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Campylobacter jejuni is a major cause of diarrheal disease in humans. However, C. jejuni is also naturally found in chickens and doesn’t cause them any problems, so people frequently get sick from eating undercooked chicken. Dr. David Hendrixson is a Professor of Microbiology at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Hendrixson studies C. jejuni a…
 
Our eyes are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodies, and they are constantly bathed in microbes, and yet we rarely get eye infections. However, certain microbes can take advantage of minor injuries to the eye and cause very serious infections that can lead to blindness. Dr. Eric Pearlman is a Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of C…
 
Cheese is delicious, and also the product of a complex mixture of microbes. Different communities of microbes produce the wide variety of cheeses made around the world. Dr. Rachel Dutton is an Assistant Professor at the University of California San Diego who studies cheese microbiomes. Dr. Dutton talks about how cheese is made, how the cheese micro…
 
Candida albicans is the most common cause of fungal disease in the United States. C. albicans can cause serious and often fatal systemic infections, especially in hospitalized patients with underlying conditions. Dr. Cornelius Clancy is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the Director of the XDR Pathogen Lab. Dr. Clancy talks…
 
Lyme Disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted to humans through the bite of a deer tick, and can lead to the debilitating disease that most commonly is associated with arthritis, but can also cause heart and neurological problems. Dr. Tim Sellati is the Chief Scientific …
 
Some bacteria have the amazing ability to orient themselves using the earth’s magnetic field, due to the presence of an intracellular organelle called the magnetosome, which are estimated to have evolved 3 billion years ago. Dr. Arash Komeili is a Professor at the University of California Berkeley who studies bacterial magnetosomes. Dr. Komeili tal…
 
Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in the world, with approximately 10 million people becoming sick and 1.5 million people dying every year from Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Dr. William Jacobs is a Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and member of the National Academy of Sciences who st…
 
What happens when a bacterium gets old? Continuous culture of bacteria without any added nutrients can reveal the dynamics of “old” bacteria. Dr. Steve Finkel is a Professor at University of Southern California who studies what happens beyond “stationary phase” in bacterial cultures. Finkel studies the Growth Advantage in Stationary Phase (GASP) ph…
 
Despite comprising half of the population, women are underrepresented as scientific professionals. The reasons for underrepresentation are multi-factorial. Dr. Joan Bennett is a Professor at Rutgers University who studies fungi; she is a past president of the American Society of Microbiology, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Throug…
 
Genomics-based technologies have revolutionized science. From microarrays to next-generation sequencing, genomics technologies are having a tremendous positive impact on all aspects of human health. Dr. Joe DeRisi is a professor at the University of California San Francisco and co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. DeRisi has been at the fore…
 
One reason is because the overwhelming bacterial members of the microbiome keep the fungi in check. Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum is a professor at Case Western University and the director of the Center for Medical Mycology, who studies fungal pathogens, such as Candida, Aspergillus, and Cryptococcus. Ghannoum talks about how changes in the bacterial microb…
 
The presence of bacterial toxins in a remote coral reef got Stanley Maloy thinking about the evolution of pathogens, and where “emerging diseases” come from. Dr. Stanley Maloy is a professor at San Diego State University who studies Salmonella, which causes gastrointestinal illness as well as more systemic disease in various hosts. He is the associ…
 
Bacteriophages (“phages”), or bacterial viruses, are the most abundant biological entity on the planet, and the microbial world is shaped by these predators and parasites. The ability of bacteriophages to specifically target and kill their prey is being explored as an alternate therapy to antibiotics against various bacterial diseases. Dr. Graham H…
 
Frequent urges to go “number one” can be the symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI), one of the most common types of bacterial infections in humans. Usually the treatment of UTIs is quick and effective, but sometimes the organisms causing the infection can get into the kidneys and cause serious and even fatal disease. Dr. Harry Mobley is a prof…
 
Summer brings warm beach weather, and with it come gruesome news reports of “flesh eating disease” that people catch from the ocean. Vibrio vulnificus is a marine bacterium that prefers warmer seawater, and it can infect wounds and cause necrotizing fasciitis, also known as “flesh eating disease”, that can rapidly turn into a fatal infection. Dr. K…
 
One of the more gruesome parasitic infections is that of the guinea worm: these 3 feet long worms typically emerge from painful boils in the feet to release eggs, and have to be slowly wound onto a stick over the course of days to weeks to pull them them out of the infected person’s leg. This debilitating infection afflicted 3.5 million people per …
 
