June 20th, 2020

Glad midsommar!

Happy midsummer to everyone from Sweden. Today’s digest is heavy on the preprints with a couple of thought-provoking editorials from the journal Nature. You will notice a lot of articles related to COVID-19. There is an interesting study that proposes the use of dogs and their sensory powers to detect CoV infections. More importantly, a preprint discusses the use of a tyrosine kinase as a potential drug and another preprint discusses the results of a massive FDA-approved drug repurposing screen for COVID. Also in the digest is an article where the researchers have shown that the gut microbiome produces neurotransmitters and another article that explains how Streptomyces spores hitchhike. Another article, although not related to our general theme, is super interesting as well. A group of scientists have proposed that the first egg of the dinosaurs was probably soft-shelled and not like the hard eggs we imagined all this time!

I am sorry for doing a lousy job today at providing a proper context and some informative introduction to today’s digest as it is the most awaited Midsommar holiday and the barbecue is calling! I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. Make sure to follow social distancing guidelines!


Preprint: Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib as a potential drug for COVID-19 – Nirmitee Sanjay Mulgaonkar, et al.

Preprint: Variant analysis of SARS-CoV-2 strains in Middle Eastern countries – Khalid M Bindayna and Shane Crinion

Preprint: Polymorphism and selection pressure of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and diagnostic antigens: implications for immune evasion and serologic diagnostic performance – Eric Dumonteil and Claudia Herrera

Preprint: Disruption of Adaptive Immunity Enhances Disease in SARS-CoV-2 Infected Syrian Hamsters – Rebecca Brocato, et al.

Preprint: High-density amplicon sequencing identifies community spread and ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the Southern United States – Ryan P McNamara, et al.

Preprint: Proteotyping SARS-CoV-2 virus from nasopharyngeal swabs: a proof-of-concept focused on a 3 min mass spectrometry window – Duarte Gouveia, et al.

Preprint: A single dose of recombinant VSV-∆G-spike vaccine provides protection against SARS-CoV-2 challenge – Yfat Yahalom-Ronen, et al.

Preprint: Antiviral treatment of SARS-CoV-2-infected hamsters reveals a weak effect of favipiravir and a complete lack of effect for hydroxychloroquine – Suzanne JF Kaptein, et al.

Preprint: Drug repurposing screens reveal FDA approved drugs active against SARS-Cov-2 – Mark Dittmar, et al.

Preprint: Dog Savior: Immediate Scent-Detection of SARS-COV-2 by Trained Dogs – Omar Vesga, et al.

Preprint: Evaluation of the performance of SARS-CoV-2 serological tools and their positioning in COVID-19 diagnostic strategies. – Aurélie Velay, et al.

General Microbiome

Preprint: Exploring the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Bacterial Pathobiome – Deborah Iwanowicz, et al.

Preprint: Hi-C deconvolution of a textile-dye degrader microbiome reveals novel taxonomic landscapes and link phenotypic potential to individual genomes – Ayixon Sanchez-Reyes, et al.

A metabolic pathway for bile acid dehydroxylation by the gut microbiome – Masanori Funabashi, et al. – Nature

A neurotransmitter produced by gut bacteria modulates host sensory behaviour – Michael P. O’Donnell, et al. – Nature


Preprint: Novel functional insights from the Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite-specific proteome by probabilistic integration of 26 studies – Lisette Meerstein-Kessel, et al.


Preprint: Conjugal DNA transfer in the maternally inherited symbiont of tsetse flies Sodalis glossinidius – Christopher G Kendra, et al.

Preprint: Systematic analysis of REBASE identifies numerous Type I restriction-modification systems that contain duplicated, variable hsdS specificity genes that randomly switch methyltransferase specificity by recombination. – John M. Atack, et al.

Preprint: The role of LmeA, a mycobacterial periplasmic protein, in stabilizing the mannosyltransferase MptA and its product lipomannan under stress – Kathryn C Rahlwes, et al.

Preprint: Microbial piggy-back: how Streptomyces spores are transported by motile soil bacteria – Alise R. Muok, et al.


Preprint: Herbivore-induced activation of viral phosphatase disarms plant antiviral immunities for pathogen transmission – Pingzhi Zhao, et al.

Preprint: Quantifying the acquisition and retention of lumpy skin disease virus by haematophagus insects and the implications for transmission and control – Beatriz Sanz-Bernardo, et al.

Preprint: Identification of a critical horseshoe-shaped region in the nsp5 (Mpro, 3CLpro) protease interdomain loop (IDL) of coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) – Benjamin C. Nick, et al.

Preprint: A sweep of earth’s virome reveals host-guided viral protein structural mimicry; with implications for human disease – Gorka Lasso, et al.


The first dinosaur egg was soft – Mark A. Norell, et al. – Nature

Junior researchers hit by coronavirus-triggered hiring freezes – Chris Woolston – Nature

Peer review should be an honest, but collegial, conversation Nature

May 20, 2020

Greetings from Pittsburgh, PA!

Television and movies are a welcome distraction from the current global pandemic. For this digest, I’d like to highlight two articles. The article by Sajjad et al. investigates the possibility of resurrection of ancient microbes present in the natural frozen world and is a perfect pair for the monster-of-the-week X-Files episode “Ice.” The second highlighted article focuses on the microbiome present on two ancient Slavonic parchment codices and how this data can be used to provide additional historical context. Maybe Harrison Ford can team up with Piñar et al. to create a fourth movie in the Indiana Jones Franchise based on their work?

Happy reading, everyone!

