell walls a feature not present in animal cells. Other bacteria have distinct DNA replication processes and some antibiotics are able to interrupt that function as well. This Yanomami population is intriguing because their microbiomes are likely the most accurate representation of an ancient human microbiome due to their isolation from the Western world. The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the Yanomami gut provides evidence for the claim that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been around since before the invention of antibiotics, so stay tuned for a persuasive evidentiary argument further down. Clemente et. al. also state that the Yanomami population that is sampled is the most diverse microbiome ever recorded. It is important to understand what kind of diversity the researchers are talking about. The Yanomami show extremely high beta diversity when compared to Guahibo, Malawi, and U.S. populations but exhibit low alpha diversity amongst individuals in the village population. Beta diversity represents the differences in species composition among samples while alpha diversity is just the diversity of each sample. This means that the Yanomami microbiome sample is extremely unique but microbiomes within that sample are very similar, this is most likely due to the Yanomami leading vastly different lifestyles than Western societies and individuals in the village being in extremely close quarters with each other (eating the same food, drinking from the same water source, no waste removal, etc.). Continue reading “Which came first, antibiotics, or antibiotic-resistance? A study of Uncontacted Amerindians.”

Mothers with Viral Infection Coupled With Wrong Gut Microbiome Could Lead to Autism in Offspring

Background

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), between the years 2000 and 2012, autism rates have risen from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 68 children diagnosed with this disorder. This disorder is most often associated with repetitive behaviors and social deficiencies and can be physically characterized by abnormal patches in the brain’s cell arrangements (Kim et al. 2017). Since autism is an increasing problem, researchers are trying to find a cause and solution to control the disorder. Continue reading “Mothers with Viral Infection Coupled With Wrong Gut Microbiome Could Lead to Autism in Offspring”

Can the Oral Microbiome indicate Periodontal Disease State?

Background: In 2012 periodontal disease affected 46% of adults in the United States, with 8.9% classified as severe (Eke et al. 2015). Before everyone starts freaking out and drinking mouthwash, let’s talk about periodontal disease. Periodontal disease means gum disease, anything from simple gum inflammation, all the way to the loss of bone and the teeth falling out (“Periodontal Gum Disease”, 2013). Below I included a figure to show the progression of the disease.

Progression of periodontal disease, starts with inflamed gums, gums recede, then bone recedes from the tooth as well.
Normal progression of periodontal disease from healthy to severe periodontitis (Gromadzki)

This disease is caused by microbes in  the dental plaque migrating into the gum pockets causing inflammation, which will cause the gum to recede and with it the connective tissue holding in the tooth (Teles et al. 2013). Since periodontal disease is caused by microbes, it would not be surprising if there were differences between the community of microbes living in the mouths of healthy individuals, and those with periodontal disease. For the purpose of this discussion the oral microbiome is referring to the community of bacteria in the mouth of an individual. In fact, with the use of next-gen sequencing of the oral microbiome, it may be possible to determine differences between the mircobiomes of healthy and diseased individuals. A 2012 study found that community diversity is higher in individuals with chronic periodontal disease, but the results were complicated with 123 species were more abundant in diseased individuals and with 53 species were more abundant in healthy individuals (Griffen et al. 2012). Continue reading “Can the Oral Microbiome indicate Periodontal Disease State?”

Bacteria Protect Cancer from Chemotherapy

In the picture there are bacteria fluorescing in green inside of a pancreatic cancer cell.
Figure 1: Bacteria, in green, inside a pancreatic cancer cell (picture from Yong, 2017 , picture by Leore Geller)

Background:

