One more link between peas and carrots!

Saturday 1 May, 2010

A pea and a carrotRemember the carotenoids? These antioxidants that also let golden staphylococci resist phagocytosis (1)?

A recent study in Science Magazine (2) demonstrates, for the first time, the ability of animals (insects: the pea aphids that infect peas and other plants) to synthesize carotenoids.

Well, they didn’t exactly inherit it vertically from their ancestors, but rather got the genes as a kind gift from some fungus, long long time ago.

I will let you read the study, and uncover the new convoluted link between peas and carrots: Carrots make–> carotenoids also synthesized by–> fungi horizontally transferred to–> pea aphidsinfect–> peas (it’s still below six degrees of separation)!

Peas and carrotsPea aphids

Cited articles:

(1) Liu, G., & Nizet, V. (2009). Color me bad: microbial pigments as virulence factors Trends in Microbiology, 17 (9), 406-413 DOI: 10.1016/j.tim.2009.06.006

(2) Moran, N., & Jarvik, T. (2010). Lateral Transfer of Genes from Fungi Underlies Carotenoid Production in Aphids Science, 328 (5978), 624-627 DOI: 10.1126/science.1187113

Show me which bacteria you left behind and I will tell you who you are!

Friday 2 April, 2010

Beware! Don’t leave a bacterial fingerprint behind you in a “crime scene” or elsewhere!

Your skin is more than what you think it is. Even if you don’t leave a “visible” fingerprint on my laptop monitor, on your car windows, or anywhere else, you are leaving millions of bacteria there. What’s new? We all new that our fingers are a wonderful niche where invisible bacteria thrive?
What IS new is that these bacteria are highly diagnostic too. Tell me which bacteria you left behind; I tell you who you are. Thus claims a paper by Noah Fierer and coworkers from Colorado…
Fierer, N., Lauber, C., Zhou, N., McDonald, D., Costello, E., & Knight, R. (2010). Forensic identification using skin bacterial communities Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1000162107

Pigs can’t fly, but their viruses flew!

Monday 27 April, 2009

The common idiom states that pigs cannot fly. I don’t think this statement can be easily debated. However, the swine flu viruses now seem to have flown around the globe quickly (with cases in New Zealand, New York, Canada, California, and of course Mexico). As always, with such things that one cannot easily interpret, both news agencies and conspiracy theorists are always ahead of scientists with a mixture of quasi-scientific, scientifically inaccurate, and entertaining stories (or maybe not).

It is hard with conditions such as the current eventual flu pandemic to get the facts straight. I cannot claim having any additional knowledge, but I would rather read what the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) have to say first:



The parasite of our parasite is our friend?!

Thursday 7 August, 2008

I don’t know how to introduce it!! I have only few minutes to tell you simply that all what we teach you is already old, very old!! All what is published in new textbooks is also old. Even what is in journals is already old! The third millennium’s science is really quick.

In the advance online section of the journal Nature comes the news: viruses are not safe from infection! There is now a “virophage”: a virus that attacks a bigger virus. The first virophage has been named Sputnik (after a prototypic satellite).

the first virophage (Nature)

Meet Sputnik: the first virophage (image from Nature)

(image source)

We were talking about the pathogen’s pathogen, the bacteriophage! Here comes the pathogen’s pathogen’s pathogen!

Read more here and here.

To learn about microbes, think like a microbe!!

Monday 25 February, 2008

Adopt a Microbe! a very interesting blog that artistically represents microbes, makes you think like one of them, then you will definitely know them better.

I think each microbiology student should have his own way of representing a microbe: draw a picture of them, write a song, even a play!

When your job is to discover microbes and give them names…

Saturday 23 February, 2008


Dr. Mostafa Elshahed–a graduate of Faculty of Pharmacy, Cairo University (FOPCU), Class of 1993–will give a seminar about his research to uncover the hidden soil microbiome. Dr. Elshahed was a demonstrator in the Department of Microibology and Immunology at FOPCU who got his PhD from the University of Oklahoma and is currently an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University.

Dr. Elshahed’s work is focused on the discovery of new microbial strain, especially extremophilic bacteria and archaea. It is really an interesting job to isolate microorganisms from the environment; the challenge is that most of these organisms cannot be cultured!

This work raises a lot of interesting questions: How to find new organisms when you cannot culture them? How to know that the microbial DNA you belongs to a new organism? How to analyze complex metagenomic data (with multiple living forms involved in a single habitat)? How to name the new organisms? Can you give them your name (aren’t there bacteria called Pasteurella after Louis Pasteur)? Do you have to study Latin grammar?

Dr. Elshahed has kindly accepted to answer all these questions in an article that he wrote specially to Read the article here


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