General microbiome

Effect of a novel synbiotic on Streptococcus mutans – Bijle et al. – Nature Scientific Reports

Culturomics‐based genomics sheds light on the ecology of the new haloarchaeal genus Halosegnis – Durán‐Viseras et al. – Environmental Microbiology

Review: Ecological features of the persistence of Vibrio cholerae: retrospective analysis and actual state of the problem – Menshikova et al. – Jounral of microbiology, epidemiology, and immunobiology

Metagenome-assembled genomes reveal unique metabolic adaptations of a basal marine Thaumarchaeota lineage – Reji and Francis – ISME Journal

Homoplastic single nucleotide polymorphisms contributed to phenotypic diversity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis – Tantivitayakul et al. – Nature Scientific Reports

Plant, root, and soil microbiome

Impacts of forest conversion to plantations on the soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics, and microbial communities – Wang et al. – Soil Biology and Biochemistry

Water and extremophile microbiome

Novel yeast taxa from the cold: description of Cryolevonia giraudoae sp. nov. and Camptobasidium gelus sp. nov. – de Garcia et al. – International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology

Remote sensing reveals Antarctic green snow algae as important terrestrial carbon sink – Gray et al. – Nature Communications

Review: Resurrection of inactive microbes and resistome present in the natural frozen world: Reality or myth? – Sajjad et al. – Science of the Total Environment

Built environment

Decoding the biological information contained in two ancient Slavonic parchment codices: an added historical value – Piñar et al. – Environmental Microbiology


Preprint: Efficiently processing amplicon sequencing data for microbial ecology with dadasnake, a DADA2 implementation in Snakemake – Weißbecker et al. – bioRxiv


Editorial: Visualizing the invisible: class excursions to ignite children’s enthusiasm for microbes – McGenity et al. – Microbial Biotechnology

Discovery of thermophilic Bacillales using reduced-representation genotyping for identification – Talamantes-Becerra et al. – BMC Microbiology

May 8, 2020.

The highlighted paper of the day looked at the relationship between statins and gut microbiome / enterotype prevalence, mined from data collected from the MetaCardis study which looked at over 2000 participants all across the EU and collected over 1,400 parameters.

If you’re looking for a review/news article of the paper head to: Statin drugs might boost healthy gut microbes

If you’re looking for the paper: Statin therapy is associated with lower prevalence of gut microbiota dysbiosis – Sara Silva – Nature


Identification of Drugs Blocking SARS-CoV-2 Infection using Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Colonic Organoids – Xiaohua Duan – bioRxiv

Whose coronavirus strategy worked best? Scientists hunt most effective policies – Elizabeth Gibney – Nature

Coronavirus activates a stem cell-mediated defense mechanism that accelerates the activation of dormant tuberculosis: implications for the COVID-19 pandemic – Lekhika Pathak – bioRxiv

General Microbiome

Multi ‘Omics Profiling of the HIV Airway Epithelium: Integration of the Microbiome, Methylome, and Transcriptome – MS Jude – Am J Respir Crit Care Med

Intracellular Staphylococcus aureus persisters upon antibiotic exposure – Frederuc Peyrusson – Nature Communications

Isolation and characterization of bacteriophages that infect Citrobacter rodentium, a model pathogen for investigating human intestinal diseases – Carolina Mizuno – bioRxiv

MiniReview: A toxic environment: a growing understanding of how microbial communities affect Shiga toxin expression by E. coli O157:H7 – Erin M. Nawrocki – American Society for Microbiology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Pregnancy and early life

Gut microbiota derived metabolites contribute to intestinal barrier maturation at the suckling-to- weaning transition – Martin Beaumont – Gut Microbes

Gut Microbiome Derived 12,13 Dihome Promotes Antigen Presenting Cell Dysfunction In Vitro and Airway Allergic Inflammation In Vivo – S Levan – Atsjournal

Multi-site human microbiome

The Microbiome and the Gut‐Liver‐Brain Axis for CNS Clinical Pharmacology: Challenges in Specifying and Integrating In Vitro and In Silico Models – Kyle Hawkins – Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Gut Check: The Intestinal Microbiome Does Not Predict or Protect from Vancomycin- Resistant Enterococcus Acquisition Among Critically Ill Patients – Chanderraj – Atsjournal

The Tumour-Resident Microbiome Is Associated with Cancer Hypomethylation Status in Lung Adenocarcinoma – Marshall – atsjournal

An association between the gut microbiota and immune cell dynamics in humans. – Jonas Schluter – bioRxiv


Analyzing the impact of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection on primary human macrophages by combined exploratory and targeted metabolomics – Vrieling Frank

Review: Metabolome–Microbiome Crosstalk and Human Disease – Kathleen Lee-Sarwar – metabolites

Animal Microbiome

Review – Mycobacterium bovis: From Genotyping to Genome Sequencing – Ana Guimaraeas – Microorganism

Animal experiments

Staphylococcus aureus-induced proteomic changes in the mammary tissue of rats: A TMT-based study – Lirong Cai – Plos One

Plant, root, and soil microbiome

Effects of earthworms on the microbiomes and antibiotic resistomes of detritus fauna and phyllosphere – Dong Zhu – Environmental Science and Technology

Surface runoff alters cave microbial community structure and function – Madison Davis – Plos One

Water and extremophile microbiome

Culturing of ‘Unculturable’ Subsurface Microbes: Natural Organic Carbon Source Fuels the Growth of Diverse and Distinct Bacteria from Groundwater – Xiaoqin Wu – bioRxiv

Bioinformatics & Techniques

Sequence count data are poorly fit by the negative binomial distribution – Stjin Hawinkel – Plos One

Book Chappter: Meta-Pangenome: At the Crossroad of Pangenomics and Metagenomics – Bing MA – The Pangenome, Springer.

