Tag: Bacteria

Why You Really Can Smell Approaching Storms

The researchers captured the moment water droplets impact different surfaces using high speed cameras and saw that tiny clouds of aerosols were produced, as seen above, as the droplets flattened on the surface

Most people can detect the distinctive fresh, earthy aroma of an approaching rainstorm, but now scientists have worked out why.

Researchers using high-speed cameras have found that drops of water release clouds of tiny particles when they hit surfaces like soil and leaves.

Their study showed that a raindrop hitting an uneven surface, they trap bubbles of air that shoot upwards and burst from the top of the water droplet like fizz in a champagne glass.

These tiny bubbles carry minute amounts of aromatic particles of oil and dust from the surface that can then be blown for miles by gusts of wind ahead of rain storms.

This, the scientists say, explains why it is possible to smell a rainstorm long before it arrives, even when it has been dry for several days.

The effect, known as Petrichor, is often most pronounced during the summer, accompanying the first rain after a long dry smell when more dust and oils have accumulated on plants and on the ground.

The new research, which was conducted by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that different types of rainfall could alter the smell.

The scientists found that light showers and moderate seemed to trigger more aerosols compared with heavy rain that might accompany thunderstorms.

They also found that the type of soil could also influence how many aerosols were released and was particularly pronounced on clay or sandy soil.

Dr Youngsoo Joung, one of the scientists at MIT’s department of engineering who conducted the research, said the findings could also help to explain how some soil-based bacteria can spread disease.

He said: “Until now, people didn’t know that aerosols could be generated from raindrops on soil.

“When moderate or light rain hits sandy or clay soils, you can observe lots of aerosols, because sandy clay has medium wetting properties.

“Heavy rain (which has a high) impact speed, means there’s not enough time to make bubbles inside the droplet.

“This finding should be a good reference for future work, illuminating microbes and chemicals existing inside soil and other natural materials, and how they can be delivered in the environment, and possibly to humans.

“To prevent transmission of microorganisms from nature to humans, we need to know the exact mechanism. In this work, we provide one possible way of transmission.”

Scientists in Australia were the first to coin the word ‘petrichor‘ for the smell of approaching rain and characterized it as the release of plant oils along with a compound called geosmin, which is produced by soil-dwelling bacteria.

However, the new research is the first to explain the mechanism that causes these compounds to become airborne.

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Awesome 5 Things Living On, In, And With You

Computer artwork of bacteria (blue and green) on human skin.

Your body isn’t just yours. It’s home to millions of other life-forms. Organisms too small to see with just your eyes, called microbes, outnumber your human cells ten to one.

But don’t worry—most of them are harmless or even helpful. But that doesn’t mean they’re not gross.

Eyelash Inmate

Tiny eight-legged mites spend their whole lives on your face, spending most of their time at the base of your eyelash hairs. But at night they scurry around on your face.

Belly Button Biodiversity

Most people have about 67 different species living harmlessly in their navels. One man hosted a type of bacteria found only in Japan—even though he’d never been there.

Gut Germs

At least 500 species of bacteria live in your large intestine. They help break down food and even create nutrients like vitamin K. Lunch really is a team effort.

Morning Breath Makers

Morning breath? Blame bacteria. While you sleep bacteria builds up in your mouth. These guys munch on leftover food between your teeth, then secrete a smelly compound.

Foot Fungus

Watch your step! These microbes attach to your feet in places like locker room showers. They can make your feet itchy and painful but are easy to get rid of.

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Bacteria-Powered Solar Cell Can Produce Electricity On Cloudy Days

A concept diagram shows the anode of the solar cell, comprised of biogenic material made of lycopene-producing bacteria (the orange orbs) that are coated with titania nanoparticles.

Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have discovered a low-cost and sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria, that can harvest energy from light even under overcast skies.

The cell, developed by researchers from University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device, and worked as efficiently in dim light as in bright light.

With further development, these solar cells – called “biogenic” because they are made of living organisms – could become as efficient as the synthetic cells used in conventional solar panels.

