This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday October 26, 2015

A round-up of what we read last week from the media's coverage of biofilms and microbiomes research.

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This Nature-published research paper was picked up by various outlets including Tech Times, which reported that bacteria are “more sophisticated and social” than previously thought. The research showed that bacteria use ion channels to communicate through electrical signals, with the community of bacteria within biofilms appearing to “function much like a 'microbial brain'”, according to author Gürol Süel, from the Division of Biological Sciences, University of California San Diego, US.

“Jessica Richman wants your saliva, feces and snot,” reported The Wall Street Journal this week, in its interview (readable by WSJ subscribers only) with the CEO of microbiome sequencing firm uBiome. The company is attracting much media attention, especially since its recent launch of a ‘microbiome app’. For those who don’t subscribe to The WSJ, you can hear from Jessica Richman via these videos of her speaking at the WSJDLive 2015 conference, which took place in Laguna Beach, CA, US this week. The event, which brings together “top CEOs, founders, pioneers, investors and luminaries to explore the most exciting tech opportunities emerging around the world” hosted celebrity speakers such as Tyra Banks, and Tim Cook, with Richmann’s place in this line-up illustrating the public’s interest in all things microbiome.

The initial focus of uBiome’s app is to explore the relationship between gut bacteria and weight loss. Also on this subject, TIME this week featured an article based on a paper entitled ‘Antibiotic use and childhood body mass index trajectory’, published in the International Journal of Obesity. In the study, “researchers found that the more doses and the longer children are exposed to antibiotics, the more likely they are to retain weight gained and to gain more weight over time”. Antibiotics kill off harmful bacteria but also those vital to gastrointestinal health. Research has shown that repeated antibiotics use can forever change the microbiota, altering the way it breaks down food and increasing the calories of nutrients absorbed. This, in turn, can increase weight gain.

Also on the subject of microbes of the gut, but this time in relation to Multiple Sclerosis, MD this week published this video interview with Helen Tremlett from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She talks, at the ECTRIMS conference, of a small “hypothesis-generating” study into the relationship between pediatric MS and gut microbes as well as planned further research on this topic.

Finally, another cool video on microbiomes was published this week by Chemical & Engineering News. In the video, Harvard biochemist Emily Balskus explains “how researchers are just starting to unravel the chemical connection between us and our companion microbes”.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been reading this week. Please comment below.

Jen Thoroughgood

Former Head of Communities, Springer Nature

I'm no longer with Springer Nature so please send your community-related queries to Thanks!