Snipe: Highly sensitive pathogen detection from metagenomic sequencing data – Lihong Huang – bioRxiv

Validated Method for the Study of Human Lung Microbiota from Excised Tissue – Dumont-Leblond – atsjounal

Microbes in the news

Bad to the Bone – Matthew Greseth- MUSC Health

Meet the ‘psychobiome’: the gut bacteria that may alter how you think, feel, and act – Elizabeth Pennisi – ScienceMag

Decoding the Microbiome: Essential to Advancing Precision Medicine – Heather Hall – rdworldonline

Harithaa’s non-microbiology picks!

Mass spectrometry for future atomic clocks – Marianna Safrova – Nature (news & views)

May 1, 2020

Greetings from Durham, NC!

Hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy. Today’s digest includes several host-microbiome studies, environmental microbiome studies, and an intriguing EurekAlert news article.
In this light digest of today, I wanted to highlight a cool review about correlation of the oral microbiome with children’s health and a very interesting article on cell wall architecture of the gram-positive bacteria.
COVID-19 pandemic has opened a sort of Pandora’s box filled with great science along with pseudoscience. So, the digest has these two great articles from Nature: one about chloroquine and other about the race for coronavirus vaccines.
Staying at home is difficult for everyone, here is a fun activity to do: coloring space microbes book.

Stay Safe and entertained at home!!!!

COVID-19 news articles

The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide – Callaway – Nature

Chloroquine hype is derailing the search for coronavirus treatments – Ledford – Nature

General microbiome
*The architecture of the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall– Pasquina-Lemonche et al. – Nature

Pregnancy and early life
Maternal H. pylori is associated with differential fecal microbiota in infants born by vaginal delivery – Hernandez et al. – Scientific Reports

Metabolic Effects of Bovine Milk Oligosaccharides on Selected Commensals of the Infant Microbiome—Commensalism and Postbiotic Effects – Jakobsen et al. – Metabolites

Multi-site human microbiome
*Review: Oral microbiome: possible harbinger for children’s health – Xiao et al. – Nature International Journal of Oral Science

Animal microbiome
Links between the rumen microbiota, methane emissions and feed efficiency of finishing steers offered dietary lipid and nitrate supplementation – Bowen et al. – PLOS ONE

Plant, root, and soil microbiome
Variation in rhizosphere microbial communities and its association with the symbiotic efficiency of rhizobia in soybean – Han et al. – The ISME Journal

Water and extremophile microbiome
Review: Exopolysaccharides from marine bacteria: production, recovery and applications – Dave et al. – Environmental Sustainability

Stromatolitic digitate sinters form under wide‐ranging physicochemical conditions with diverse hot spring microbial communities – Sriaporn et al. – gebiology

Built environment
Comparative analysis of bacterial community and functional species in oil reservoirs with different in situ temperatures – Tian et al. – International Microbiology

Medusa: Software to build and analyze ensembles of genome-scale metabolic network reconstructions – Medlock et al. – PLOS Computational Biology

Review: The National Microbiome Data Collaborative: enabling microbiome science – Wood-Charlson et al. – Nature Reviews Microbiology

Probiotics / prebiotics
Lactobacillus plantarum NA136 ameliorates nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by modulating gut microbiota, improving intestinal barrier integrity, and attenuating inflammation – Zhao et al. -Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

Microbes in the news
Scientists explore links between genetics, gut microbiome and memory – DOE/PACIFIC NORTHWEST NATIONAL LABORATORY

April 26, 2020

Greetings from Pittsburgh, PA!

Today’s digest includes several reviews, numerous host-microbiome studies, a wide variety of environmental microbiome studies, and a new book focused on Emerging Technologies in Environmental Bioremediation.

I also wanted to highlight the virtual Fermentation Mini-Seminars offered by the Applied Ecology Department at my alma mater, NC State University. During the first seminar of the series I learned about the Wild Sourdough Project, which is a community-science/citizen-science project where participants can submit observational data about their sourdough culture. If you’re missing the lab, this might be the perfect project for you!

Virtual Events

NCSU Fermentation Mini-Seminars offered every Thursday at 4pm EST from April through August

General microbiome

Special Issue: Stochasticity in microbiology: managing unpredictability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals – De Vrieze et al. – Microbial Biotechnology

Review: Biofilm matrixome: Extracellular components in structured microbial communities – Karygianni et al. – Trends in Microbiology

Review: Microbial symbiosis: A network towards biomethanation – Saha et al. – Trends in Microbiology

Multi-site human microbiome

Microbiota in cerebrovascular disease: A key player and future therapeutic target – Tonomura et al. – Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism

Review: Role of microbiome and antibiotics in autoimmune diseases – Vangoitsenhoven and Cresci – Nutrition in Clinical Practice

Human skin microbiome

Isolation and characterization of diverse microbial representatives from the human skin microbiome – Timm et al. – BMC Microbiology

Human gut microbiome

Altered gut microbial profile is associated with abnormal metabolism activity of Autism Spectrum Disorder – Dan et al. – Gut Microbes

Seasonal variation in gut microbiota composition: cross-sectional evidence from Ukrainian population – Koliada et al. – BMC Microbiology

Gut microbiome reveals specific dysbiosis in primary osteoporosis – Xu et al. – Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology

Animal experiments

The clinical drug Ebselen attenuates inflammation and promotes microbiome recovery in mice after antibiotic treatment for CDI – Garland et al. – Cell Reports Medicine

Effect of oxytetracycline treatment on the gastrointestinal microbiome of critically endangered white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) treated for withering syndrome – Parker-Graham et al. – Aquaculture

Effects of hydrolyzed fish protein and autolyzed yeast as substitutes of fishmeal in the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) diet, on fish intestinal microbiome – Rimoldi et al. – BMC Veterinary Research

Animal microbiome

(My microbiome) would walk 10,000 miles: Maintenance and turnover of microbial communities in introduced dung beetles – Parker et al. – Invertebrate Microbiology

