Longing for the lab

I’m a final year PhD student, studying the relationship between gut bacteria and colon cancer using a benign cell line model. Last Tuesday, the UK government announced a lockdown, and those institutions that were still open, closed their doors.

So, like a batch of fresh samples, my experiments have been put on ice. It’s a scary time for a lot of fledgling researchers, with no contingency plan for bursary or lab time extensions currently in place. Many PhD students, like myself, will find themselves attempting to write thesis chapters a lot earlier than they had planned.

I’ve witnessed first hand, as my peers have battled through the ordeal, that tackling the big beast of thesis writing can lead to all kinds of delirium. In my recent writing-induced malaise, I’ve found myself longing to be back in lab. Surprisingly, I’m even finding myself reminiscing about some of the more tedious tasks, such as:

  1. Passaging cell lines. Looking after cells, particular benign or primary cell lines, is like having a child. They always need something, and if you dare to upset them, pray for your lab results/sanity. Shared tissue culture facilities also pose their own problems, and I’m sure most cell biologists would admit to a small level of constant paranoia: Are my cells ok? But, what I wouldn’t give for the simplicity of easing myself into a busy week of lab work by splitting a flask of cells on a Monday morning.
  2. Visiting the liquid nitrogen freezer. Liquid nitrogen freezers are scary. Lab managers just love to regale fresh inductees with horror stories as a way of teaching the importance of appropriate eye protection. They’re also usually kept somewhere out of the way and with good ventilation. In my experience, this is almost exclusively a damp, cold, cellar-like room somewhere far, far away from where you actually conduct your lab work. There is, however, a sort of tranquility about lifting the lid off of the freezer, and watching the gas silently flow out like the world’s quietest volcano.
  3. Transporting samples between labs. As part of my work, I’m lucky enough to work with some foul-smelling anaerobic bacteria. Fortunately, the university moved on from anaerobic jars long before I started, and we have a rather high-end anaerobic workstation. The problem, however, is that this workstation is not in the main microbiology lab, but a smaller lab approximately 3 feet down the corridor. We have no open lab zone, so this means painstakingly sealing, bagging and boxing all cultures, in order to, for example, read them on a spectrophotometer that’s a mere 20 paces away. Come to think of it, maybe I don’t miss this so much.

Perhaps the biggest challenge many of us are facing right now is that of isolation. The hustle and bustle of a busy lab is gone, supervisors are more distant, and there are no fellow researchers to complain to about a failed experiment (or a cantankerous lab manager). Hopefully by facilitating discussion and keeping connected, we can make getting through this difficult time a little easier.

What are you missing about science? Comment below!

March 29, 2020

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this pandemic. Today’s digest will start with a few articles on COVID-19 before moving on to microbiome papers.


Preprint: A proposal of alternative primers for the ARTIC Network’s multiplex PCR to improve coverage of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing – Itokawa et al.

Preprint: FDA approved drugs with broad anti-coronaviral activity inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in vitro – Weston et al.

Protein Structure and its Sequence Reanalysis of 2019-nCov Genome Refutes Snakes as Its Intermediate Host and the Unique Similarity between Its Spike Protein Insertions and HIV-1 – Zhang et al. – ACS Publications

General Microbiome

Antithetic population response to antibiotics in a polybacterial community – Laporta & Ojalvo – ScienceAdvances

Review: Toward a dynamical understanding of microbial communities – Rainey & Quistad – Royal Society Publishing

Pregnancy and early life

Beyond the Bacterial Microbiome: Virome of Human Milk and Effects on the Developing Infant – Mohandas & Pannaraj – Karger

Human vaginal microbiome

Cervicovaginal microbiome and natural history of HPV in a longitudinal study – Usyk et al. – PLOS Pathogens

Vaginal Microbiome of Pregnant Indian Women: Insights into the Genome of Dominant Lactobacillus Species – Mehta et al. – Springer Link

Human gut microbiome

Review: Current explorations of nutrition and the gut microbiome: a comprehensive evaluation of the review literature – Frame & Jackson – Nutrition Reviews

Metaproteomics characterizes human gut microbiome function in colorectal cancer – Long et al. – Nature

The effects of daily fasting hours on shaping gut microbiota in mice – Li et al. – BMC Microbiology

