Drug-resistant bacteria are thwarting the world’s last-resort antibiotics, leading scientists to seek new compounds from poisonous frogs, backyard soil bacteria, and other wildlife. Now, scientists have found the makings of an exceptional microbe killer inside us: By tweaking a naturally occurring peptide—a short chain of amino acids—found in the human body, researchers have designed a drug that could wipe out obstinate microbes resistant to all available treatments.
Just last year, poliovirus seemed on its last legs in Pakistan, one of its final strongholds. Unsettling new findings, however, show it is far from gone. In the most extensive effort in any country to scour the environment for traces of the virus, polio workers are finding it across the country, in places they thought it had disappeared. Now, they are wondering “just what the hell is going on” and how worried they should be.
After the West Nile virus appeared in the United States in 1999, it spread across the entire country in just a few years, sickening thousands of people and striking down whole flocks of birds. Now, a new study suggests the mosquito-borne virus may have had an unexpected helper: light pollution. Researchers found birds infected with West Nile can spread the virus twice as long when they are exposed to night light.
For the first time, scientists have produced evidence in living humans that the protein tau, which mars the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, spreads from neuron to neuron. Although such movement wasn’t directly observed, the finding may illuminate how neurodegeneration occurs in the devastating illness, and it could provide new ideas for stemming the brain damage that robs so many of memory and cognition.
Sharks are infamous as meat eaters—and man eaters. But now, scientists have discovered the first species to feast on plants. After finding seagrass in the guts of juvenile bonnethead sharks in 2007, one adventurous graduate student put several sharks in an outdoor saltwater tank on a diet of 90% eelgrass and 10% squid for 3 weeks. Despite the vegetal fare, all the sharks gained weight, and carbon tracers suggested they were digesting at least half the seagrass. They could go green, scientists suspect, because microbes in their guts are doing the digesting for them.