This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday February 8, 2016

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

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Gorging oneself on high-calorie food to pack on fat only to fall asleep for a few months and have it all melt away isn’t the latest diet fad (at least not yet), but it is a regular part of life for bears as they prepare to hibernate for the winter. And yet, despite the rapid weight gain, the animals somehow avoid the health consequences so often associated with obesity in humans. Brown bear gut microbes may hold the secret to being hefty but healthy, reports a new study published in Cell Reports last week. Researchers led by Fredrik Bäckhed of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden analyzed the microbiota of free-ranging brown bears during their active phase and hibernation and found that hibernation microbiota showed reduced diversity than the summer samples. Along with microbial composition changes, several metabolites involved in lipid metabolism, including triglycerides, cholesterol, and bile acids, were also affected by hibernation. To further explore whether those changes in the microbiota drive the shift in metabolism, the researchers transferred the bears' summer and winter microbiota into germ-free mice in the lab. The rodents that received the summer samples got fatter than those with the winter set but showed no signs of glucose intolerance—evidence that the microbiome is indeed affecting metabolism. Besides shedding light on obesity and metabolism, the study can perhaps also help find clues for treating malnutrition from the summer bacteria, and help patients with anorexic disorders - including cancer patients. Read the coverage by Genome Web, Popular Science, BBC News and eScience News.

Wearing antiperspirant or deodorant doesn't just affect your social life, it substantially changes the microbial life that lives on you, reports a new study published in PeerJ. The human armpit has long been noted to host a high biomass bacterial community, and it makes sense that use of personal hygiene products such as deodorants and antiperspirants would affect them. To learn about the abundance, species richness, and composition of bacterial communities that colonize the armpits of people with different product use habits, researchers from North Carolina, recruited 17 participants to the study; seven wore antiperspirants, which reduce sweating; five used deodorant, which kill odor-producing microbes; and five did not use either. Over the course of eight days, participants took part in an experimental hygiene regimen, and had their armpits swabbed daily. These samples were later cultured in lab to analyze the microbial community. Interestingly, the types of bacteria found in the samples varied based on the product worn. People who didn’t use products had pits populated mostly by Corynebacterium—the kind that both produces body odor and helps defend against pathogens. Those who used products tended to have more Staphylococcaceae, which are typical skin microbes that can be either beneficial or dangerous. "We know that these skin microbes interact with the immune system," said lead researcher Julie Horvath. "So it's important to consider what our daily habits do to the skin's microbiome." Anything we put on the skin -- from lotion to makeup to soap and water -- might change the microbial community. The findings add to questions about the ways in which modern lifestyles could be altering the human "microbiome." The paper was picked up by Popular Science, Time, The Financial Express, Medical Daily, Daily Mail, Inquisitr and many other important media outlets.

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

Richa Dandona

Partnerships and Operations Manager, Nature Partner Journals, Nature Research