Human oral microbiome

Spatial Ecology of the Human Tongue Dorsum Microbiome – Wilbert et al. – Cell Reports

Effects of Chlorhexidine mouthwash on the oral microbiome – Bescos et al. – Scientific Reports

Animal microbiome

Microbiome diversity and composition varies across body areas in a freshwater turtle – McKnight et al. – Microbiology Society

Gut microbiota shifts in the giant tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, during the postlarvae, juvenile, and adult stages – Cicala et al. – Springer Link

Plant and soil microbiome

Community-driven Metadata Standards for Agricultural Microbiome Research – Dundore-Arias et al. – APS Publications

Do cover crops benefit soil microbiome? A meta-analysis of current research – Kim et al. – ScienceDirect

Water and extremophile microbiome

Linking regional shifts in microbial genome adaptation with surface ocean biochemistry – Garcia et al. – The Royal Society Publishing

The potential impact of bacterial communities exposed to crude oil and light on the growth of the harmful algal blooming species Karenia brevis (Dinophyceae) – Park & Buskey – CSIRO Publishing


Machine-learning pattern recognition and differential network analysis of gastric microbiome in the presence of proton pump inhibitor treatment or Helicobacter pylori infection – Ciucci et al.

Infrared absorptions as indicators for Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii – Yamamoto et al.

Evidence for a growth zone for deep subsurface microbial clades in near-surface anoxic sediments – Lloyd et al.

A potent antibiofilm agent inhibits and eradicates mono- and multi-species biofilms – Long et al.

March 27, 2020

We begin with a few updates about the recent research news about COVID 19 and how as a scientist you might be able to help. As a result of the global lock down, many conferences and seminars have moved online. You will find some of the microbiome-related online events in today’s post. Please also have a look at a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society for conceptual challenges in microbial community ecology.

Coronavirus vaccines: five key questions as trials begin – Nature News

How blood from coronavirus survivors might save lives – Nature News

COVID-19 Pandemic: Scientist volunteer form

An initiative to redirect scientific resources towards the fight against COVID-19

Virtual Events
Virtual Conference: 6th Annual Translational Microbiome Conference

Guts & Bugs: A virtual GI seminar series by Edelblum Lab

Let’s go viral: online microbiology seminars in partnership with International Society of Microbial Ecology
Schedule can be found via Twitter #MicroSeminar @MicroSeminar

General microbiome
SPECIAL ISSUE: Phillosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B : Conceptual challenges in microbial community ecology

Human respiratory microbiome
Review: Respiratory microbiome and epithelial interactions shape immunity in the lungs – Invernizzi et al. – Immunology

Human oral microbiome
Polymicrobial periodontal disease triggers a wide radius of effect and unique virome – Gao et al. – npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

Metagenomic analysis of bacterial species in tongue microbiome of current and never smokers – Sato et al. – npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

Spatial Ecology of the Human Tongue Dorsum Microbiome – Wilbert et al. – Cell Reports

Oral biofilms exposure to chlorhexidine results in altered microbial composition and metabolic profile – Chatzigiannidou et al. – npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

Dysbiotic oral microbiota and infected salivary glands in Sjögren’s syndrome – Alam et al. – PLOS ONE

Animal experiments
Drosophila-associated bacteria differentially shape the nutritional requirements of their host during juvenile growth – Consuegra et al. – PLOS Biology

Bacterially produced metabolites protect C. elegans neurons from degeneration – Urrutia et al. – PLOS Biology

Dynamic interactions within the host-associated microbiota cause tumor formation in the basal metazoan Hydra – Rathje et al. – PLOS Pathogens

Association of colitis with gut-microbiota dysbiosis in clathrin adapter AP-1B knockout mice – Jangid et al. – PLOS ONE

Variations in microbiota composition of laboratory mice influence Citrobacter rodentium infection via variable short-chain fatty acid production – Osbelt et al. – PLOS Pathogens

Changes in the faecal microbiota of horses and ponies during a two-year body weight gain programme – Langner et al. – PLOS ONE

Animal microbiome
Microbiomes in the insectivorous bat species Mops condylurus rapidly converge in captivity – Edenborough et al. – PLOS ONE

