Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Cell host & microbe


The recent association of Zika virus with cases of microcephaly has sparked a global health crisis and highlighted the need for mechanisms to combat the Zika vector, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Wolbachia pipientis, a bacterial endosymbiont of insect, has recently garnered attention as a mechanism for arbovirus control. Here we report that Aedes aegypti harboring Wolbachia are highly resistant to infection with two currently circulating Zika virus isolates from the recent Brazilian epidemic. Wolbachia-harboring mosquitoes displayed lower viral prevalence and intensity and decreased disseminated infection and, critically, did not carry infectious virus in the saliva, suggesting that viral transmission was blocked. Our data indicate that the use of Wolbachia-harboring mosquitoes could represent an effective mechanism to reduce Zika virus transmission and should be included as part of Zika control strategies.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Infection, Mosquito, Yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, Aedes, Dengue fever, Wolbachia


Both endotherms and ectotherms (e.g., fish) increase their body temperature to limit pathogen infection. Ectotherms do so by moving to warmer places, hence the term “behavioral fever.” We studied the manifestation of behavioral fever in the common carp infected by cyprinid herpesvirus 3, a native carp pathogen. Carp maintained at 24°C died from the infection, whereas those housed in multi-chamber tanks encompassing a 24°C-32°C gradient migrated transiently to the warmest compartment and survived as a consequence. Behavioral fever manifested only at advanced stages of infection. Consistent with this, expression of CyHV-3 ORF12, encoding a soluble decoy receptor for TNF-α, delayed the manifestation of behavioral fever and promoted CyHV-3 replication in the context of a temperature gradient. Injection of anti-TNF-α neutralizing antibodies suppressed behavioral fever, and decreased fish survival in response to infection. This study provides a unique example of how viruses have evolved to alter host behavior to increase fitness.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene expression, Bacteria, Infection, Thermoregulation, Fever, Cyprinidae, Goldfish


Levels of inflammatory mediators in circulation are known to increase with age, but the underlying cause of this age-associated inflammation is debated. We find that, when maintained under germ-free conditions, mice do not display an age-related increase in circulating pro-inflammatory cytokine levels. A higher proportion of germ-free mice live to 600 days than their conventional counterparts, and macrophages derived from aged germ-free mice maintain anti-microbial activity. Co-housing germ-free mice with old, but not young, conventionally raised mice increases pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood. In tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-deficient mice, which are protected from age-associated inflammation, age-related microbiota changes are not observed. Furthermore, age-associated microbiota changes can be reversed by reducing TNF using anti-TNF therapy. These data suggest that aging-associated microbiota promote inflammation and that reversing these age-related microbiota changes represents a potential strategy for reducing age-associated inflammation and the accompanying morbidity.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Bacteria, Cytokine, Interleukin 1, Atherosclerosis, Apoptosis, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha


Wild birds harbor a large gene pool of influenza A viruses that have the potential to cause influenza pandemics. Foreseeing and understanding this potential is important for effective surveillance. Our phylogenetic and geographic analyses revealed the global prevalence of avian influenza virus genes whose proteins differ only a few amino acids from the 1918 pandemic influenza virus, suggesting that 1918-like pandemic viruses may emerge in the future. To assess this risk, we generated and characterized a virus composed of avian influenza viral segments with high homology to the 1918 virus. This virus exhibited pathogenicity in mice and ferrets higher than that in an authentic avian influenza virus. Further, acquisition of seven amino acid substitutions in the viral polymerases and the hemagglutinin surface glycoprotein conferred respiratory droplet transmission to the 1918-like avian virus in ferrets, demonstrating that contemporary avian influenza viruses with 1918 virus-like proteins may have pandemic potential.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine


Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), including Crohn’s disease (CD), are genetically linked to host pathways that implicate an underlying role for aberrant immune responses to intestinal microbiota. However, patterns of gut microbiome dysbiosis in IBD patients are inconsistent among published studies. Using samples from multiple gastrointestinal locations collected prior to treatment in new-onset cases, we studied the microbiome in the largest pediatric CD cohort to date. An axis defined by an increased abundance in bacteria which include Enterobacteriaceae, Pasteurellacaea, Veillonellaceae, and Fusobacteriaceae, and decreased abundance in Erysipelotrichales, Bacteroidales, and Clostridiales, correlates strongly with disease status. Microbiome comparison between CD patients with and without antibiotic exposure indicates that antibiotic use amplifies the microbial dysbiosis associated with CD. Comparing the microbial signatures between the ileum, the rectum, and fecal samples indicates that at this early stage of disease, assessing the rectal mucosal-associated microbiome offers unique potential for convenient and early diagnosis of CD.

