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Concept: Escherichia coli


The recent discovery of a plasmid-borne colistin resistance gene, mcr-1, heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria (1).….

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Genome, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Plasmid, Proteobacteria


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are complex neurobiological disorders that impair social interactions and communication and lead to restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. The causes of these disorders remain poorly understood, but gut microbiota, the 10(13) bacteria in the human intestines, have been implicated because children with ASD often suffer gastrointestinal (GI) problems that correlate with ASD severity. Several previous studies have reported abnormal gut bacteria in children with ASD. The gut microbiome-ASD connection has been tested in a mouse model of ASD, where the microbiome was mechanistically linked to abnormal metabolites and behavior. Similarly, a study of children with ASD found that oral non-absorbable antibiotic treatment improved GI and ASD symptoms, albeit temporarily. Here, a small open-label clinical trial evaluated the impact of Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT) on gut microbiota composition and GI and ASD symptoms of 18 ASD-diagnosed children.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Digestive system, Escherichia coli, Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum


Recent insights into the role of the human microbiota in cognitive and affective functioning have led to the hypothesis that probiotic supplementation may act as an adjuvant strategy to ameliorate or prevent depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Gut flora, Randomized controlled trial, Escherichia coli, Pharmaceutical industry, Probiotic, Seasonal affective disorder, Emotion


There have been an increasing number of reports implicating Gammaproteobacteria often carrying genes of drug resistance from colonized sink traps to vulnerable hospitalized patients. However, the mechanism of transmission from the wastewater of the sink P-trap to patients remains poorly understood. Herein we report the use of a designated hand washing sink lab gallery to model dispersion of green fluorescent protein (GFP)- expressing Escherichia coli from sink wastewater to the surrounding environment. We found no dispersion of GFP-E.coli directly from the P-trap to the sink basin or surrounding countertop with coincident water flow from a faucet. However, when the GFP-E.coli were allowed to mature in the P-trap under conditions similar to a hospital environment a GFP-E.coli containing putative biofilm extended upward over seven days to reach the strainer. This subsequently resulted in droplet dispersion to the surrounding areas (<30 inches) during faucet operation. We also demonstrated that P-trap colonization could occur by retrograde transmission along a common pipe. We postulate that the organisms mobilize up to the strainer from the P-trap resulting in droplet dispersion rather than directly from the P-trap. This work helps to further define the mode of transmission of bacteria from a P-trap reservoir to a vulnerable hospitalized patient.Importance Many recent reports demonstrate that sink drain pipes become colonized with highly consequential multidrug resistant bacteria, which then result in hospital acquired infections. However, the mechanism of dispersal of bacteria from the sink to patients has not been fully elucidated. Through establishment of a unique sink gallery this work found that a staged mode of transmission involving biofilm growth from the lower pipe to the sink strainer and subsequent splatter to the bowl and surrounding area occurs rather than splatter directly from the water in the lower pipe. We have also demonstrated that bacterial transmission can occur via connections in wastewater plumbing to neighboring sinks. This work helps to more clearly define the mechanism and risk of transmission from a wastewater source to hospitalized patients in a world with increasingly antibiotic resistant bacteria which can thrive in wastewater environments and cause infections in vulnerable patients.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Plumbing, Sink


Evolutionary novelties have been important in the history of life, but their origins are usually difficult to examine in detail. We previously described the evolution of a novel trait, aerobic citrate utilization (Cit(+)), in an experimental population of Escherichia coli. Here we analyse genome sequences to investigate the history and genetic basis of this trait. At least three distinct clades coexisted for more than 10,000 generations before its emergence. The Cit(+) trait originated in one clade by a tandem duplication that captured an aerobically expressed promoter for the expression of a previously silent citrate transporter. The clades varied in their propensity to evolve this novel trait, although genotypes able to do so existed in all three clades, implying that multiple potentiating mutations arose during the population’s history. Our findings illustrate the importance of promoter capture and altered gene regulation in mediating the exaptation events that often underlie evolutionary innovations.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Evolution, Biology, Genome, Escherichia coli


