This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday March 7, 2016

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

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Summit Therapeutics plc, the drug discovery and development company advancing therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) recently announced additional positive data from the CoDIFy Phase 2 clinical trial that show the narrow spectrum antibiotic ridinilazole preserves the gut microbiome in CDI patients while the standard of care, vancomycin, inflicts substantial and long-lasting damage on the gut microbiome. C. difficile infection is a serious healthcare threat in hospitals, long-term care homes and increasingly the wider community with between 450,000 and 700,000 cases of CDI in the US annually. It is caused by an infection of the colon by the bacterium C. difficile, which produces toxins that cause inflammation, severe diarrhoea and in the most serious cases can be fatal. “CDI results from damage to the microbiome, and patients experience further collateral damage through the use of broad spectrum antibiotics to treat CDI, leaving them vulnerable to recurrent disease,” commented David R. Snydman, MD, Chief, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiologist of Tufts University School of Medicine. “New, selective antibiotics are needed to minimise these high recurrence rates, and ridinilazole demonstrates an exceptional ability to preserve a patient’s microbiome and allow the growth of protective bacteria, which are vital to protecting against CDI.” Read the press release by Sonoran Weekly Review and

This paper published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was highlighted in and Science Daily. According to this new Yale study "friendly" bacteria aggressively stake out their territory, injecting lethal toxins into any other cells that dare bump into them. Notably, certain human-associated Bacteroidetes—one of two major phyla in the gut—encode machinery for contact-dependent interbacterial antagonism. Through the use of secretome studies, in vitro bacterial interaction assays and multiple mouse models, researchers led by Aaron Wexler of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale School of Medicine, uncovered strain-specific effector/immunity repertoires that can predict interbacterial interactions in vitro and in vivo, and found that some of these strains avoid contact-dependent killing by accumulating immunity genes to effectors that they do not encode. The study suggests that human gut symbionts define their closest competitors not only metabolically but also spatially. Moreover, strains within a single species can encode diverse effectors that may provide new avenues for shaping the microbiome to improve human health.

University of Michigan is setting up fascinating "me-search" labs for its biology undergraduates to give students a close look at what might be the most compelling study subject of all: themselves. The lab focuses on the human gut microbiome. The students extract DNA from their fecal samples and sequence the species of their gut microbial community. They link the DNA information to data about themselves: height, weight, gender, daily diet and other relevant stats. The data is also used to test hypotheses about how their gut microbiome affects their health: Does the microbial community differ between lean students and students with higher body mass indexes? Students who were breastfed and those raised on baby formula? Students delivered by cesarean sections and those by natural births? With a focus on authentic research and discovery, courses like this aim to retain students in STEM majors and engage citizen scientists. The data collected by and about the students also will inform the research of the broader scientific community—the gut microbiome lab course serves as a pilot study of healthy human subjects. Read the press release.

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