The earth is warming up, and many aspects of life on earth are changing with the changing climate. Increased global temperature has multifactorial impacts on living organisms, including microbes. Dr. Sanghoon Kang is an assistant professor at Baylor University who studies climate change and its effects on microbial communities. Dr. Kang talks about…
 
Candida albicans is the most common fungal infection of humans. C. albicans can cause superficial infections like thrush or vaginitis when it overgrows within healthy individuals, but it causes much more serious disease when it infects immunocompromised individuals. C. albicans can form a matrix-encased biofilm on indwelling medical devices that se…
 
Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial disease in the U.S. Chlamydia infections in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, and in the worst cases ectopic pregnancy or sterility. C. trachomatis are obligate intracellular bacteria, which has made studying the genetics of virulence particularly difficult. Dr. Ma…
 
Vibrio cholerae causes a severe gastrointestinal illness that leads to massive fluid loss that can be fatal. These bacteria are normally found in the marine environment, but they can spread rapidly through human populations and cause large epidemics. V. cholerae are able to coordinate their activities by “talking” to each other through quorum sensi…
 
Proteus mirabilis is a common cause of Urinary Tract Infections. These bacteria are found within the gastrointestinal tract, but they are sometimes able to ascend the urinary tract and cause bladder infections. One of the amazing attributes of Proteus is its ability to crawl across Petri dishes, referred to as swarming. Dr. Karine Gibbs is an assoc…
 
Dr. Jeff Miller has been studying Bordetella pertussis, the bacterium that causes whooping cough in humans, for over three decades, and he keeps uncovering novel aspects of the pathogenesis of this organism. B. pertussis still causes outbreaks of human disease, and Dr. Miller has unraveled in amazing detail the signal transduction system that leads…
 
The devastation of the immune system that occurs during AIDS renders patients highly susceptible to a number of infections that a functioning immune system can easily control. One of the most common infections in AIDS patients is Cryptococcosis, caused by a fungus. Cryptococcus neoformans can infect immunocompromised individuals through the lungs a…
 
Dr. Didier Raoult considers himself a “microbe fisher”, always “fishing” to discover new microbes. He says that in order to fish successfully, you need to first create the correct fishing pole (tools), and then fish in places where no one else is fishing. Dr. Raoult is the Director of the Mediterranean Infection Foundation at the Aix-Marseille Univ…
 
Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre was raised in a remote Alaska Native community above the Arctic Circle, and was the first person from her village to obtain a PhD. in biological sciences. She is now a faculty member at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Her research focuses on determining the extent that host genes control host-microbe interactions, utilizi…
 
There are increasing numbers of people with immunocompromised conditions that make them more susceptible to a variety of diseases, including fungal diseases. A group of fungi in the order Mucorales can cause a potentially fatal disease called Mucormycosis in immunocompromised and diabetic individuals. This is a rare disease that is difficult to tre…
 
Many organisms metamorphose from a larvae into an adult, for example a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, but some animals require bacteria in order to undergo this transition. This amazing bacterial-stimulated morphological transition is fairly widespread among different marine animals, like sponges, corals, and sea urchins, but in most …
 
Cholera is a severe diarrheal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae that can spread among human populations in large epidemics when water quality is poor. Dr. Christine Marie George is an Associate Professor in the department of International Health and Environmental Health Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who works to…
 
The malaria parasite, Plasmodium, is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. The parasite needs to infect humans to undergo the morphologic transitions important for its lifecycle, but it also needs to infect mosquitoes to be able to complete its lifecycle. Dr. Gunnar Mair is an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University who studies mosquit…
 
Bacteria talk to each other using molecules that allow them to coordinate group behaviors, which has been termed “quorum sensing”. A number of bacteria utilize quorum sensing to form gangs that coordinate beneficial behaviors such as symbiotic light production, as well as detrimental behaviors such as attacking their host. Dr. Marvin Whiteley is a …
 
The magnificent coral reefs of the world are dying! These fantastic underwater living structures that support entire ecosystems are undergoing massive die-offs that have decimated coral reefs all over the globe. Tropical coral reefs rely on a symbiosis between the coral polyp and a photosynthetic algae, and when this symbiosis is disrupted, the cor…
 
Earth’s most abundant biological entities are viruses, and they can be found everywhere where there are living organisms, including extreme (hellish) environments with e.g. low pH, high temperature, etc. Dr. Ken Stedman is a professor at Portland State University and one of the founders of the Center for Life in Extreme Environments. Dr. Stedman st…
 
