Category Archives: Microbiology

How prions kill neurons

Prion diseases are fatal neurodegenerative disorders that cause memory loss, impaired coordination, and abnormal movements. The molecular culprit in prion diseases is PrPSc, an infectious isoform of a host-encoded glycoprotein (PrPC) that can propagate itself by a self-templating mechanism. Whether … Continue reading

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Can we prevent norovirus infections?

Each year, noroviruses cause over 200,000 deaths and a global economic burden of US$64 billion. A highly contagious virus that most people will contract 5 times in their lifetime, the most serious outcomes of the disease – hospitalization and death … Continue reading

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How immunity to RSV develops in childhood but deteriorates in adults

A leading infectious cause of severe respiratory disease in infants, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), is also a major cause of respiratory illness in the elderly. Approved vaccines do not yet exist, and despite the development of partial immunity following infection … Continue reading

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The parasite’s new clothes

Schistosomes are a type of parasitic flatworm, or fluke, and inhabit a site in the human body that is inhospitable to most other parasites – the blood. Yet instead of succumbing to our immune cells, the flukes can dwell in … Continue reading

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Upsetting the Tree of Life

A nice thought piece by Ford Doolittle in PLoS Genetics. We run our first year students though this each year, so it is nice to think that some of them might find and be influenced by this article next year. … Continue reading

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RNA Bacteriophage Diversity

Viruses that infect bacteria are among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Oceans and soils, and potentially even our bodies, would be overrun with bacteria were it not for bacteriophages. A new study suggests that bacteriophages with RNA genomes … Continue reading

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CRISPR-like ‘immune’ system discovered in giant virus

Giant mimiviruses fend off invaders using defences similar to the CRISPR system deployed by bacteria and other microorganisms. Like prokaryotes, mimiviruses are plagued by viruses known as virophages. This appears to have led to the evolution of a defence system … Continue reading

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Plant virus RNA silencing suppressor proteins

The RNA silencing pathway in plants acts in part as an antiviral defense mechanism. Plant viruses have evolved to encode suppressors of RNA silencing. Plant viral RNA silencing suppressor proteins (RSS) show little sequence conservation, but act on similar key … Continue reading

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Cyanobacteria evolved the first eyes

Cyanobacteria in the oceans are among the world’s most important oxygen producers and carbon dioxide consumers. Synechocystis is a spherical single-celled cyanobacterium that measures about three thousandths of a millimetre across. Because Synechocystis needs sunlight to produce energy, it is … Continue reading

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