The Pandora Report (or the “News Roundup” formerly known as “Friday”)

Name change time! We got tired of being confused with weed-killer, and besides, the Pandora Report has a certain snazz to it, don’t you think? If you hate it let us know, and we’ll brainstorm anew. Hope your respective Thanksgivings’ were appropriately filling! To the news:

Highlights include virus hunting in Cameroon, Mycoplasma zombies (for real), bacterial altruism, bacteria chatting about battle plans, Scottish honey as a potential MRSA treatment, and Ebola (of course).

What if a Deadly New Virus Jumped from Animals to Humans?

Not a lot here that you probably don’t already know, but it’s always a good idea to know how the media covers emergent diseases (if only so that you’re not completely flummoxed when someone asks about efficacy of bush meat hunters acting as viral sentinels). Also, I nominate “virus huntering” as an official choice for our degree concentration.

TIME – “In a rapidly interconnected world, the dangers and threats posed by virulent strains of terrifying infectious diseases has only multiplied. On the watch for deadly pandemics is Nathan Wolfe, acclaimed virus hunter and member of the 2011 class of the TIME 100. Wolfe spoke to the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with TIME, about future pandemics on the horizon.”

Mycoplasma “Ghosts” Can Rise From the Dead

For those of you too lazy to Google, Mycoplasma are interesting because they lack a cell wall (making them harder to kill)(antibiotics often target cell walls, as an easy way to distinguish between invading and host cells [human cells don’t have cell walls]).

The Artful Amoeba (Scientific American) – “As the titles of journal articles go, it’s hard to find one more elegant, enticing and — notably, if you’ve been in the business long — succinct than ‘Gliding Ghosts of Mycoplasma mobile’. But the substance of “Gliding Ghosts” is even better than the promise. That’s because the cellular propulsion system of Mycoplasma mobile does something extraordinary: with the addition of ATP, M. mobile‘s gutted and very much dead remains can get up and move as if they were alive.”

Engineered Bacteria Can Make the Ultimate Sacrifice for the Good of the Population

A little bacterial altruism, just in time for the holidays.

Science Daily– “Scientists have engineered bacteria that are capable of sacrificing themselves for the good of the bacterial population. These altruistically inclined bacteria, which are described online in the journal Molecular Systems Biology, can be used to demonstrate the conditions where programmed cell death becomes a distinct advantage for the survival of the bacterial population.”

Microbiology: Eavesdropping on bacterial conversations

Quorum sensing strikes again – helping bacteria coordinate their battle strategies to maximize making you sick.

Nanowerk News– “For decades, microbiologists thought that bacteria act individually, unaware of their multitudinous counterparts involved in causing the same infection. In the past two decades, however, they have discovered that many species of bacteria ‘communicate’. In fact, bacteria can signal to each other that their numbers are sufficient to launch a coordinated attack. Now, by working with Burkholderia cenocepacia, an opportunistic pathogen that infects cystic fibrosis patients, a research team led by Lian-Hui Zhang from the A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) has described a previously unknown quorum-sensing system that is present in many human bacterial pathogens… ”

Sweet Medicine: Using Honey to Treat MRSA?

Those Scots. Now if only this treatment extended to other Scottish products ending in “y” [or “tch”], we would really be onto something.

The Scotsman – “Honey produced by thousands of Portobello bees may be used in the fight against killer superbugs like MRSA. Research from Queen Margaret University [Scotland] has shown that honey from the seaside is effective at killing common strains of bacteria which cause wound infections. The pilot research study – which got under way at the end of last year – found the locally produced honey was as effective at combating bugs as manuka honey from New Zealand. Funding is now being sought by the university to establish if it can fight antibiotic resistant bugs like MRSA.”

Uganda: Ebola – Why Uganda Is So Prone

Deforestation and encroachment of humans into wildlife habitats are both described as possible exacerbating factors of the Luweero Ebola outbreak.

All Africa – “In four months, the deadly viral haemorrhagic fevers have hit Uganda three times, killing at least 29 people in Uganda. An ongoing outbreak of a different strain of Ebola, following previous attacks of Ebola and Marburg, raises the question why we are becoming so vulnerable to these viral attacks. First to be hit, in July, was the western district of Kibaale, where Ebola claimed 17 lives including 12 from the same family.”

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