These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimisation, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells,” said Vikramaditya Yadav, a professor at UBC.

Solar cells are the building blocks of solar panels. They do the work of converting light into electrical current.

Previous efforts to build biogenic solar cells have focused on extracting the natural dye that bacteria use for photosynthesis. It is a costly and complex process that involves toxic solvents and can cause the dye to degrade.

The UBC team left the dye in the bacteria. They genetically engineered E coli to produce large amounts of lycopene – a dye that gives tomatoes their red-orange colour and is particularly effective at harvesting light for conversion to energy.

The researchers coated the bacteria with a mineral that could act as a semiconductor, and applied the mixture to a glass surface.

With the coated glass acting as an anode at one end of their cell, they generated a current density of 0.686 milli amperes per square centimetre – an improvement on the 0.362 achieved by others in the field.

The micrograph shows how the cells look under a scanning electron microscope.

We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell,” said Yadav.

The cost savings are difficult to estimate, but Yadav believes the process reduces the cost of dye production to about one-tenth of what it would be otherwise.

The holy grail would be finding a process that doesn’t kill the bacteria, so they can produce dye indefinitely, said Yadav.

There are other potential applications for these biogenic materials in mining, deep-sea exploration and other low-light environments.

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Mars Surface May Be Too Toxic For Microbial Life

mars surface

The combination of UV radiation and perchlorates common on Mars could be deadly for bacteria.
The hope for Martian life took another blow today. As Ian Sample at The Guardian reports, a new study suggests that in the presence of ultraviolet light, perchlorates, a class of chemical compounds widespread on Mars’ surface, turn deadly for bacteria.

The presence of perchlorates isn’t new. Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft detected perchlorates when they landed on the Martian surface in 1976. Since then, other spacecraft have confirmed the presence of the compounds. The 2009 Phoenix lander found that perchlorates make up between 0.4 and 0.6 percent of the soil sample it collected.

While perchlorates, which are composed of chlorine and oxygen, are toxic to humans, microbes typically love the stuff. And researchers have been optimistic that their presence could support bacterial life on Mars. Some bacteria on Earth use naturally occurring perchlorate as an energy source.
The compound also lowers the melting point of water, which could improve the chance of liquid water existing on the Red Planet. But the latest study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that in the presence of ultraviolet light perchlorate is not so microbe-friendly.

Mars has a thin atmosphere, which often leaves its surface bathed in UV rays. And when heated, chlorine-based molecules like perchlorates cause heavy damage to living cells.

“We knew before that any life would have an incredibly hard time to survive on the surface, and this study experimentally confirms that,” Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Washington State University not involved in the study.
mars surface
It’s also possible that hypothetical Martian bacteria could be much tougher than the common Bacillus subtilis. On Earth, researchers have found all types of extremophile organisms with the ability to survive under intense heat and pressure, in the presence of acid, without water and even inside rocks.
“Life can survive very extreme environments,”  says co-author Jennifer Wadsworth .“The bacterial model we tested wasn’t an extremophile so it’s not out of the question that hardier life forms would find a way to survive.”
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Scientists Accidentally Produce An Enzyme That Devours Plastic

There are research teams around the world dedicated to finding a remedy for the growing plastic pollution crisis, but now it seems that one group of scientists have found a feasible answer — and they stumbled upon it by accident.

Researchers studying a newly-discovered bacterium found that with a few tweaks, the bug can be turned into a mutant enzyme that starts eating plastic in a matter of days, compared to the centuries it takes for plastic to break down in the ocean.

The surprise discovery was made when scientists began investigating the structure of a bacterium found in a waste dump in Japan.

The bug produced an enzyme, which the team studied using the Diamond Light Source, an intense beam of X-rays 10 billion times brighter than the sun.

At first, the enzyme looked similar to one evolved by many kinds of bacteria to break down cutin, a natural polymer used by plants as a protective layer.

But after some gentle manipulation, the team actually improved its ability to eat PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the type of plastic used in drinks bottles.

