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Lab Rat

Exploring the life and times of bacteria
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    S.E. Gould A biochemist with a love of microbiology, the Lab Rat enjoys exploring, reading about and writing about bacteria. Having finally managed to tear herself away from university, she now works for a small company in Cambridge where she turns data into manageable words and awesome graphs. Follow on Twitter @labratting.
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  • The viruses that spread antibiotic resistance

    Drawing of a bacteriophage. Image from Togo picture gallery maintained by Database Center for Life Science (DBCLS).

    Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria, and in the great war between humans and pathogenic bacteria they can act as allies for both sides. Phages that destroy their host bacteria can be used as antimicrobial therapy, complementing or replacing antibiotics. On the other hand as phages are essentially little capsules that carry DNA from one [...]

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    Glowing fungi for studying infectious diseases

    Bioluminescent dinoflagellates on a breaking wave. Image by catalano82 on flickr

    When studying how infections grow and spread it is always helpful to be able to see the organism causing the disease. There are currently a range of microbial and labelling techniques available to view micro-organisms within the cells they infect, and one of the most useful is bioluminescence imaging. This takes advantage of a natural [...]

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    Sauerkraut: bacteria making food

    This much sauerkraut!

    Last week my husband needed some jars for cooking purposes. Tesco sell jars for somewhere around £3 each. However they also sell large jars full of sauerkraut for £1 each. Which means that last weekend we had an awful lot of sauerkraut to try and get through. I’m not a great fan of sauerkraut, which [...]

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    Urease: an anti-microbial target in bacteria and fungi

    Proteus bacteria growing on an agar plate

    Urea is a small molecule formed as proteins are broken down. It’s excreted in urine, but isn’t particularly toxic at low levels so it’s found in cells throughout the body. The molecular structure of urea is below, and as it contains nitrogen (N) several pathogens have adapted to use it as a nitrogen source using [...]

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    Fussy eaters: the favoured food of Salmonella

    The chemical structure of fructose-asparagine, image from the reference.

    As antibiotic resistance increases the search for new anti-bacterial treatments becomes more and more important. One way to design anti-bacterials is to find specific biochemical pathways that the bacteria require to survive, and develop drugs that block off these pathways. Some pathways are better targets than others and for Salmonella bacteria it was thought that pathways [...]

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    Arctic creepy-crawlies part II: woolly bear caterpillars

    The Woolly Bear Caterpillar. Mike Beauregard from Nunavut, Canada. Uploaded by Tillman. CC 2.0

    This is the second part of my two-part mini series on Arctic creepy-crawlies. Part I: ice worms can be found here. Part II: Woolly bear caterpillar The Arctic woolly bear moth (Gynaephora groenlandica) is found in Greenland and Canada around the Arctic Circle. Unlike the ice worms the caterpillars don’t require exclusively freezing conditions to [...]

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    Arctic creepy-crawlies part I: the ice worms

    Ice ridges in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska

    Following my previous post on wildlife diseases, I’ve been in a fairly multicellular mood. Rather than try and turn my mind back to bacteria I decided to get it out of my system by finishing the month with a two part mini-series on creepy-crawlies that survive in some of the harshest conditions on earth; the [...]

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    From the archives: Chameleon bacteria!

    colour one

    This post was originally published in “Life of a Lab Rat” on Wednesday 3rd February 2010. Chameleon bacteria This is a picture of a small cyanobacteria under red light: And this is a picture of exactly the same organism under blue-green light: Some cyanobacteria have the ability to change their colour depending on external conditions. [...]

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    Diseases in the wild: the frog apocalypse

    An alpine tree frog showing signs of the fungal infection including reddened skin and "

    The best way to prevent a disease from turning into an epidemic is to closely monitor its development and put systems in place before it starts spreading rapidly through populations. This requires surveillance and monitoring of the disease and disease populations. This is fine for populations of livestock, or humans, but tends to be a [...]

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    Sleeping sickness and tsetse flies

    The tsetse fly! From the PLoS collection. Image Credit: Geoffrey M. Attardo, Research Scientist at the Yale School of Public Health.

    Although this blog focus mostly on bacteria, I do occasionally dip out of my comfort zone into other infectious elements such as viruses, prions and fungi. One topic that I haven’t covered nearly enough is the protozoan pathogens; the unicellular organisms that are not bacterial, but are responsible for some of the deadliest diseases in the world [...]

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