Plant, root, and soil microbiome
Towards Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture: An evaluation of biocontrol effects, nutritional value, and ecological impact of bacterial inoculants – Passera et al. – Science of The Total Environment

Book Chapter: Rhizobacteria Versus Chelating Agents: Tool for Phytoremediation – Kaur et al. – Microbial Technology for Health and Environment

Book Chapter: Applications of Microorganisms in Agriculture – Doley et al. – Microbial Technology for Health and Environment

Plant Invasion Has Limited Impact on Soil Microbial alpha Diversity: A Meta-Analysis – Custer & van Diepen – Diversity

Water microbiome
Carbonate facies‐specific stable isotope data record climate, hydrology, and microbial communities in Great Salt Lake, UT – Ingalls et al. – Geobiology

The microbiome of modern microbialites in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico – Yanez-Montalvo et al. – PLOS ONE

Food microbiology
Variations in Fungal Community and Diversity in Doushen With Different Flavors – Luo et at. – Frontiers in Microbiology

MetaBridge: An Integrative Multi‐Omics Tool for Metabolite‐Enzyme Mapping – Blimkie et al. – Current Protocols in Bioinformatics

Validating metabarcoding-based biodiversity assessments with multi-species occupancy models: A case study using coastal marine eDNA – McClenaghan et al. – PLOS ONE

PPanGGOLiN: Depicting microbial diversity via a partitioned pangenome graph – Gautreau et al. – PLOS Computational Biology

The Community Simulator: A Python package for microbial ecology – Marsland et al. – PLOS ONE

Genome-based species-specific primers for rapid identification of six species of Lactobacillus acidophilusgroup using multiplex PCR – You & Kim – PLOS ONE

Pathogens and microbiome
Commensal Neisseria cinerea impairs Neisseria meningitidis microcolony development and reduces pathogen colonisation of epithelial cells – Custodio et al. – PLOS Pathogens

Swimming motility of a gut bacterial symbiont promotes resistance to intestinal expulsion and enhances inflammation – Wiles et al. – PLOS Biology

March 26th, 2020

This is my first post on the site! There weren’t a lot of alerts today, so I dug around for other papers I can find. Today’s digest includes mostly human microbiome research, most notably a study identifying a staph peptide that induces acute exacerbation of pulmonary fibrosis, as well as a very diverse epidemiological study of the impact of diet on the gut microbiome in the United States.

General Human Microbiome

US nativity and dietary acculturation impact the gut microbiome in a diverse US population  – Peters, B.A., Yi, S.S., Beasley, J.M. et al. – ISME

Microbiome in Pregnancy and Birth

Maternal carriage of Prevotella during pregnancy associates with protection against food allergy in the offspring – Vuillermin, P.J., O’Hely, M., Collier, F. et al. – Nature Communications

Vaginal Microbiome of Pregnant Indian Women: Insights into the Genome of Dominant Lactobacillus Species – Mehta, O., Ghosh, T.S., Kothidar, A. et al. – Microbial Ecology

Translational human microbiome research

A Staphylococcus pro-apoptotic peptide induces acute exacerbation of pulmonary fibrosis – D’Alessandro-Gabazza, C.N., Kobayashi, T., Yasuma, T. et al. – Nature Communications

Effect of probiotics during vonoprazan‐containing triple therapy on gut microbiota in Helicobacter pylori infection: A randomized controlled trial – Kakiuchi et al. – Helicobacter

Rosuvastatin alters the genetic composition of the human gut microbiome – Kummen, M., Solberg, O.G., Storm-Larsen, C. et al. – Scientific Reports

Microbiome and Cancer

Metaproteomics characterizes human gut microbiome function in colorectal cancer – Long, S., Yang, Y., Shen, C. et al. – npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

Plant microbiome

Genome‐resolved metagenomics to study co‐occurrence patterns and intraspecific heterogeneity among plant pathogen metapopulations – Newberry et al. – Environmental Microbiology

Symbiotic nitrogen fixation and endophytic bacterial community structure in Bt-transgenic chickpea (Cicer arietinum L) – Alok, D., Annapragada, H., Singh, S. et al. – Scientific Reports