Existing examples of industrial enzymes, such as those used in detergents and biofuels, have been manipulated to work up to 1,000 times faster in just a few years.

McGeehan believes the same could be possible with the new enzyme: “It gives us scope to use all the technology used in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme.

According to the team, potential future uses for the enzyme could include spraying it on the huge islands of floating plastic in oceans to break down the material.

Plastic pollution has seen renewed focus in recent times, thanks largely to attention drawn by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series, and through a number of legislative proposals.

Science has examined a huge range of solutions, from plastic-plucking robots to infrared identification from space, but the discovery of this mutant enzyme could herald an entirely new way of dealing with the issue.

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To Get Humans To Mars, Making Space Food With Space Poop Is What We Need


Astronauts aboard the ISS drink recycled pee for a reason: we can only bring so much food and water to to space. Imagine how much more we need to take for that year-long journey to Mars.

Since bringing more resources means higher costs — the heavier a spacecraft is, the more fuel it needs, after all — scientists are looking to find ways to make self-sustaining vehicles.

A team of researchers from Penn State University, for instance, have developed a method to make space food with astronaut poop.

Disgusting? Well, the team’s technique doesn’t exactly turn the feces itself into food.

Instead, it uses microbes to break down solid and liquid human waste with anaerobic digestion, a process that doesn’t consume precious oxygen, similar to what happens inside our stomach when we eat.

During digestion, the fecal material produces methane, which is then fed to bacteria (Methylococcus capsulatus) naturally found in soil and already used to make animal pellets using a microbial reactor.

When the researchers tested their technique using artificial poop, the end result was biomass that’s 52 percent protein and 36 percent fats.

That’s what future spacefarers would eat — and what Mark Watney probably would’ve used as dip for his potatoes if he just had the equipment.

Team leader and Penn State professor Christopher House admits that “it’s a little strange,” but it’s like “Marmite or Vegemite where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo.‘” We’ll bet space-poop goo is also an acquired taste.

In addition to being packed with nutrients, the goo is also relatively fast to make: researchers said they managed to remove 49 to 59 percent of the solids in the waste material within 13 hours during their tests.

That’s much faster than current waste management treatment methods, and as House said, it’s “faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes.

The researchers also found potential food sources other than Methylococcus capsulatus during their tests.

When they tried growing microbes in either an alkaline or a high-heat environment to prevent the growth of pathogens, they discovered that a bacterium called Halomonas desiderata (15 percent protein and 7 percent fats) can thrive in the harsh conditions.

Another species of bacteria called Thermus aquaticus can live in environments reaching 158 degrees Fahrenheit, as well.

With a nutritional value that’s 61 percent protein and 16 percent fats, it’s yet another possible source of microbial goo grub for future astronauts.

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Is Hand Sanitizer Killing You?

Parents have made an enemy of bacteria for years. They’ve sanitized tabletops, disinfected playthings and wiped down grocery store carts to keep their children safe from unseen germs.

That instinct is a natural one, experts say, but emerging research about the body’s bacteria, fungi and other cells that cover our skin, gastrointestinal tract and other areas suggests that we may be taking hygiene vigilance a little too far.

That, in the long run, weakens our immune systems.

Scientists are only beginning to understand the millions of microbes that make up the human microbiome, said UC Davis microbiologist Jonathan Eisen, but researchers are finding that antibiotics.

Household disinfectants and other sanitizing products are also killing the “good bacteria” that help our bodies fend off disease.

Many believe that the shortage of certain microbes explains recent spikes in childhood allergies and asthma.

People in developing countries, who grow up in less sterile environments, eat mostly non-processed foods and spend more time around people and animals, have more varieties of microbes in their gastrointestinal tracts than people in the United States, recent studies show.

At the same time, food allergy rates are lower in Africa and South America than in North America, Western Europe and Australia, according to the World Allergy Organization.

The findings play into the “hygiene hypothesis,” or the idea that childhood infections acquired through unhygienic contact bolster the immune system against disease later in life.

