This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday June 27, 2016

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

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The International MetaSUB Consortium kicked off its fascinating international study of antimicrobial resistance with an event called Global City Sampling Day, which brought together more than 400 people across six continents, 32 countries and 54 cities, in an effort to collect about 12,000 samples of DNA, RNA and microbes from surfaces in subways, buses, airports and other well-traveled public meeting spaces. Started in 2013 in New York and led by Dr. Christopher E Mason at Weill Cornell Medicine, MetaSub is an international consortium of laboratories to establish a world-wide "DNA map" of microbiomes in mass transit systems, which represent unique urban biomes, microbiomes, and metagenomes. These subterranean and above-ground structures are ubiquitous and the interactions between passengers and the subway surfaces define perhaps one of the world's largest, high-traffic, and universal built environments. The collected samples will undergo sequencing and analysis to develop a genetic and epigenetic map detailing the community of microorganisms that inhabit each participating city. The data will benefit city planners, public health officials, and designers, as well as discovery of new species, biological systems, and biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs), thus enabling an era of more quantified, responsive, and “smarter cities.” Read the press release covered by Science Daily and Cornell Chronicle.

Women with breast cancer have different bacterial microbiome in breasts, reports a new study published in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. In this study, researchers led by Gregor Reid, PhD, Director, Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotic Research, compared the bacterial profiles between normal adjacent tissue from women with breast cancer and tissue from healthy controls. Breast tissues were collected from 58 women with breast lumps (45 women had breast cancer and 13 had benign growths) and compared with samples taken from 23 women with no lumps in their breasts. The samples were profiled using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing which revealed there was a difference in the bacterial profile found in healthy breast tissue versus the cancerous tissue. Women with breast cancer had higher relative abundances of Bacillus, Enterobacteriaceae and Staphylococcus. Escherichia coli (member of the Enterobacteriaceae family) and Staphylococcus epidermidis, isolated from breast cancer patients, were shown to induce double-stranded breaks in DNA, the most detrimental type of DNA damage in HeLa cells, which are cultured human cells. The study was inspired by the knowledge that women who breast feed have reduced risk of breast cancer. "Since human milk contains beneficial bacteria, we wondered if they might be playing a role in lowering the risk of cancer. Or, could other bacterial types influence cancer formation in the mammary gland in women who had never lactated? A Spanish study had earlier showed that ingestion of probiotic lactobacilli can cure mastitis. In other words, the lactobacilli reached the breast. It would be worth seeing if this could also influence the breast bacterial composition in women at risk of cancer”, said Reid. The study raises important questions as to what role the breast microbiome plays in disease development or progression and how we can manipulate this microbiome for possible therapeutics or prevention. Read the press release by Science Daily and EurekAlert.

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