Plant, root, and soil microbiome

Nocardiopsis deserti sp. nov., isolated from a high altitude Atacama Desert soil – Asem et al. – International Journal of Systemic and Evolutionary Microbiology

Steel slag amendment impacts on soil microbial communities and activities of rice (Oryza sativa L.) – Das et al. – Scientific Reports

Peat properties, dominant vegetation type and microbial community structure in a tropical peatland – Girkin et al. – Wetlands

Integrating transcriptomics and metabolomics to studies key metabolism, pathways and candidate genes associated with drought-tolerance in Carthamus tinctorius L. under drought stress – Wei et al. – Industrial Crops and Products

Dynamics of ammonia oxidizers and denitrifiers in response to compost addition in black soil, Northeast China – Yang et al. – PeerJ

Water and extremophile microbiome

Impacts of an eruption on cold-seep microbial and faunal dynamics at a mud volcano – Girard et al. – Frontiers in Marine Science

Unraveling heterogeneity of coral microbiome assemblages in tropical and subtropical corals in the South China Sea – Gong et al. – Microorganisms

Anode potential-dependent protection of electroactive biofilms against metal ion shock via regulating extracellular polymeric substances – Hou et al. – Water Research

Microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of hypersaline sediments in Orca Basin – Nigro et al. – PLOS One

Near streambed flow shapes microbial guilds within and across trophic levels in fluvial biofilms – Risse-Buhl et al. – Limnology and Oceanography

Heterotrophic sulfide-oxidizing nitrate-reducing bacteria enables the high performance of integrated autotrophic-heterotrophic denitrification (IAHD) process under high sulfide loading – Zhang et al. – Water Research

Built environment (subways, indoor surfaces)

Ecological processes affecting long-term eukaryote and prokaryote biofilm persistence in nitrogen removal from sewage – Angell et al. – Genes

Long-term microbial community dynamics in a pilot-scale gas sparged anaerobic membrane bioreactor treating municipal wastewater under seasonal variations – Kannan et al. – Bioresource Technology

Book: Emerging Technologies in Environmental Bioremediation – Edited by Shah et al.

Food microbiology

How processing methods affect the microbial community composition in a cereal-based fermented beverage – Phiri et al. – LWT – Food Science and Technology

High-throughput sequencing and metabolomics reveal differences in bacterial diversity and metabolites between red and white sufu – Tang et al. – Frontiers in Microbiology

April 11, 2020

Happy Saturday morning, y’all! I’m excited for my first contribution to the digest, and hope you enjoy my picks over a luxurious weekend meal. Today’s digest starts with some preprints about COVID including research on a drug that may inhibit viral replication. Other research highlights include an examination of the relationship between the vaginal microbiome and pre-term birth, a preprint on the oral microbiome in space, and a potential new technique for low cost, high-throughput metagenome profiling. Scroll all the way to the end for information about a fun project by a University of Wyoming student called The Microbestiary.

Preprint: Genomic determinants of pathogenicity in SARS-CoV-2 and other human coronaviruses. Auslander, N. et al.

Preprint: Nelfinavir inhibits replication of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in vitro. Yamamoto, N. et al.

Preprint: Understanding the B and T cells epitopes of spike protein of severe respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2: A computational way to predict the immunogens. Vashi, Y. et al.

General Microbiome
Preprint: From iron to antibiotics: Identification of conserved bacterial-fungal interactions across diverse partners. Pierce, EC. et al.

Human Gut Microbiome
Review: Unraveling Host-Gut Microbiota Dialogue and Its Impact on Cholesterol Levels. Villette R. et al. Frontiers in Pharmacology.

Metagenomics analysis reveals features unique to Indian distal gut microbiota. Kaur, K. et al. PLOS ONE.

Gut Microbiota Modulate CD8 T Cell Responses to Influence Colitis-Associated Tumorigenesis. Yu, A.I. et al. Cell Reports.

Human Oral Microbiome
Preprint: Characterization of the oral microbiome of medically controlled type-2 diabetes patients. Santos, A. et al.

Human Vaginal Microbiome
Cervicovaginal microbiome and natural history of HPV in a longitudinal study. Usyk, M. et al. PLOS Pathogens.

Meta-Analysis of Vaginal Microbiome Data Provides New Insights Into Preterm Birth. Kosti, I. et al. Frontiers in Microbiology.

Water and Extremophile Microbiome
Microbiota characterization of Exaiptasia diaphana from the Great Barrier Reef. Hartman, L.M. et al. Animal Microbiome.

Microbial Diversity and Metabolic Potential in the Stratified Sansha Yongle Blue Hole in the South China Sea. He, P. et al. Scientific Reports.

Metabolic versatility of freshwater sedimentary archaea feeding on different organic carbon sources. Compte-Port, S. et al. PLOS ONE.

Animal Experiments and Animal Microbiome
The skin microbiome facilitates adaptive tetrodotoxin production in poisonous newts. Vaelli, P.M. et al. eLife.

Metatranscriptomic virome assessment of Rhipicephalus microplus from Colombia. Gomez, G.F. et al. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.

Preprint: Metabolic differences between symbiont subpopulations in the deep-sea tubeworm Riftia pachyptila. Hinzke, T. et al.

Preprint: Similar gut bacterial microbiota in two fruit-feeding moth pests collected from different host species and locations. Gong, Q et al.

Plant, Root, and Soil Microbiome
The preceding root system drives the composition and function of the rhizosphere microbiome. Zhou, Y. et al. Genome Biology.

Microbial Co-Occurrence in Floral Nectar Affects Metabolites and Attractiveness to a Generalist Pollinator. Rering, C.C. et al. Journal of Chemical Ecology.