Soil microbiome

Soil Microbial Diversity Affects the Plant-Root Colonization by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi – Ferreira et al. – Microbial Ecology

Bioinformatics/Sequencing analysis methods

Joining Illumina paired-end reads for classifying phylogenetic marker sequences – Liu et al. – BMC Bioinformatics

M2IA: a Web Server for Microbiome and Metabolome Integrative Analysis – Ni et al. – Bioinformatics


Alcohol pretreatment of stools effect on culturomics – Afouda, P., Hocquart, M., Pham, T. et al. – Scientific Reports

Pre-prints on bioRxiv to look forward to

Infant gut microbiome

Genetic and behavioral adaptation of Candida parapsilosis to the microbiome of hospitalized infants revealed by in situ genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics – West et al. (Side note: The Banfield lab produces a lot of good work!)

Laboratory work on bacterial motility in the gut

Bacterial Swarmers exhibit a Protective Response to Intestinal Stress – Chen et al.

Long-read sequencing of gut mycobiome

Assessing anaerobic gut fungal (Neocalliamstigomycota) diversity using PacBio D1/D2 LSU rRNA amplicon sequencing and multi-year isolation – Hanafy et al.


HumGut: A comprehensive Human Gut prokaryotic genomes collection filtered by metagenome data


March 25, 2020

Today’s digest features an article about colorectal cancer signatures and E. coli and a study about the microbiome and resistome of great apes and human.


News: How blood from coronavirus survivors might save lives – Nature

General microbiome

What is the Origin of Human Bacterial Flora? – Alen J Salerian – Journal of Applied & Environmental Microbiology

The Microbiome of the Nose—Friend or Foe? – Sofia Dimitri-Pinheiro – Allergy Rhinol.

Pregnancy and early life

Non-targeted urinary metabolomics in pregnancy and associations with fetal growth restriction – Chelsea M. Clinton – Scientific Reports

Multi-site human microbiome

Effects of Chlorhexidine mouthwash on the oral microbiome – Raul Bescos – Scientific Reports

Human gut microbiome

Mutational signature in colorectal cancer caused by genotoxic pks+ E. coli – Cayetano Pleguezuelos-Manzano – Nature

Animal experiments

Natural agents inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and alter microbial diversity in mice – Lulu Farhana – PLOS One

Animal microbiome (for animals in the wild)

Co-abundance analysis reveals hidden players associated with high methane yield phenotype in sheep rumen microbiome – Leila Ghanbari Maman – Scientific Reports

Effects of heat stress on the gut health of poultry – Marcos H Rostagno – Journal of Animal Science

The microbiome and resistome of chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans across host lifestyle and geography – Tayte P. Campbell – THE ISME Journal

Plant, root, and soil microbiome

Impact of molasses and microbial inoculants on fermentation quality, aerobic stability, and bacterial and fungal microbiomes of barley silage – Beiyi Liu – Scientific Reports

Bacterial analysis in the early developmental stages of the black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) – Pacharaporn Angthong – Scientific Reports

Water and extremophile microbiome

Microbial community profiling of ammonia and nitrite oxidizing bacterial enrichments from brackishwater ecosystems for mitigating nitrogen species – Viswanathan Baskaran – Scientific Reports

Vertical Beta-Diversity of Bacterial Communities Depending on Water Stratification – Wan-Hsuan Cheng – Frontiers in Microbiology


Artificial microbiome heterogeneity spurs six practical action themes and examples to increase study power-driven reproducibility – Abigail R. Basson – Scientific Reports


Benchmarking the MinION: Evaluating long reads for microbial profiling – Robert M. Leidenfrost – Scientific Reports

March 24, 2020

Today’s Digest features a study to use engineered Acinetobacter to boost host immunity against bacterial pneumonia, and a review on the relationship between plant-microbe symbiosis and agriculture.The coronavirus is probably on the mind of all of us. Listen to Dr. Blaser talk about it. Stay well and keep reading.


