An ecosystem unto ourselves

Microbiome of Human Skin

Much has been in the news lately about the human microbiome and the implications this research has for our health. For those of you not familiar with the term microbiome, it is the sum of all normal, non-pathogenic bacteria that live on and inside our own bodies on a daily basis. These are very large and diverse populations, so much so that bacterial cells outnumber the cells of our own bodies ten-to-one and it is estimated that humans are host to literally thousands of species of bacteria. This doesn’t even begin to cover the number of viruses that may live in us long term; referred to as a virome. It seems today that we are far more complex organisms than we ever imagined. But what does this complexity mean? Does it have implications in how we should treat disease or why we become sick in the first place? Continue reading

Our depleting antibiotic arsenal

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus 10048
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe that my generation is extremely fortunate when observed through the lens of history. Many of us will never know the pain of losing a sibling or child to polio, rheumatic fever, or diphtheria or the worry of minor cuts and scrapes becoming a lethal, untreatable infection. The advances of modern science and medicine have provided us with an arsenal of antibiotics to combat bacterial diseases, as well as effective vaccines that prevent many viral and bacterial infections from taking hold in the first place. However, our widespread abuse of antibiotics in both clinical and agricultural settings has led to an alarming increase in the amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria circulating in the environment and in our own bodies. Continue reading

Mining host functions in search of novel treatments: APOBEC3G and retroviruses

English: Diagram of the HIV virus.
Diagram of  HIV virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello Readers! My apologies for the unexpected hiatus as preliminary exams and the end of the semester have occupied the bulk of my time recently. I thought I would make the most of the situation and post the written portion that I’ve recently completed as it is an interesting subject I was unaware of until recently. Studies in this area may lead to future treatments for retroviral infections such as human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1), the infectious agent responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) by showing exactly how the host protein APOBEC3G exerts an antiviral effect against this virus in the cell. Continue reading