Impact of phages on soil bacterial communities and nitrogen availability under different assembly scenarios. Braga, L.P.P. et al. Microbiome.

A predatory myxobacterium controls cucumber Fusarium wilt by regulating the soil microbial community. Ye, X. et al. Microbiome.

A plant genetic network for preventing dysbiosis in the phyllosphere. Chen, T. et al. Nature.

Fungal communities differentially respond to warming and drought in tropical grassland soil. de Oliveira, T.B. et al. Molecular Ecology.

Built Environment
An in-depth survey of the microbial landscape of the walls of a neonatal operating room. Derilus, D. et al. PLOS ONE.

Microbes in Space
Preprint: Defining the resilience of the human salivary microbiota by a 520 days longitudinal study in confined environment: the Mars500 mission. Bacci, G. et al.

Phages and Viruses
Phage cocktail containing Podoviridae and Myoviridae bacteriophages inhibits the growth of Pectobacterium spp. under in vitro and in vivo conditions. Zaczek-Moczydłowska, M.A. et al. PLOS ONE.

Dynamic genome evolution and complex virocell metabolism of globally-distributed giant viruses. Moniruzzaman M., et al. Nature Communications.

Preprint: Infection with novel Bacteroides phage BV01 alters host transcriptome and bile acid metabolism in a common human gut microbe. Campbell, D.E. et al.

Preprint: Integrative and Conjugative Elements (ICE) and Associated Cargo Genes within and across Hundreds of Bacterial Genera. Kaufman, J. et al.

A restriction enzyme reduced representation sequencing approach for low-cost, high-throughput metagenome profiling. Hess, M.K. et al. PLOS ONE.

Industrial Microbiome
Open microbiome dominated by Clostridium and Eubacterium converts methanol into i-butyrate and n-butyrate. Huang, S. et al. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Fun with Microbes
University of Wyoming masters student Erin Bentley was selected for an Arctic Circle Expedition in 2021 where she will characterize microbes and share her discoveries on The Microbestiary.
“The Microbestiary strives to show the public, in welcoming and memorable ways, that the microbial world is populated by strange and beautiful characters,” says Bentley in an article published on the UW website.

March 5, 2020

Today’s Digest is heavy, so you might want to pace yourself. It’s hard to pick the highlights, but I’m biased towards fungal research, so first about a wake-up call to look at the fungi seriously. The insects might provide for remedy against antibiotic resistance and is the dust settled on the sparse fetal intestinal microbiota? Stay healthy and keep reading.


Call for papers – Global Outbreaks and Responses – BMC Medicine

General microbiology

** Viewpoints: Fungal diseases as neglected pathogens: A wake-up call to public health officials – Marcio L. Rodrigues & Joshua D. Nosanchuk – PLoS NTD

Inducible cell-to-cell signaling for tunable dynamics in microbial communities – Arianna Miano et al. – Nature Communications

Antimicrobial resistance

** The insect antimicrobial peptide cecropin A disrupts uropathogenic Escherichia coli biofilms – Miriam Kalsy et al. – npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

Using comparative genomics to understand molecular features of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii from South Korea causing invasive infections and their clinical implications – Min Hyung Kim – PLoS One

Factors associated with sufficient knowledge of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance in the Japanese general population – Shinya Tsuzuki et al. – Scientific Reports

Faeces and vaccines could be the key to tackling antimicrobial resistance – Elisabeth Mahase – BMJ

A survey of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae in urban wetlands in southwestern Nigeria as a step towards generating prevalence maps of antimicrobial resistance – Olawale Olufemi Adelowo et al. – PLoS One

Pregnancy and early life

** Viable bacterial colonization is highly limited in the human intestine in utero – E. Rackaityte et al. – Nature Medicine

Perinatal Antibiotic Exposure Affects the Transmission between Maternal and Neonatal Microbiota and Is Associated with Early-Onset Sepsis – Ping Zhou et al. – mSphere

Combined analysis of microbial metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequencing data to assess in situ physiological conditions in the premature infant gut – Yonatan Sher et al. – PLoS One

Human skin microbiome

A microbiome and metabolomic signature of phases of cutaneous healing identified by profiling sequential acute wounds of human skin: An exploratory study – Mohammed Ashrafi et al. – PLoS One

Human oral microbiome

Review: Single-Cell Genomics and the Oral Microbiome – M. Balachandran et al. – Journal of Dental Research

Insights Obtained by Culturing Saccharibacteria With Their Bacterial Hosts – B. Bor et al. – Journal of Dental Research

Electronic Cigarette Aerosol Modulates the Oral Microbiome and Increases Risk of Infection – Smruti Pushalkar et al. – iScience

Press: Oral Microbiome Changes Implicated in Gum Inflammation in E-Cigarette Users – GenomeWeb

In vitro: A salivary metabolite signature that reflects gingival host-microbe interactions: instability predicts gingivitis susceptibility – Marcela M. Fernandez-Gutierrez et al. – Scientific Reports

Human respiratory microbiome

Review: The Role of Lung and Gut Microbiota in the Pathology of Asthma – Weronika Barcik et al. – Immunity

Cancer and microbiome

Endogenous murine microbiota member Faecalibaculum rodentium and its human homologue protect from intestinal tumour growth – Elena Zagato et al. – Nature Microbiology

Escherichia coli adhesion portion FimH functions as an adjuvant for cancer immunotherapy – Wei Zhang et al. – Nature Communications

Temporal changes in gut microbiota profile in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia prior to commencement-, during-, and post-cessation of chemotherapy – Ling Ling Chua et al. – BMC Cancer

Review: Interplay between Dietary Polyphenols and Oral and Gut Microbiota in the Development of Colorectal Cancer – Carolina Cueva & Mariana Silva – Nutrients