Research Tech II – CHOP Microbiome Center


Editorial: Coronavirus: three things all governments and their science advisers must do now – Nature

World View: Don’t rush to deploy COVID-19 vaccines and drugs without sufficient safety guarantees – Shibo Jiang – Nature

Q&A: The novel coronavirus outbreak causing COVID-19 – Dale Fisher & David Heymann – BMC Medicine

** Dr. Martin Blaser answers coronavirus questions from Twitter (full video available) – mlive.com

General microbiology

Regulation of fungal decomposition at single-cell level – Michiel Op De Beeck et al. – The ISME Journal

Antimicrobial resistance

** Broad-spectrum suppression of bacterial pneumonia by aminoglycoside-propagated Acinetobacter baumannii – M. Indriati Hood-Pishchany et al. – PLoS Pathogens

Vulnerability and resistance in the spatial heterogeneity of soil microbial communities under resource additions – Kelly Gravuer et al. – PNAS

Discovery of a novel integron-borne aminoglycoside resistance gene present in clinical pathogens by screening environmental bacterial communities – Maria-Elisabeth Böhm et al. – Microbiome

Characterization of antibiotic resistance and host-microbiome interactions in the human upper respiratory tract during influenza infection – Lingdi Zhang et al. – Microbiome

Human gut microbiome

The role of gut microbiota in bone homeostasis – Jyotirmaya Behera et al. – Bone

Animal experiments

Docosahexaenoate-enriched fish oil and medium chain triglycerides shape the feline plasma lipidome and synergistically decrease circulating gut microbiome-derived putrefactive postbiotics – Matthew I. Jackson & Dennis E. Jewell – PLoS One

Animal microbiome

The rodent vaginal microbiome across the estrous cycle and the effect of genital nerve electrical stimulation – Micah Levy et al. – PLoS One

The different dietary sugars modulate the composition of the gut microbiota in honeybee during overwintering – Hongfang Wang et al. – BMC Microbiology

Most dominant roles of insect gut bacteria: digestion, detoxification, or essential nutrient provision? – Tian-Zhong Jing et al. – Microbiome

Predictive ability of host genetics and rumen microbiome for subclinical ketosis – Grum Gebreyesus et al. – Journal of Dairy Science

Plant, root and soil microbiome

** Review: Agriculture and the Disruption of Plant–Microbial Symbiosis – Stephanie S. Porter & Joel L. Sachs – Trends in Ecology & Evolution

Taxon-specific microbial growth and mortality patterns reveal distinct temporal population responses to rewetting in a California grassland soil – Steven J. Blazewicz et al. – The ISME Journal

Reusing oil and gas produced water for agricultural irrigation: Effects on soil health and the soil microbiome – Hannah Miller et al. – Science of the Total Environment

Network analysis reveals the strengthening of microbial interaction in biological soil crust development in the Mu Us Sandy Land, northwestern China – Hong Zhou et al. – Soil Biology and Biochemistry

Water and extremophile microbiome

Performance and functional microbial communities of denitrification process of a novel MFC-granular sludge coupling system – Qiujin Deng et al. – Bioresource Technology

Microbial community structure and functional properties in permanently and seasonally flooded areas in Poyang Lake – Yang Liu et al. – Scientific Reports

Associations between redox-sensitive trace metals and microbial communities in a Proterozoic ocean analogue – Kathryn I. Rico et al. – Geobiology

Reactor configuration influences microbial community structure during high-rate, low-temperature anaerobic treatment of dairy wastewater – Paul G McAteer et al. – Bioresource Technology


Multiple-Disease Detection and Classification across Cohorts via Microbiome Search – Xiaoquan Su et al. – mSystems

Microbes in the news

How the mi­cro­biome is in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment of can­cer – Christian Urban – MedicalXpress

How a Fiber-Rich Plant-Based Diet Keeps Your Gut Microbiome Happy and Healthy – Chelsea Debret – One Green Planet

Gerhart: Keeping well during a pandemic – Timothy Gerhart – Your Valley

Study shows positive effect of cover crops on soil microbiome – AgriNews

Microbiome search engine can increase efficiency in disease detection and diagnosis – Chinese Academy of Sciences – EurekAlert

7 Ways A Gastroenterologist Supports His Microbiome & Overall Health – Marvin Singh – mbg Health

Infliximab Helps Gut Microbiome in Children with Crohn’s, Study Finds – Ana Pena – IBD News Today

Microbes on the market

DuPont, APC Microbiome Ireland link up for babies – Melody M. Bomgardner – C&EN