This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday February 15, 2016

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

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Solid foods have the greatest impact in shaping the gut microbiota of infants after the age of nine months and this development is independent of maternal obesity, reports a new study published in American Society for Microbiology’s open access journal, mSphere. The first years of life are paramount in establishing our endogenous gut microbiota, which is strongly affected by diet and has repeatedly been linked with obesity. Children of obese parents have a higher risk of developing obesity, and this is only partially explained by genetic predisposition. To further our understanding of link between maternal obesity and infant gut microbiota, researchers from Denmark compared the gut microbiotas of two cohorts of infants, one born from a random sample of healthy mothers and the other born from obese mothers. The researchers analyzed stool samples from the children at nine months and 18 months and compared the microbiota data to breastfeeding patterns and detailed individual dietary recordings. It was found that maternal obesity did not influence microbial diversity or specific taxon abundances during the complementary feeding period. Across cohorts, breastfeeding duration and composition of the complementary diet were found to be the major determinants of gut microbiota development. In both cohorts, gut microbial composition and alpha diversity were thus strongly affected by introduction of family foods with high protein and fiber contents. Specifically, intake of meats, cheeses, and Danish rye bread, rich in protein and fiber, were associated with increased alpha diversity. The study reveals that the transition from early infant feeding to family foods is a major determinant for gut microbiota development. Read the coverage by Medical News Today, Science Codex and Medical Xpress.

The promise of the microbiome as the basis of new treatments has caught the attention of many. This week, joining the league and making news in the European biotechnology and pharma industry was the British biotherapeutics maker, 4D Pharma. The company has acquired University College Cork-based Tucana Health to complement its therapeutic platform with its research into treatments of a wide range of chronic diseases. The investment will be used to build further research capability in Tucana Health, and to hire key research staff. Initially, the focus will be on the diagnosis and patient stratification for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (“IBS”). Longer term the company will focus on building a diagnostic platform across multiple disease areas mirroring the programmes developed by MicroRx, 4D pharma’s proprietary platform for the discovery of novel live biotherapeutics. This work will be led by Prof. Fergus Shanahan and Prof. Paul O’Toole, the founders of Tucana. Read the press release by and London Stock Exchange.

In this new study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute and School of Public Health have reported a discovery of a new class of anti-biofilm compounds called 'cahuitamycins', derived from marine microorganisms that show promise against a drug-resistant bacterium, Acinetobacter baumannii which can spread epidemically among patients causing ventilator-associated pneumonia and bacteremia, with mortality rates as high as 60%, representing a paradigm of pathogenesis, transmission and resistance. The new anti-biofilm agents were discovered by conducting high-throughput screening of compounds derived from the bacterium Streptomyces gandocaensis, which was isolated from marine sediment collected on a 2007 expedition to Punta Mona Island in Costa Rica. Once an extract was found that inhibited A. baumannii's ability to form biofilms, the researchers conducted experiments to find its most potent forms; they also created two new more potent analogs. As antibiotic resistance becomes an increasingly important global health concern, marine microorganisms have a great—and largely untapped—potential to provide new classes of antibiotics and anti-biofilm compounds. Press release covered by and NewsWise.

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