Of course, too many germs can also carry risks for children, said Dr. Ralph Morris, a Minnesota physician.

So what is the microbiome anyway?

The microbiome is made up of trillions of bacterial cells that we pick up from the world. They’re mostly concentrated in the gastrointestinal tract, but they also live in the lungs, mouth and other parts of the body.

Microbes assist in food digestion and trigger the immune system to fight illness. Some microbes appear to contribute to weight gain and others cause inflammation.

A difference in microbial makeup can predispose people to certain diseases or change the way they react to drug therapies.


How is it formed?

Germ exposure starts in utero and keeps forming through adulthood, making the first few months and years of a child’s life a crucial time for building a healthy microbiome.

Many experts, including Roseville allergist and immunologist Dr. Travis Miller, believe the ways babies are delivered help determine their future health.

Babies born vaginally take in healthy microbes from the birth canal, organisms that babies delivered by cesarean section don’t pick up, Miller said.

That may place C-section babies at a disadvantage from the get-go, he said.

How dirty is dangerous?

Land Park mother Amanda Bauer said she tries to be careful about keeping her two young daughters clean.

She doesn’t carry hand sanitizer around with her, she said, but always makes sure her 7- and 9-year-olds wash their hands after going to the grocery store.

Around the house, she cleans off door handles, remote controls and other heavily touched items with Lysol wipes, especially when someone is sick.

Recent science supports Bauer’s beliefs.

A study from Swedish researchers found that children whose families washed dishes by hand had significantly lower rates of eczema and slightly lower rates of allergies than children whose families used a dishwasher.

Other studies have shown children who live with dogs and cats tend to be healthier because the pets pass on their own beneficial microbes.

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Bacteria On Space Station Likely From Germy Humans, Not Aliens

Living bacteria have been found on the outside of the International Space Station, a Russian cosmonaut told the state news agency TASS this week.

Anton Shkaplerov, who will lead Russia’s ISS crew in December, said that previous cosmonauts swabbed the station’s Russian segment during spacewalks and sent the samples back to Earth.

The samples came from places on the station that had accumulated fuel waste, as well as other obscure nooks and crannies.

Their tests showed that the swabs held types of bacteria that were not on the module when it originally launched into orbit, Shkaplerov says.

In his interview with TASS, Shkaplerov says the bacteria “have come from outer space and settled along the external surface“, a claim that sparked some media outlets to issue frenzied reports about aliens colonizing the space station.

For now, though, details about the swabbing experiment are thin on the ground.

Shkaplerov did not note whether the study has been vetted by a peer-reviewed journal, which means it’s unclear exactly when and how the full experiment was conducted, or how the team avoided any contamination from much more mundane bacteria on the cosmonauts or in the Earth-bound lab.

Interview requests with the Russian space agency were unanswered when this article went to press. Up in the vacuum of space, microbes have to deal with turbulent temperatures, cosmic radiation, and ultraviolet light.

But Earth is home to plenty of hardy organisms that can survive in extreme environments, like virtually indestructible tardigrades.

Sometimes, researchers intentionally send terrestrial contaminants, such as E. coli and rocks covered in bacteria, into space to see how it will react.

And TASS reports that on a previous ISS mission, bacteria accidentally hitched a ride to the station on tablet PCs and other materials.

Scientists sent these objects up to see how they would fare in space, and the freeriding organisms managed to infiltrate the outside of the station.

They remained there for three years, braving temperatures fluctuating between -150 and 150 degrees Celsius.


These types of discoveries present concerns for scientists trying to limit the spread of human germs on other worlds.

NASA in particular has set strict limits on its interplanetary contamination.

Apollo astronauts were quarantined when they returned from their missions, for example, to prevent extraterrestrial germs from making their way out into the world.

And almost all equipment from Earth is sterilized before it heads skyward, either with extreme heat or an alcohol bath, depending on its intended destination.

These treatments are especially important for missions sent to Mars, which may have once hosted its own life-forms, leaving fossil traces in the rusty rocks.

