A quarter of the world's population – that's two billion people – is estimated to be latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This staggering number is often presented in scientific publications, used by funding agencies for strategic planning, and taught to students (I've done this myself). But where does this number come from?
Flying insects are key to the functioning of many ecosystems, where they play numerous important roles such as pollination. Thus, the sharp decline in their numbers is cause for great concern. From a human perspective, the observed demise of many honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations is particularly troubling because of their critical role in the food chain.
Yersinia pestis. How immediate our reaction can be to the species name of this bacterium, making us conjure up images of pestilence. As its discoverer, Alexander Yersin, wrote in 1894 of an outbreak of bubonic plague in Hong Kong, this is the "bacille de la peste." (Working independently, Kitasato Shibasaburo also characterized the plague bacterium at nearly the exact same time.)
In times long past, highly evolved eukaryotes, for example biochemists, occasionally quipped that bacteria were nothing more than a bag of enzymes. Well, from the perspective of bacteria, one could easily return the compliment: eukaryotes, for example single-celled amoebae, are little more than a...
by Vilhelmiina Haavisto
Since the discovery of penicillin and its development into a therapeutic agent, antibiotics have revolutionized medicine and saved countless lives. However, the way we use these life-saving medications is fundamentally unsustainable as pathogens rapidly evolve resistance, rendering many serious infections effectively untreatable.
I am not usually drawn to start out an article by considering a bacterium's name, but when confronted with Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, I had to take a pause. A well-traveled Gram-negative coccobacillus, this carrier of such a convoluted moniker started life simply as an Actinobacillus...