Concepts: Immune system, Medicine, Bacteria, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, Colonoscopy, Gastroenterology, Inflammatory bowel disease


Low pathogenic H7N9 influenza viruses have recently evolved to become highly pathogenic, raising concerns of a pandemic, particularly if these viruses acquire efficient human-to-human transmissibility. We compared a low pathogenic H7N9 virus with a highly pathogenic isolate, and two of its variants that represent neuraminidase inhibitor-sensitive and -resistant subpopulations detected within the isolate. The highly pathogenic H7N9 viruses replicated efficiently in mice, ferrets, and/or nonhuman primates, and were more pathogenic in mice and ferrets than the low pathogenic H7N9 virus, with the exception of the neuraminidase inhibitor-resistant virus, which showed mild-to-moderate attenuation. All viruses transmitted among ferrets via respiratory droplets, and the neuraminidase-sensitive variant killed several of the infected and exposed animals. Neuraminidase inhibitors showed limited effectiveness against these viruses in vivo, but the viruses were susceptible to a polymerase inhibitor. These results suggest that the highly pathogenic H7N9 virus has pandemic potential and should be closely monitored.

Concepts: DNA, Microbiology, Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Neuraminidase, Reassortment


Synthetic biology has focused on engineering microbes to synthesize useful products or to serve as living diagnostics and therapeutics. Here we utilize a host-derived Escherichia coli strain engineered with a genetic toggle switch as a research tool to examine in vivo replicative states in a mouse model of chronic infection, and to compare in vivo and in vitro bacterial behavior. In contrast to the effect of antibiotics in vitro, we find that the fraction of actively dividing bacteria remains relatively high throughout the course of a chronic infection in vivo and increases in response to antibiotics. Moreover, the presence of non-dividing bacteria in vivo does not necessarily lead to an antibiotic-tolerant infection, in contrast to expectations from in vitro experiments. These results demonstrate the utility of engineered bacteria for querying pathogen behavior in vivo, and the importance of validating in vitro studies of antibiotic effects with in vivo models.

Concepts: Medicine, Bacteria, Microbiology, Virus, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Antibiotic, Microorganism


The intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) lives within phagosomes and also disrupts these organelles to access the cytosol. The host pathways and mechanisms that contribute to maintaining Mtb phagosome integrity have not been investigated. Here, we examined the spatiotemporal dynamics of Mtb-containing phagosomes and identified an interferon-gamma-stimulated and Rab20-dependent membrane trafficking pathway in macrophages that maintains Mtb in spacious proteolytic phagolysosomes. This pathway functions to promote endosomal membrane influx in infected macrophages, and is required to preserve Mtb phagosome integrity and control Mtb replication. Rab20 is specifically and significantly upregulated in the sputum of human patients with active tuberculosis. Altogether, we uncover an immune-regulated cellular pathway of defense that promotes maintenance of Mtb within intact membrane-bound compartments for efficient elimination.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Organelle, Phagocytosis, Phagosome, Macrophage, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis


Viruses are involved in various interactions both within and between infected cells. Social evolution theory offers a conceptual framework for how virus-virus interactions, ranging from conflict to cooperation, have evolved. A critical examination of these interactions could expand our understanding of viruses and be exploited for epidemiological and medical interventions.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Sociology


Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) is a devastating infection of the central nervous system (CNS). Lafaille et al. (2012) show that susceptibility to HSE is due to mutations in Toll-like receptor response pathways that directly reduce the intrinsic resistance of neurons and other cells in the CNS to HSV infection.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Virus, Herpes simplex virus, Herpes simplex, Cerebellum