Tips from the Journals of the American Society for Microbiology

February 17, 2004


An unidentified viral infection may be the cause of aggression in worker honeybees, say researchers from Japan. Their findings appear in the February 2004 issue of the Journal of Virology.

While initially trying to pinpoint genes responsible for aggressive behavior in worker honeybees, the researchers stumbled upon a novel RNA sequence, which they named Kakugo, that could only be found in the brains of honeybees that displayed aggressive behavior toward a hornet decoy. They believe that the RNA is an indicator of a viral infection.

"These results demonstrate that Kakugo RNA is a plus-strand RNA of a novel picorna-like virus and that the brains of aggressive workers are infected by this novel virus," say the researchers. "In aggressive workers, Kakugo RNA was detected in the brain but not in the thorax or abdomen, indicating a close relation between viral infection in the brain and aggressive worker behaviors."

(T. Fujiyuki, H. Takeuchi, M. Ono, S. Ohka, T. Sasaki, A. Nomoto, T. Kubo. 2003. Novel insect picorna-like virus identified in the brains of aggressive worker honeybees. Journal of Virology, 78. 3: 1093-1100.)



Researchers from Easton, Pennsylvania and Lima, Peru have developed a simple and cost-efficient system to decontaminate polluted water using nothing more than sunlight. Their findings appear in the February 2004 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Contaminated water is responsible for billions of cases of gastrointestinal illnesses every year. Developing nations lacking proper sanitation methods often report the highest number of cases. Technologies such as ozonation, chlorination, and artificial UV radiation, while useful, are high in cost and demand complex equipment and skilled operators.

"The need for a low-cost, low maintenance, and effective disinfection system for the improvement of water quality is high," say the researchers.

Solar irradiation is the process by which sunlight eradicates bacterial growth. In the study, samples of river water and partially processed water from wastewater treatment plants were treated with the solar disinfection unit. Results showed that 99 % of bacteria in highly contaminated samples were disinfected after less than 30 minutes of exposure to midday sunlight.

"A solar disinfection unit has been designed and successfully tested for disinfection of contaminated water under polychromatic solar light," say the researchers. "Our solar disinfection unit may be more efficient than other units because the exposure surface exceeds that of other tested units, thus maximizing the irradiation time."

(L.F. Caslake, D.J. Connolly, V. Menon, C.M. Duncanson, R. Rojas, J. Tavakoli. 2003. Disinfection of contaminated water by using solar irradiation. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 70. 2: 1145-1150.)



Sourdough bread containing select bacteria may be tolerated by patients with a rare digestive disease that causes gluten intolerance, say Italian and Irish researchers. Their findings appear in the February 2004 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Celiac Sprue (CS), one of the most common food intolerances in Western culture, is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. A gluten-free diet has been the only treatment option available to patients up to this point.

In the study, sourdough containing wheat, nontoxic oat, millet, and buckwheat flours was mixed with lactobacilli and fermented for twenty-four hours. CS patients were able to tolerate bread made from the experimental sourdough, offering new hope for increasing tolerance levels of wheat flour products.

"These results showed that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans," say the researchers.

(R.D. Cagno, M.D. Angelis, S. Auricchio, L. Greco, C. Clarke, M.D. Vincenzi, C. Giovannini, M. D'Archivio, F. Landolfo, G. Parrilli, F. Minervini, E. Arendt, M. Gobbetti. 2003. Sourdough bread made from wheat and nontoxic flours and started with selected lactobacilli is tolerated in celiac sprue patients. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 70. 2: 1088-1096.)

American Society for Microbiology

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