This week in Biofilms and Microbiomes, Monday March 21, 2016

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

Like Comment

Contact lenses may disrupt eyes' natural bacteria, suggests a new study published in American Society of Microbiology’s open access journal, mBio®. Researchers at New York University School of Medicine compared the bacterial communities of the conjunctiva and skin under the eye from 58 subjects and analyzed samples from 20 subjects (9 lens wearers and 11 non-lens wearers) taken at 3 time points over the course of six weeks using a 16S rRNA gene-based sequencing technique, and found that contact lenses make the eye microbiome more skin-like, with higher proportions of the skin bacteria Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Methylobacterium, and Lactobacillus and lower proportions of Haemophilus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Corynebacterium. Whether this is caused by finger-to-lens interaction or the actual act of wearing contacts remains unclear. "Our study has the potential to help future studies explore novel insights into a possible role of the microbiome in the increased risk for eye infections in contact lens wearers," said senior study author Maria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor with the Human Microbiome Program at New York University School of Medicine. The paper was highlighted by several media outlets, including EurekAlert, Time and US News & World Report.

This paper published in Nature Immunology was covered by NewsWise and Science Daily. According to this new study, healthy gut could help prevent deadly side effect of bone marrow transplant. Up to half of patients who receive a bone marrow transplant from a donor will develop severe gastrointestinal damage from graft vs. host disease (GvHD), a condition in which the donated bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells view the recipient’s body as foreign, and attack the body. It's the reason why transplants -- which can be very successful at eliminating cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma -- are so risky. Researchers from the University of Michigan carried out an analysis to identify alterations in gastrointestinal microbiota to see whether their metabolites could impact outcomes after allogeneic bone marrow transplant. They found that a gastrointestinal microbiota–derived short-chain fatty acid called butyrate was significantly reduced in the intestinal tract of experimental mice that received bone marrow transplant. When the researchers increased butyrate in these mouse models, they saw a decrease in the incidence and severity of graft vs. host disease. Furthermore, alteration of the indigenous microbiota with 17 rationally selected strains of high butyrate–producing Clostridia also decreased GVHD severity. The current methods of preventing graft vs. host involve suppressing the immune system. These findings suggests that direct modulation of target tissues could be an additional important strategy to decrease GVHD severity without resorting to suppressing the immune system, which also suppresses other normal immune system functions like fighting infections or preventing cancer from returning.

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