nprglobalhealth:

Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People’s Gut Bacteria
New viruses are a dime a dozen.
Every few months, we hear about a newly discovered flu virus that’s jumped from birds to people somewhere in the world. And the number of viruses identified in bats is “extraordinary and appears to increase almost daily,” scientists wrote last year in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
But a virus that has been quietly hiding inside millions of people on three continents — and never been noticed before? That doesn’t come along often.
Scientists at San Diego State University have discovered what may be the most common and abundant virus in the human gut. And yet, the tiny critter, called crAssphage (oh yes, there’s a story behind that name), has eluded researchers’ radar for decades.
Here’s the cool part: The virus doesn’t just hang out in our intestines naked and alone, scientists report Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. Instead, the virus takes up residence inside gut bacteria — specifically insideBacteroides, a group of microbes that have been linked to obesity and diabetes.
So the system is almost like a Russian nesting doll: The virus lives inside the bacterium, which lives inside our gut.
The new virus doesn’t make us sick, but it may be involved in controlling weight through its effect on Bacteroides. "We suspect this virus is very important in regulating the number of these bacteria [the Bacteroides] in the intestine,” says computational biologist Robert Edwards, who led the study.
Edwards and his colleagues found the virus in fecal samples from people across the U.S., Europe, Korea and Japan. “But we think the virus is likely found worldwide,” he tells Goats and Soda. “We’ve basically found it in every population we’ve looked at. If we tested Africans, we think we’d find it in them, too.”
Continue reading.
Illustration: We are all Russian nesting dolls: Our intestines house many bacteria, which house many viruses. These so-called bacteriophages are likely as important for our health as the bacteria they live in. (Lisa Brown for NPR)

nprglobalhealth:

Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People’s Gut Bacteria

New viruses are a dime a dozen.

Every few months, we hear about a newly discovered flu virus that’s jumped from birds to people somewhere in the world. And the number of viruses identified in bats is “extraordinary and appears to increase almost daily,” scientists wrote last year in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

But a virus that has been quietly hiding inside millions of people on three continents — and never been noticed before? That doesn’t come along often.

Scientists at San Diego State University have discovered what may be the most common and abundant virus in the human gut. And yet, the tiny critter, called crAssphage (oh yes, there’s a story behind that name), has eluded researchers’ radar for decades.

Here’s the cool part: The virus doesn’t just hang out in our intestines naked and alone, scientists report Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. Instead, the virus takes up residence inside gut bacteria — specifically insideBacteroides, a group of microbes that have been linked to obesity and diabetes.

So the system is almost like a Russian nesting doll: The virus lives inside the bacterium, which lives inside our gut.

The new virus doesn’t make us sick, but it may be involved in controlling weight through its effect on Bacteroides. "We suspect this virus is very important in regulating the number of these bacteria [the Bacteroides] in the intestine,” says computational biologist Robert Edwards, who led the study.

Edwards and his colleagues found the virus in fecal samples from people across the U.S., Europe, Korea and Japan. “But we think the virus is likely found worldwide,” he tells Goats and Soda. “We’ve basically found it in every population we’ve looked at. If we tested Africans, we think we’d find it in them, too.”

Continue reading.

Illustration: We are all Russian nesting dolls: Our intestines house many bacteria, which house many viruses. These so-called bacteriophages are likely as important for our health as the bacteria they live in. (Lisa Brown for NPR)

Reblogged from nprglobalhealth

nprglobalhealth:

Shades Of The Middle Ages: The Plague Popped Up In China And Colorado
The plague isn’t just something you read about in medieval history books.
This past week, five cases were reported: four in Colorado and one in China.
The Colorado residents were diagnosed after coming into contact with an infected dog.
According to Chinese officials, parts of a city in northern China were quarantined for nine days, and 151 people were put under close observation after a man died of the disease last Wednesday. He was reportedly infected after handling a dead Himalayan marmot, a chubby rodent with a history of carrying the bacterium that causes the plague.
What’s remarkable is that the disease has remained essentially the same over all those years and in all those places. Anthropologists have found that the strain of bacteria in medieval skeletons from Europe is almost identical to the one circulating today.
Once known as the Black Death for the dark patches caused by bleeding under the skin, the plague swept Europe 700 years ago, killing a third of the population — an estimated 25 million. It wiped out millions in China and Hong Kong in the late 1800s before people put two and two together and started targeting rat populations.
Centuries later, the plague periodically pops up in countries across the globe.
The painful infection is caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium that dwells in fleas. The bacteria will hook onto the lining of the flea’s gut and stomach, and grow into a film that can clog the insect’s digestive passage. The next time the flea goes for a blood meal, it pukes into whatever animal it feeds on (usually a rodent), spreading the bacteria.
Continue reading.
Illustration from Wikimedia Commons.

nprglobalhealth:

Shades Of The Middle Ages: The Plague Popped Up In China And Colorado

The plague isn’t just something you read about in medieval history books.

This past week, five cases were reported: four in Colorado and one in China.

The Colorado residents were diagnosed after coming into contact with an infected dog.

According to Chinese officials, parts of a city in northern China were quarantined for nine days, and 151 people were put under close observation after a man died of the disease last Wednesday. He was reportedly infected after handling a dead Himalayan marmot, a chubby rodent with a history of carrying the bacterium that causes the plague.

What’s remarkable is that the disease has remained essentially the same over all those years and in all those places. Anthropologists have found that the strain of bacteria in medieval skeletons from Europe is almost identical to the one circulating today.

Once known as the Black Death for the dark patches caused by bleeding under the skin, the plague swept Europe 700 years ago, killing a third of the population — an estimated 25 million. It wiped out millions in China and Hong Kong in the late 1800s before people put two and two together and started targeting rat populations.

Centuries later, the plague periodically pops up in countries across the globe.

The painful infection is caused by Yersinia pestisa bacterium that dwells in fleas. The bacteria will hook onto the lining of the flea’s gut and stomach, and grow into a film that can clog the insect’s digestive passage. The next time the flea goes for a blood meal, it pukes into whatever animal it feeds on (usually a rodent), spreading the bacteria.

Continue reading.

Illustration from Wikimedia Commons.

Reblogged from nprglobalhealth