Between the years of 2010 and 2014 2,910,588 people died of cancer in the United States despite our best efforts to fight cancer with methods like chemotherapy and surgery (Howlader et al., 2017). While there are many reasons why cancers might prevail over our best efforts, a relatively common reason is the devolvement of chemotherapy resistance (Housman et al., 2014). This resistance can come in many forms; ranging from drug inactivation to changing the target site of the drug. In an attempt to combat resistance, chemotherapy drugs have been given out in cocktails containing multiple drugs that all work in a different way in the hope of killing all the resistant cells at once. This method was based off of the theory that while the mechanisms of resistance are known to be complex, the resistance always stems from cancer cells themselves. However this theory has been challenged in the last few years with the discovery that cancer cells could be protected from chemotherapy drugs by the normal cells (stroma) around the cancer cells (Feig et al., 2012; Klemm and Joyce, 2015). Continue reading “Bacteria Protect Cancer from Chemotherapy”

Alterations of the gut microbiome in multiple sclerosis

Image courtesy of Andreu Prados, Gut Microbiota: Research and Practice. The health and contents of the gut microbiome play a pivotal role in immune function and overall human health.

BACKGROUND

Picture this, you are a field researcher who stumbles upon a population of diseased and mutated humans. These humans live in an environment plagued with disease and pollution. The question you have is whether the mutation in the humans caused the disease/pollution or if the disease/pollution caused the humans to mutate. This question forms the basis of what microbiologists are interested in today; is the gut microbiome causal in the formation of [autoimmune] diseases, or is the microbiota the result of the diseased environment in which they inhabit? Continue reading “Alterations of the gut microbiome in multiple sclerosis”

Association Between The Human Microbiota and Type II Diabetes Mellitus

Microbes in a gut under magnifying glass (from www.diabetesdaily.com 2016)

Type II diabetes mellitus is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, the number of individuals with type II diabetes is projected to rise to more than 590 million by the year 2035 (Diabetes, 2017 and Upadhyaya, 2015). Type II diabetes is the result of the body’s resistance to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. The WHO states that type II is largely the effect of being overweight and very little exercise. Type I diabetes is distinguished by the bodies inability to produce insulin and there is no way to prevent it. Symptoms of type II diabetes include thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision loss, numbness in feet, and tiredness (Diabetes, 2017).  Scientists are trying to discover new ways to mediate the effects of type II diabetes and many think that the gut microbiota of the human body might correlate with diabetes in an interesting way. Continue reading “Association Between The Human Microbiota and Type II Diabetes Mellitus”

Do the microbes in your gut affect cognitive and behavioral development?

Blue puzzel pieces with a brain, the gut, neurons, and bacteria on separate pieces. Almost interlocking.
Figure 1. Puzzle pieces connecting gut and microbes and the brain (Image courtesy of Jennifer Franklin).

 Background

Neuronal development is especially critical in adolescent years (Paus, 2005; O’Connor & Cryan, 2014). Consequentially, this time is also when doctors see the onset of mental illness and behavioral abnormalities that include, but are not limited to, anxiety and mood disorders (O’Connor & Cryan, 2014; Paus, Keshavan & Giedd, 2008). The causal relationships of these atypical behaviors that are seen in mental illness have long been debated. Some scholars believe deficient diets lead to cognitive and short-term memory disabilities (Bondi et al, 2014), whereas others suggest that errors in the human genome could affect brain development and induce mental illness (Guo et al, 2009). In recent years, researchers have brought forward the idea that the microbes in our gut could influence the development of our brain. Continue reading “Do the microbes in your gut affect cognitive and behavioral development?”

Depression and Microbial Dysfunction: A Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain.

Background

Depression is a mood disorder that is heterogeneous in nature.  Depression  causes severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities (NIMH, 2017).  According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 300 million people and is a major worldwide contributor to the burden of diseases. This is especially pertinent considering that depression is one of the mood disorders associated with suicide, some others being anxiety, schizophrenia and PTSD.  On an annual basis suicide leads to the death of nearly 800,000 people and is the second leading cause of death within the age group of 15 to 29 year olds (WHO, 2017). The underlying causes of depression are a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. It is essential to analyze these factors to understand the contribution of each in the development and maintenance of major depressive disorders.   Continue reading “Depression and Microbial Dysfunction: A Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain.”