Dr. Steve Mayfield is a professor at the University of California San Diego and the Director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology. Algae are amazing microorganisms, and Dr. Mayfield says that the more you know about algae, the more you like them. Algae are extremely important to life on earth: they changed the atmosphere of the planet t…
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on the front lines of the war against infectious diseases, and Anne Schuchat, M.D. has been the Deputy Director of CDC since 2015. She has been at the CDC since 1988 and has served in a variety of leadership roles, including stints as the acting director in 2017 and 2018. Dr. Schuchat has played key…
 
Kevin Doxzen is a science communications specialist at the Innovative Genomics Institute in Berkeley, CA, associated with Dr. Jennifer Doudna. The Institute specializes in gene editing using CRISPR/Cas. The CRISPR/Cas system evolved as a bacterial defense against virus attack, but it has been exploited primarily to manipulate the genomes of eukaryo…
 
Puerto Rico suffered a direct hit from the devastating hurricane Maria in September 2017, which destroyed the power grid and caused mass destruction across the island. Recovery has been slow, and Puerto Rican scientists have suffered from the after-effects in their research activities. Dr. Greetchen Diaz is the Director of Educational Programs at C…
 
Julie Maresca is an associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware. Concrete is the most commonly used building material in the world, and is a very unique dry, high pH environment with special chemical properties. Amazingly, there are microbial communities that live within concrete. Dr. Maresca talks about…
 
Carol Kumamoto is a professor of microbiology at Tufts University. She studies Candida albicans, the most common fungal pathogen of humans. C. albicans is a normal commensal of the human body, and it typically does not cause any harm to people, but rather lives happily among the other microbes e.g. within the intestine. However when the host become…
 
Cherise Rohr-Allegrini is the program director at the Immunization Partnership, whose goal is to improve vaccination rates in San Antonio and across Texas. Every year millions of people suffer and die from vaccine-preventable diseases. The Immunization Partnership strives to increase vaccination rates through education and advocacy. Dr. Rohr-Allegr…
 
Ned Ruby is a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who pioneered the study of a fascinating bacterial-squid symbiosis. The bacterium Vibrio fischeri colonizes the light organ of the squid Euprymna scolopes and produces light, which helps the squid avoid predation and provides the bacteria a protected place to thrive. Over the course of se…
 
Sarkis Mazmanian is a professor at California Institute of Technology who studies how the gut microbiome influences the development and function of the nervous system, the “Gut-Brain Axis”. Dr. Mazmanian has discovered that the microbiome influences the development of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disease caused by the loss of dopam…
 
Students at Southside High School (San Antonio) sent a microbiology experiment up to the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment was designed to look at growth and spore forming ability of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in microgravity. B. dendrobatidis causes chytridiomycosis, a devastating disease that has been decimating amp…
 
Dr. Mary Ann Jabra-Rizk is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, where she studies the fungus Candida albicans and its interactions with the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. C. albicans is a normal commensal fungus and S. aureus is also a common human commensal, but both are also opportunistic pathogens of humans. Fungi and bacteria…
 
Dr. Steven Norris is a Professor at the University of Texas Health Houston, where he studies Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S. and it can lead to lifelong debilitating conditions, including arthritis and neurological symptoms. Dr. Norris has been studying B…
 
Dr. Andrew Alspaugh is a physician and Professor of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Alspaugh is a mycologist, which means he studies fungi. Fungi typically cause serious and sometimes fatal disease in immunocompromised people. It is difficult to treat and prevent fungal diseases in these patients, due to their poorly functioning…
 
Allan Hall is the lead distiller at Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, a “brewstillery” located in San Antonio that makes handcrafted beer and whiskey. Beer brewing is applied microbiology utilizing the fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae to ferment sugars that produce alcohol. Allan talks about the history of brewing and fermentation, the challenges o…
 
Travis Block Communicates Science: the Promise of Stem Cells Dr. Travis Block is senior scientist at StemBioSys, Inc., a biotech company working on stem cell biology, and also the president of San Antonio Science, an organization that promotes science awareness. Dr. Block talks about the promise of stem cell research in treating various diseases, i…
 
Dr. Anthony Griffiths and Dr. Ricardo Carrion are scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute who work on some of the most dangerous viruses in the world under Biological Safety Level 4 (BSL4) containment. BSL4 is the highest form of biological containment that is required for viruses that have a high level of lethality and for which ther…
 
Ron Nirenberg is the mayor of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S. San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities, and bioscience is a major driver of the economy. Mayor Nirenberg talks about the importance of bioscience to the economy, and how the universities, military medicine, and private entities in San Antonio are critical comp…
 
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