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Concept: Microorganism


The built environment (BE) and in particular kitchen environments harbor a remarkable microbial diversity, including pathogens. We analyzed the bacterial microbiome of used kitchen sponges by 454-pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes and fluorescence in situ hybridization coupled with confocal laser scanning microscopy (FISH-CLSM). Pyrosequencing showed a relative dominance of Gammaproteobacteria within the sponge microbiota. Five of the ten most abundant OTUs were closely related to risk group 2 (RG2) species, previously detected in the BE and kitchen microbiome. Regular cleaning of sponges, indicated by their users, significantly affected the microbiome structure. Two of the ten dominant OTUs, closely related to the RG2-species Chryseobacterium hominis and Moraxella osloensis, showed significantly greater proportions in regularly sanitized sponges, thereby questioning such sanitation methods in a long term perspective. FISH-CLSM showed an ubiquitous distribution of bacteria within the sponge tissue, concentrating in internal cavities and on sponge surfaces, where biofilm-like structures occurred. Image analysis showed local densities of up to 5.4 * 10(10) cells per cm(3), and confirmed the dominance of Gammaproteobacteria. Our study stresses and visualizes the role of kitchen sponges as microbiological hot spots in the BE, with the capability to collect and spread bacteria with a probable pathogenic potential.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Pathogen, 16S ribosomal RNA, Microorganism


Dispersal of microbes between humans and the built environment can occur through direct contact with surfaces or through airborne release; the latter mechanism remains poorly understood. Humans emit upwards of 10(6) biological particles per hour, and have long been known to transmit pathogens to other individuals and to indoor surfaces. However it has not previously been demonstrated that humans emit a detectible microbial cloud into surrounding indoor air, nor whether such clouds are sufficiently differentiated to allow the identification of individual occupants. We used high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA genes to characterize the airborne bacterial contribution of a single person sitting in a sanitized custom experimental climate chamber. We compared that to air sampled in an adjacent, identical, unoccupied chamber, as well as to supply and exhaust air sources. Additionally, we assessed microbial communities in settled particles surrounding each occupant, to investigate the potential long-term fate of airborne microbial emissions. Most occupants could be clearly detected by their airborne bacterial emissions, as well as their contribution to settled particles, within 1.5-4 h. Bacterial clouds from the occupants were statistically distinct, allowing the identification of some individual occupants. Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one, and demonstrate for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, 16S ribosomal RNA, Microorganism


Scaling laws underpin unifying theories of biodiversity and are among the most predictively powerful relationships in biology. However, scaling laws developed for plants and animals often go untested or fail to hold for microorganisms. As a result, it is unclear whether scaling laws of biodiversity will span evolutionarily distant domains of life that encompass all modes of metabolism and scales of abundance. Using a global-scale compilation of ∼35,000 sites and ∼5.6⋅10(6) species, including the largest ever inventory of high-throughput molecular data and one of the largest compilations of plant and animal community data, we show similar rates of scaling in commonness and rarity across microorganisms and macroscopic plants and animals. We document a universal dominance scaling law that holds across 30 orders of magnitude, an unprecedented expanse that predicts the abundance of dominant ocean bacteria. In combining this scaling law with the lognormal model of biodiversity, we predict that Earth is home to upward of 1 trillion (10(12)) microbial species. Microbial biodiversity seems greater than ever anticipated yet predictable from the smallest to the largest microbiome.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Life, Eukaryote, Species, Microorganism


Microbial communities are ubiquitous in both natural and artificial environments. However, microbial diversity is usually reduced under strong selection pressures, such as those present in habitats rich in recalcitrant or toxic compounds displaying antimicrobial properties. Caffeine is a natural alkaloid present in coffee, tea and soft drinks with well-known antibacterial properties. Here we present the first systematic analysis of coffee machine-associated bacteria. We sampled the coffee waste reservoir of ten different Nespresso machines and conducted a dynamic monitoring of the colonization process in a new machine. Our results reveal the existence of a varied bacterial community in all the machines sampled, and a rapid colonisation process of the coffee leach. The community developed from a pioneering pool of enterobacteria and other opportunistic taxa to a mature but still highly variable microbiome rich in coffee-adapted bacteria. The bacterial communities described here, for the first time, are potential drivers of biotechnologically relevant processes including decaffeination and bioremediation.

Concepts: Natural selection, Bacteria, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Coffee, Caffeine, Tea, Microorganism