Routine antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) can prevent deaths due to bacteria and reduce the spread of multi-drug-resistance, but cannot be regularly performed in resource-limited-settings due to technological challenges, high-costs, and lack of trained professionals. We demonstrate an automated and cost-effective cellphone-based 96-well microtiter-plate (MTP) reader, capable of performing AST without the need for trained diagnosticians. Our system includes a 3D-printed smartphone attachment that holds and illuminates the MTP using a light-emitting-diode array. An inexpensive optical fiber-array enables the capture of the transmitted light of each well through the smartphone camera. A custom-designed application sends the captured image to a server to automatically determine well-turbidity, with results returned to the smartphone in ~1 minute. We tested this mobile-reader using MTPs prepared with 17 antibiotics targeting Gram-negative bacteria on clinical isolates of Klebsiella pneumoniae, containing highly-resistant antimicrobial profiles. Using 78 patient isolate test-plates, we demonstrated that our mobile-reader meets the FDA-defined AST criteria, with a well-turbidity detection accuracy of 98.21%, minimum-inhibitory-concentration accuracy of 95.12%, and a drug-susceptibility interpretation accuracy of 99.23%, with no very major errors. This mobile-reader could eliminate the need for trained diagnosticians to perform AST, reduce the cost-barrier for routine testing, and assist in spatio-temporal tracking of bacterial resistance.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Performance, Microorganism, Gram negative bacteria, Chloramphenicol


ABSTRACT Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is largely responsible for increasing the incidence of antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide. While studies have focused on HGT in vivo, this work investigates whether the ability of pathogens to persist in the environment, particularly on touch surfaces, may also play an important role. Escherichia coli, virulent clone ST131, and Klebsiella pneumoniae harboring extended-spectrum-β-lactamase (ESBL) bla(CTX-M-15) and metallo-β-lactamase bla(NDM-1), respectively, exhibited prolonged survival on stainless steel, with approximately 10(4) viable cells remaining from an inoculum of 10(7) CFU per cm(2) after 1 month at 21°C. HGT of bla to an antibiotic-sensitive but azide-resistant recipient E. coli strain occurred on stainless steel dry touch surfaces and in suspension but not on dry copper. The conjugation frequency was approximately 10 to 50 times greater and occurred immediately, and resulting transconjugants were more stable with ESBL E. coli as the donor cell than with K. pneumoniae, but bla(NDM-1) transfer increased with time. Transconjugants also exhibited the same resistance profile as the donor, suggesting multiple gene transfer. Rapid death, inhibition of respiration, and destruction of genomic and plasmid DNA of both pathogens occurred on copper alloys accompanied by a reduction in bla copy number. Naked E. coli DNA degraded on copper at 21°C and 37°C but slowly at 4°C, suggesting a direct role for the metal. Persistence of viable pathogenic bacteria on touch surfaces may not only increase the risk of infection transmission but may also contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance by HGT. The use of copper alloys as antimicrobial touch surfaces may help reduce infection and HGT. IMPORTANCE Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) conferring resistance to many classes of antimicrobials has resulted in a worldwide epidemic of nosocomial and community infections caused by multidrug-resistant microorganisms, leading to suggestions that we are in effect returning to the preantibiotic era. While studies have focused on HGT in vivo, this work investigates whether the ability of pathogens to persist in the environment, particularly on touch surfaces, may also play an important role. Here we show prolonged (several-week) survival of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae on stainless steel surfaces. Plasmid-mediated HGT of β-lactamase genes to an azide-resistant recipient E. coli strain occurred when the donor and recipient cells were mixed together on stainless steel and in suspension but not on copper surfaces. In addition, rapid death of both antibiotic-resistant strains and destruction of plasmid and genomic DNA were observed on copper and copper alloy surfaces, which could be useful in the prevention of infection spread and gene transfer.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Genome, Horizontal gene transfer, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Bacterial conjugation