But all bets may be off when and if we manage to send humans to explore Mars, writes The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla: “Once we’ve put humans on the surface, alive or dead, it becomes much, much harder to identify native Martian life.”

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According To A Russian Cosmonaut, Bacteria Found On International Space Station May Be Alien In Origin

Bacteria found on the outside of the International Space station could be alien life, according to a cosmonaut who has visited the satellite.

Spacewalkers regularly take samples and materials from the outside of the station when they head outside for what are officially called “extravehicular activity“.

Those samples are then taken down to scientists on Earth, who study them to understand the workings of the International Space Station and possibly life in space.

Now Anton Shkaplerov, a Russian cosmonaut who has served on board the space lab, told the Russian state news agency that one of those experiments had found something interesting.

Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs,” Mr Shkaplerov said. “So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull.

He made clear that “it seems, there is no danger “, and that scientists are doing more work to find out what they are.

He said also that similar missions had found bacteria that could survive temperatures between -150 degrees celsius and 150.

That bacteria appears to have made its way from Earth – but suggests that it can survive in the harsh environments of space.

It isn’t entirely clear where the rumoured organisms are currently being stored, and what scientists know about them.

Finding bacteria that came from somewhere other than Earth would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of science – but much more must be done before such a claim is made.

Earlier this year, Russian scientists announced that the “Test” experiments had found a range of different organisms that had been brought up from Earth and seemed to be surviving by clinging onto the ISS’s hull.

They included plankton and bacteria that had been pulled up by a phenomenon that lifts micro-organisms up into the heights of the atmosphere.

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Possible Side Effects of the Bread & Water Diet

Many weight loss plans like carbohydrate cycling, ketogenic diets, liquid diets can be complicated, so a diet of bread and water alone may seem attractive due to its simplicity.

While such a diet may produce weight loss due to a low calorie content, there are many potential side effects, as a bread and water diet would not provide balanced nutrition.

Consult a doctor and apply your own common sense before you start any diet plan. Here are some side effects of bread and water diet:

  1. Reduced Testosterone Levels
    The foods you eat not only have an effect on your weight, but the functioning of your body’s internal systems, including your endocrine system, which controls hormone production.Bread contains very little fat and tends to be rich in fiber, so a diet comprised entirely of bread and water could have negative effects on your hormone levels.According to research published in the December 1996 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition“, consuming a diet rich in fiber and low in fat can decrease levels of testosterone. This hormone helps produce muscle and can aid in fat loss.
  2. Impaired Wound Healing
    Although bread does provide some important nutrients, it is typically devoid of vitamin C. This nutrient acts as an antioxidant and is crucial for healthy growth and development.Additionally, vitamin C plays a vital role in the wound healing process, so a bread and water diet may compromise your body’s ability to heal injuries.
  3. Eye Damage
    Consuming a diet consisting of just water and bread can also impair your vision. This is because neither water nor bread provide vitamin A.This vitamin is important for a wide array of functions, including maintaining the lining of your eyes that keeps out harmful bacteria.You may also experience night blindness, as a lack of vitamin A can dry out your eyes and cause damage to your cornea and retina.
  4. Increased Risk of Infection
    Consuming just bread and water may make you more susceptible to infections. This is because both vitamins A and C, vitamins not provided by bread — are involved in maintaining the integrity of your immune system.Even relatively innocuous infections may become serious health problems due to your compromised ability to fight off infections.
  5. Weak Bones
    Eating a diet of just bread and water can be detrimental for your skeletal system. This is because vitamin C helps produce collagen, which forms part of your bone structure.Additionally, bread contains no vitamin D, and low levels of this vitamin may lead to osteoporosis.
  6. Poor Skin and Hair Health
    Neither bread nor water are rich in dietary fat. While dietary fat is sometimes avoided on diets because it is high in calories, doing so can be detrimental.Your body needs fat to maintain your skin and hair health, so a diet low in fat can be detrimental for both.

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