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Lab Rat

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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  • 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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    Breaking down the city walls: small molecules that target bacterial biofilms

    Polymicrobic biofilm grown on a stainless steel surface in a laboratory potable water biofilm reactor for 14 days, then stained with 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) and examined by epifluorescence microscopy. Bar, 20 µm.

    Although bacteria are single celled organisms, they are capable of working together in massive bacterial colonies known as biofilms. Within the biofilm bacteria will differentiate to perform different tasks, all wrapped up within a sticky substance that holds the cells together. I’ve written about biofilms before; how they form and how they work in space! [...]

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    Butterfly watch: the caterpillars that exploit ants as childminders

    The Large Blue in France. Photo by PJC&C from wikimedia commons, link below.o

    It’s such wonderful warm weather in the UK at the moment, I thought it was time to celebrate with another butterfly post! I particularly wanted to take a closer look at the butterfly Phengaris arion which is rather unimaginatively known more commonly as the Large Blue. Unfortunately the Large Blue went extinct in the UK in [...]

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    A universe of nothing but shrimp

    The shrimp Langostinos rafax. Photo by Rafael Ortega Díaz via wikimedia commons, credit link below.

    When studying bacteria, human pathogens always get a lot of interest and free press. Pathogens of smaller and less important seeming animals, such as shrimp, tend to generate less press interest. After all, what is so exciting about shrimp? Since the 1970s commercial shrimp farming has been expanding rapidly to meet the demands of a [...]

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