The large volumes of sequencing data required to sample deeply the microbial communities of complex environments pose new challenges to sequence analysis. De novo metagenomic assembly effectively reduces the total amount of data to be analyzed but requires substantial computational resources. We combine two preassembly filtering approaches-digital normalization and partitioning-to generate previously intractable large metagenome assemblies. Using a human-gut mock community dataset, we demonstrate that these methods result in assemblies nearly identical to assemblies from unprocessed data. We then assemble two large soil metagenomes totaling 398 billion bp (equivalent to 88,000 Escherichia coli genomes) from matched Iowa corn and native prairie soils. The resulting assembled contigs could be used to identify molecular interactions and reaction networks of known metabolic pathways using the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes Orthology database. Nonetheless, more than 60% of predicted proteins in assemblies could not be annotated against known databases. Many of these unknown proteins were abundant in both corn and prairie soils, highlighting the benefits of assembly for the discovery and characterization of novelty in soil biodiversity. Moreover, 80% of the sequencing data could not be assembled because of low coverage, suggesting that considerably more sequencing data are needed to characterize the functional content of soil.

Concepts: Gene, Archaea, Bacteria, Biodiversity, Metabolism, Escherichia coli, Soil, Assembly language


Honey bee pollination is a key ecosystem service to nature and agriculture. However, biosafety research on genetically modified crops rarely considers effects on nurse bees from intact colonies, even though they receive and primarily process the largest amount of pollen. The objective of this study was to analyze the response of nurse bees and their gut bacteria to pollen from Bt maize expressing three different insecticidal Cry proteins (Cry1A.105, Cry2Ab2, and Cry3Bb1). Naturally Cry proteins are produced by bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis). Colonies of Apis mellifera carnica were kept during anthesis in flight cages on field plots with the Bt maize, two different conventionally bred maize varieties, and without cages, 1-km outside of the experimental maize field to allow ad libitum foraging to mixed pollen sources. During their 10-days life span, the consumption of Bt maize pollen had no effect on their survival rate, body weight and rates of pollen digestion compared to the conventional maize varieties. As indicated by ELISA-quantification of Cry1A.105 and Cry3Bb1, more than 98% of the recombinant proteins were degraded. Bacterial population sizes in the gut were not affected by the genetic modification. Bt-maize, conventional varieties and mixed pollen sources selected for significantly different bacterial communities which were, however, composed of the same dominant members, including Proteobacteria in the midgut and Lactobacillus sp. and Bifidobacterium sp. in the hindgut. Surprisingly, Cry proteins from natural sources, most likely B. thuringiensis, were detected in bees with no exposure to Bt maize. The natural occurrence of Cry proteins and the lack of detectable effects on nurse bees and their gut bacteria give no indication for harmful effects of this Bt maize on nurse honey bees.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Gut flora, Insect, Escherichia coli, Honey bee, Beekeeping, Genetically modified food


Understanding of soil processes is essential for addressing the global issues of food security, disease transmission and climate change. However, techniques for observing soil biology are lacking. We present a heterogeneous, porous, transparent substrate for in situ 3D imaging of living plants and root-associated microorganisms using particles of the transparent polymer, Nafion, and a solution with matching optical properties. Minerals and fluorescent dyes were adsorbed onto the Nafion particles for nutrient supply and imaging of pore size and geometry. Plant growth in transparent soil was similar to that in soil. We imaged colonization of lettuce roots by the human bacterial pathogen Escherichia coli O157:H7 showing micro-colony development. Micro-colonies may contribute to bacterial survival in soil. Transparent soil has applications in root biology, crop genetics and soil microbiology.

Concepts: Genetics, Bacteria, Organism, Microbiology, Escherichia coli, Biotechnology, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Root