Human gut microbiome

In vitro: Short-term supplementation of celecoxib-shifted butyrate production on a simulated model of the gut microbial ecosystem and ameliorated in vitro inflammation – Emma Hernandez-Sanabria et al. – npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

Review: Crosstalk Between Gut Microbiota and Innate Immunity and Its Implication in Autoimmune Diseases – Yuhao Jiao et al. – Frontiers in Immunology

An empirically derived method for measuring human gut microbiome alpha diversity: Demonstrated utility in predicting health-related outcomes among a human clinical sample – Sarah L. Hagerty et al. – PLoS One

Proof-of-concept study of the efficacy of a microbiota-directed complementary food formulation (MDCF) for treating moderate acute malnutrition – Ishita Mostafa et al. – BMC Public Health

Microbiota as Predictor of Mortality in Allogeneic Hematopoietic-Cell Transplantation – Jonathan U. Peled et al. – New England Journal of Medicine

Human multi-site microbiome

Age-Related Variation of Bacterial and Fungal Communities in Different Body Habitats across the Young, Elderly, and Centenarians in Sardinia – Lu Wu et al. – mSphere

Response of the human gut and saliva microbiome to urbanization in Cameroon – Ana Lokmer et al. – Scientific Reports

The gut-microbiota-brain axis

Therapeutic Effects of the In Vitro Cultured Human Gut Microbiota as Transplants on Altering Gut Microbiota and Improving Symptoms Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder – Kainan Chen et al. – Microbial Ecology

Built environment microbiome

A preliminary study on the potential of Nanopore MinION and Illumina MiSeq 16S rRNA gene sequencing to characterize building-dust microbiomes – Anders B. Nygaard et al. – Scientific Reports


Spatial metabolomics of in situ host–microbe interactions at the micrometre scale – Benedikt Geier et al. – Nature Microbiology

Global chemical effects of the microbiome include new bile-acid conjugations – Robert A. Quinn et al. – Nature

Animal experiments

PM2.5 exposure perturbs lung microbiome and its metabolic profile in mice – Jingli Li et al. – Science of the Total Environment

Growth hormone deficiency and excess alter the gut microbiome in adult male mice – Elizabeth A Jensen et al. – Endocrinology

Dissociation of Adaptive Thermogenesis from Glucose Homeostasis in Microbiome-Deficient Mice – Tibor L. Krisko et al. – Cell Metabolism

Fecal IgA Levels Are Determined by Strain-Level Differences in Bacteroides ovatus and Are Modifiable by Gut Microbiota Manipulation – Chao Yang et al. – Cell Host & Microbe

Animal microbiome

Can rumen bacteria communicate to each other? – Mi-Young Won et al. – Microbiome

Entomopathogenic nematode-associated microbiota: from monoxenic paradigm to pathobiome – Jean-Claude Ogier et al. – Microbiome

The canine oral microbiome: variation in bacterial populations across different niches – Avika Ruparell et al. – BMC Microbiology

Evolutionary analysis of Mycobacterium bovis genotypes across Africa suggests co-evolution with livestock and humans – Osvaldo Frederico Inlamea et al. – PLoS NTD

Nanopore sequencing of microbial communities reveals the potential role of sea lice as a reservoir for fish pathogens – Ana Teresa Gonçalves et al. – Scientific Reports

Plant, root and soil microbiome

Insights on aquatic microbiome of the Indian Sundarbans mangrove areas – Paltu Kumar Dhal et al. – PLoS One

Ganoderma lucidum cultivation affect microbial community structure of soil, wood segments and tree roots – Fei Ren et al. – Scientific Reports

Effect of long-term destocking on soil fungal functional groups and interactions with plants – Jie Wang et al. – Plant and Soil

Comparative Analysis of Root Microbiomes of Rice Cultivars with High and Low Methane Emissions Reveals Differences in Abundance of Methanogenic Archaea and Putative Upstream Fermenters – Zachary Liechty et al. – mSystems

Fungal diversity and community composition of wheat rhizosphere and non-rhizosphere soils from three different agricultural production regions of South Africa – Magalane Pheladi Gqozo et al. – Applied Soil Ecology

Microbial and volatile profiling of soils suppressive to Fusarium culmorum of wheat – Adam Ossowicki & Vittorio Tracanna et al. – Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Industrial development as a key factor explaining variances in soil and grass phyllosphere microbiomes in urban green spaces – Zhen-Zhen Yan et al. – Environmental Pollution

Plant communities mediate the interactive effects of invasion and drought on soil microbial communities – Catherine Fahey et al. – The ISME Journal

Water and extremophile microbiome

Methyl t-butyl ether-degrading bacteria for bioremediation and biocontrol purposes – Giada d’Errico et al. – PLoS One

Uncovering microbial responses to sharp geochemical gradients in a terrace contaminated by acid mine drainage – Rui Xu et al. – Environmental Pollution

Snapshot: Microbial Extremophiles – Amy K. Schmid et al. – Cell

Denitrification performance and microbial communities of solid-phase denitrifying reactors using poly (butylene succinate)/bamboo powder composite – Wanhe Qi et al. – Bioresource Technology

Meta-omics Provides Insights into the Impact of Hydrocarbon Contamination on Microbial Mat Functioning – Johanne Aubé et al. – Microbial Ecology

Role of microbial diversity for sustainable pyrite oxidation control in acid and metalliferous drainage prevention – Omy T. Ogbughalu et al. – Journal of Hazardous Materials

Phages and viruses

** Coronavirus research highlights – BMC

Fecal Viral Community Responses to High-Fat Diet in Mice – Anjelique Schulfer et al. – mSphere


Rapid MinION profiling of preterm microbiota and antimicrobial-resistant pathogens – Richard M. Leggett et al. – Nature Microbiology