Tracking antibiotic consumption patterns over time and across countries could inform policies to optimize antibiotic prescribing and minimize antibiotic resistance, such as setting and enforcing per capita consumption targets or aiding investments in alternatives to antibiotics. In this study, we analyzed the trends and drivers of antibiotic consumption from 2000 to 2015 in 76 countries and projected total global antibiotic consumption through 2030. Between 2000 and 2015, antibiotic consumption, expressed in defined daily doses (DDD), increased 65% (21.1-34.8 billion DDDs), and the antibiotic consumption rate increased 39% (11.3-15.7 DDDs per 1,000 inhabitants per day). The increase was driven by low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where rising consumption was correlated with gross domestic product per capita (GDPPC) growth (P= 0.004). In high-income countries (HICs), although overall consumption increased modestly, DDDs per 1,000 inhabitants per day fell 4%, and there was no correlation with GDPPC. Of particular concern was the rapid increase in the use of last-resort compounds, both in HICs and LMICs, such as glycylcyclines, oxazolidinones, carbapenems, and polymyxins. Projections of global antibiotic consumption in 2030, assuming no policy changes, were up to 200% higher than the 42 billion DDDs estimated in 2015. Although antibiotic consumption rates in most LMICs remain lower than in HICs despite higher bacterial disease burden, consumption in LMICs is rapidly converging to rates similar to HICs. Reducing global consumption is critical for reducing the threat of antibiotic resistance, but reduction efforts must balance access limitations in LMICs and take account of local and global resistance patterns.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotic, Microorganism, Penicillin, Clostridium difficile, Antibiotics


Manned space flight induces a reduction in immune competence among crew and is likely to cause deleterious changes to the composition of the gastrointestinal, nasal, and respiratory bacterial flora, leading to an increased risk of infection. The space flight environment may also affect the susceptibility of microorganisms within the spacecraft to antibiotics, key components of flown medical kits, and may modify the virulence characteristics of bacteria and other microorganisms that contaminate the fabric of the International Space Station and other flight platforms. This review will consider the impact of true and simulated microgravity and other characteristics of the space flight environment on bacterial cell behavior in relation to the potential for serious infections that may appear during missions to astronomical objects beyond low Earth orbit.

Concepts: Bacteria, Antibiotic, Microorganism, International Space Station, Space exploration, Human spaceflight, Spaceflight, Satellite


Several recent studies hint at shared patterns in decision-making between taxonomically distant organisms, yet few studies demonstrate and dissect mechanisms of decision-making in simpler organisms. We examine decision-making in the unicellular slime mould Physarum polycephalum using a classical decision problem adapted from human and animal decision-making studies: the two-armed bandit problem. This problem has previously only been used to study organisms with brains, yet here we demonstrate that a brainless unicellular organism compares the relative qualities of multiple options, integrates over repeated samplings to perform well in random environments, and combines information on reward frequency and magnitude in order to make correct and adaptive decisions. We extend our inquiry by using Bayesian model selection to determine the most likely algorithm used by the cell when making decisions. We deduce that this algorithm centres around a tendency to exploit environments in proportion to their reward experienced through past sampling. The algorithm is intermediate in computational complexity between simple, reactionary heuristics and calculation-intensive optimal performance algorithms, yet it has very good relative performance. Our study provides insight into ancestral mechanisms of decision-making and suggests that fundamental principles of decision-making, information processing and even cognition are shared among diverse biological systems.

Concepts: Bacteria, Decision making, Biology, Organism, Eukaryote, Microorganism, Computational complexity theory, Physarum polycephalum


Aerosolized microorganisms may play an important role in climate change, disease transmission, water and soil contaminants, and geographic migration of microbes. While it is known that bioaerosols are generated when bubbles break on the surface of water containing microbes, it is largely unclear how viable soil-based microbes are transferred to the atmosphere. Here we report a previously unknown mechanism by which rain disperses soil bacteria into the air. Bubbles, tens of micrometres in size, formed inside the raindrops disperse micro-droplets containing soil bacteria during raindrop impingement. A single raindrop can transfer 0.01% of bacteria on the soil surface and the bacteria can survive more than one hour after the aerosol generation process. This work further reveals that bacteria transfer by rain is highly dependent on the regional soil profile and climate conditions.

Concepts: Archaea, Water, Precipitation, Climate, Atmosphere, Microorganism, Aerosol, Soil contamination


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


The human gut harbors thousands of bacterial taxa. A profusion of metagenomic sequence data has been generated from human stool samples in the last few years, raising the question of whether more taxa remain to be identified. We assessed metagenomic data generated by the Human Microbiome Project Consortium to determine if novel taxa remain to be discovered in stool samples from healthy individuals. To do this, we established a rigorous bioinformatics pipeline that uses sequence data from multiple platforms (Illumina GAIIX and Roche 454 FLX Titanium) and approaches (whole-genome shotgun and 16S rDNA amplicons) to validate novel taxa. We applied this approach to stool samples from 11 healthy subjects collected as part of the Human Microbiome Project. We discovered several low-abundance, novel bacterial taxa, which span three major phyla in the bacterial tree of life. We determined that these taxa are present in a larger set of Human Microbiome Project subjects and are found in two sampling sites (Houston and St. Louis). We show that the number of false-positive novel sequences (primarily chimeric sequences) would have been two orders of magnitude higher than the true number of novel taxa without validation using multiple datasets, highlighting the importance of establishing rigorous standards for the identification of novel taxa in metagenomic data. The majority of novel sequences are related to the recently discovered genus Barnesiella, further encouraging efforts to characterize the members of this genus and to study their roles in the microbial communities of the gut. A better understanding of the effects of less-abundant bacteria is important as we seek to understand the complex gut microbiome in healthy individuals and link changes in the microbiome to disease.

Concepts: Archaea, Health, Bacteria, Gut flora, Microbiology, Full genome sequencing, Microorganism, Human flora