Assembly-free single-molecule sequencing recovers complete virus genomes from natural microbial communities – John Beaulaurier et al. – Genome Research


Rapid inference of antibiotic resistance and susceptibility by genomic neighbour typing – Karel Břinda et al. – Nature Microbiology

Microbes in the news

Tough microbe’s DNA could be a lasting archive – Steve Nadis – Science

How Bacteria Can ‘Sculpt The Gut’ – Maya Trabulsi – KPBS

The bee microbiome can fight back against fungi that cause Colony Collapse Disorder – Lauren Sara McKee – Massive Science

Ancient gut microbiomes shed light on human evolution – Newswise

Launch of the Marine Microbiome Roadmap – NIOZ

Understanding Microbiome Resilience on a Changing Planet – Michigan State University

Adaptations in gut microbes helped our ancestors thrive in new geographical territories: Study – New Kerala

Scientists Announce VIRGO, First Comprehensive Gene Catalog To Decode the Vaginal Microbiome – PR Newswire

Metabolomics Reveals Connection Between Gut Microbiome and Blood – Metabolon

Study shows universally positive effect of cover crops on soil microbiome – Phys.org

New Center of Microbiome Science is in the works at Ohio State – Emily Caldwell – Ohio State University News

Common diseases may be communicable through microbiome, says UBC researcher – Stephanie Blain – The Ubyssey

The microbes in your mouth, and a reminder to floss and go to the dentist – Science Daily

For Your Microbiome, How You Eat Could Be As Important As What You Eat – Technology Networks

Study: Infectious gut bacteria may predict UTI risk – Sue Treiman – Cornell Chronicle

The Best Way to Avoid Getting Sick Is to Wash Your Hands — But You’re Probably Doing It Wrong – Bojana Galic – Live Strong

Microbes on the market

DuPont carries on microbiome momentum with metabolic disease collaboration – Will Chu – Nutraingredients

Non-microbiology picks

Invest 5% of research funds in ensuring data are reusable – Barend Mons – Nature


The Hetch Hetchy Railroad

This post has nothing to do with microbiology, but everything with my love for maps. It is about the former Hetch Hetchy Railroad.

Hetch Hetchy reservoir is the main source of drinking water for the city of San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. The densely populated SF Bay Area only gets rainfall in the winter months and is dependent on reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the collection and storage of rain and melting snow water for the dry summer months.

The Hetch Hetchy area once was a glacier-formed valley of what is now Yosemite National Park, California. It is located in the Northwestern part of the national park, far away from the much more famous Yosemite Valley. Hetch Hetchy Valley was equally beautiful, but it was turned into a reservoir, an artificial lake, in 1923 upon the completion of the O’Shaughnessy Dam.

O’Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Photo by Inklein at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8256821

Here are two photos comparing Hetch Hetchy valley before and after the dam was completed, taken from roughly the same position.

Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 5.52.04 PM.png

Top: Hetch Hetchy Valley in the early 1900, with the Tuolumne River. Source: Isaiah West Taber – Sierra Club Bulletin, Vol. VI. No. 4, January, 1908, pg. 211 (Wikipedia). Bottom: Hetch Hetchy reservoir, May 2002. Photo by Daniel Mayer. Source: Wikipedia.

As of today, the Hetch Hetchy Project consists of the reservoir, the dam, hydroelectric plants, and a long aqueduct that carries the water to the SF Bay Area through a long series of tunnels, using only gravity.


Hetch Hetchy Project. Source: By Shannon1 using Adobe Illustrator CS5; aqueduct path data from USGS topos, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26434757.

The story about the Hetch Hetchy Railroad, built in the 1910s and 1920s to bring the construction crews and materials needed to build the dam, hydroelectric plants, and aqueducts is very interesting if you like history and maps. After completion of the dam in 1923, the HHRR was used to carry tourists and mail to the Northern Yosemite area. However, the steep terrain, sharp curves, and heavy snowfall made it very hard and expensive to operate the railroad. During World War II, HHRR rail materials such as steel and wood were used for war operations, and the railroad was finally completely dismantled in 1949.

Hetch Hetchy Railroad Locomotive #2 in the Travel Town Museum in Los Angeles, 2017. Photo by NearEMPTiness, Wikipedia.com

Friends of us who live near an area where the railroad used to run told us about the success and decline of the railroad, and pointed us towards some sections where you can still see remnants of how the tracks ran. Even though the rails and wooden cross-ties are now all gone, you can still see the flattened track at some sections. Close to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, the road to access the lake now runs over the railroad track.

Online maps and photos of the Hetch Hetchy Railroad

Hearing about the now-gone railroad got me interested in mapping the complete course of the railroad. I first searched online and found a couple of railroad and other sites that mentioned it.

  • GhostRails and AbandonedRails (very similar sites) both have a rough map of the first part of the route and some discussion on where to see remnants of the railway
  • San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency has a site that remembers how San Franciscans could take the railway up to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to visit the site where their drinking water came from and see their tax dollars at work.
  • MTB project has a bike route that follows part of the track around Groveland
  • Wikipedia has a page that describes when the railroad was in operation and which locomotives ran over it. It also describes how steep and curvy the track was.
  • Latitude.to has the GPS coordinates of the start of the track, in California’s Central Valley west of the Don Pedro Reservoir, at Hetch Hetchy Junction
  • There is also a Hetch Hetchy Railroad museum in El Portal, west of Yosemite National Park’s entrance on Highway 140
  • Several old maps were also available online, such as this map at Yosemite News. On the map below,  you can see that it split off from the (still-existing) Sierra Railroad.

Map from 1947 displaying the Hetch Hetchy Railroad

More maps and information about the HH Railroad

The information I found online was not enough detailed to know how the HHRR exactly ran. Luckily, our friends lent us their copy of the book Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Railroad by Ted Wurm. The author was part of a group of railfans who traveled the railroad around 1937 and took lots of photos. This book has a map of the railroad route, and several descriptions that allowed me to start to map the exact position of the tracks.

Photo of Ted Wurm's book about the Hetch Hetchy Railroad

Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Railroad by Ted Wurm

The Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum also has a small exhibition on the Hetch Hetchy Railroad. It consists of several photos and a topographical map in which a person called Bill Dagg draw the course of the railroad by hand.

Map of the HHRR in the Groveland Museum, hand-drawn by Bill Dagg

Drawing the exact location of the railroad in Google Earth

These two maps by Ted Wurm and Bill Dagg were a lot more detailed than what I could find online. I was very excited to see how much work these two men had put into mapping the railroad.

Since I could not find an electronic version of the railroad’s course online, I decided to make a KML file myself. KML stands for “Keyhole Markup Language“, and is a way to visualize geographic data in – for example – Google Earth. Google Earth is the advanced version of Google Maps and it allows you to add extra layers. An easy way to make a KML file is to draw a line or a polygon on top of the map displayed in Google Earth.

In order to draw the map, I downloaded Google Earth Pro. There is also a Google Earth Web version that runs in Chrome and that can display KML files, but it did not allow me to make one or edit points.

Using Google Earth satellite views and the maps from Ted Wurm’s book and Bill Dagg’s map from the Groveland Museum it was easy to spot some parts of the now-dismantled railroad. In some places, the railroad is now an unpaved or paved road, while in other spots the old foundations are still visible in the landscape.

Google Maps satellite view of the western-most part of the Hetch Hetchy Railroad. The leftmost and rightmost arrows show visible remnants of the track foundations, while the other arrows show parts that now serve as a road.

I was also very excited to find some historical topographical maps on the website of the USGS from around 1947, just before the railroad was removed. These maps are available as KMZ (zipped KML) files, so you can just overlay them in Google Earth. This allowed me to draw the railroad even more precisely.

Historical topographic map from USGS as a KMZ overlay in Google Earth. The red line is my drawing of the railroad.

This was a fun project to do in Google Earth. In some cases, the historic topographical maps were a bit shifted from the current Google map, and in other cases new roads were put over the historic railroad, so I had to make an educated guess where the tracks had been. But in most spots it was easy to see the old tracks from the satellite images.

Download the Hetch Hetchy Railroad

So here it is, a link to the historic Hetch Hetchy Railroad route (KML file) as drawn by me in Google Earth. If you click on the link it will show you the route in Google Maps.

Or, if you want to edit, download the KMZ file to display in Google Earth. Enjoy!

The Hetch Hetchy Railroad, mapped by Elisabeth Bik

One thing that struck me as amazing is how beautiful the incline of the trail is over certain areas. Look at this elevation profile that Google Earth draw over the complete 68-mile route. In several places, the tracks go up or down a nearly perfect 4 degrees. What a great piece of 1920s engineering that was!

Elevation profile of the Hetch Hetchy Railroad, generated by Google Earth.

August 23, 2019

Good morning everyone!

This post is written from lovely NYC, quite a distance from my hometown in Israel. If you’re working on microbial ecology in the city and care for a cup of coffee (on me!) and a rather interesting chat about science, entreprenurship and agriculture- please contact me via barakdror@outlook.com or just find me on Linkedin.

Today post will feature highly recommended podcast, a great antimicrobial resistance review paper, Cocaine effect on gut microbiota, some cool bioinformatics tools papers, fascinating animal microbiome studies and more.

Resources and Podcast

I’m a huge fan of the This Week in Microbiology podcast. On their 201 episode the team hosted Prof. Mark Martin (U of Puget Sound) with some great list of papers for 1st year undergrads- but it is a great opportunity to read about general concepts and direction in micrboiology. I truely enjoed both the episode and the recommended papers.

15 Biotech-Themed Online Courses to Try at Home

Antibiotic Resistance

Defining and combating antibiotic resistance from One Health and Global Health perspectives, Sara Hernando-Amado, Nature Microbiology


An expectation-maximization algorithm enables accurate ecological modeling using longitudinal microbiome sequencing data, Chenhao Li, Microbiome

Analysing complex metagenomic data with MicroWineBar, Franziska Klincke ,bioRxiv

A systematic NGS-based approach for contaminant detection and functional inference, Sung-Joon Park, bioRxiv

Human and Animal microbiome

Cocaine Induces Inflammatory Gut Milieu by Compromising the Mucosal Barrier Integrity and Altering the Gut Microbiota Colonization, Ernest T. Chivero, Scientific Reports

Influence of the microbiota-gut-brain axis on behavior and welfare in farm animals: A review, Narjis Kraimi, Physiology & Behavior

Dissecting the factors shaping fish skin microbiomes in a heterogeneous inland water system, Yaron Krotman, bioRxiv

Non‐random associations of maternally transmitted symbionts in insects: The roles of drift versus biased co‐transmission and selection, Hugo Mathe-Hubert, Molecular Ecology

The microbiome of the Melitaea cinxia butterfly shows marked variation but is only little explained by the traits of the butterfly or its host plant, G. Minard, Environmental Microbiology

Food microbiome

The occurrence of Listeria monocytogenes is associated with built environment microbiota in three tree fruit processing facilities, Xiaoqing Tan, Microbiome

Environmental microbiome

Marine-freshwater prokaryotic transitions require extensive changes in the predicted proteome, Pedro J. Cabello-Yeves, Microbiome

Taxonomic and functional characterization of a microbial community from a volcanic englacial ecosystem in Deception Island, Antarctica, Emma Martinez-Alonso, Scientific Reports