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A newly identified, antibiotic-resistant strain of a common bacterium is contributing to an increase in relatively hard-to-treat bladder infections in women in at least three U.S. cities, according to a study published Thursday. Genetic analysis and other laboratory tests pinpointed the strain of Escherichia coli bacteria as the culprit in a substantial percentage of drug-resistant urinary tract infections among female university students in Berkeley, Minneapolis and Ann Arbor, Mich.
March 3, 2014 | By Tony Barboza
Wait three days after it rains before going into the ocean. It's a warning that public health officials issued to beachgoers this week, as they do after any significant storm in California. But a study released Monday is raising questions about whether that three-day waiting period is enough to protect people who swim, surf and play in the ocean from pathogens in storm runoff that can make them ill. "To err on the side of caution, stay out of the water for five days after rainfall," said Amanda Griesbach, a water quality scientist at Heal the Bay , an environmental group that provided data and other support for the research by undergraduate students at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
A 35-year-old Santa Barbara triathlete stricken with a rare and virulent streptococcus infection--which has become notorious as the "flesh-eating" bacteria--was better Thursday afternoon, but remained in critical condition at the Sherman Oaks Hospital burn center.
February 28, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
Scientists have discovered the DNA of millions of tiny organisms entombed in the ancient dental plaque of four medieval skeletons.  The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, have implications for research into what our ancestors ate, how they interacted, and what diseases they fought, the authors write. "I feel like we discovered a time capsule that has been right under our noses this whole time," said Christina Warinner, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Oklahoma and the lead author of the study.
At least some cases of Parkinson's disease, a devastating neurological illness that affects as many as 500,000 Americans, may be caused by infection by a common soil fungus, researchers from UC Davis will report today.
June 21, 2013 | By Brad Balukjian
The same process that led to the evolution of complex life may be happening all over again in insects, according to a new study in the journal Cell. About 900 million years ago, the Earth was covered in vast oceans containing giant mats of bacteria. Single-celled organisms with little more than a nucleus topped the food chain. At some point, they engulfed photosynthetic organisms called cyanobacteria , incorporating them into their cells and forming the world's first proto-plants and algae, according to recent research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
June 21, 2010 | By Amber Dance, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Something in your gut could be making you fat — and it isn't just last night's pizza. The vast, diverse community of microbes inhabiting the intestines, scientists are finding, can influence metabolism and weight. Between 10 trillion and 100 trillion microbes, mainly bacteria, dwell in a person's colon and small intestine. They function together almost like another of the body's organs, influencing, among other things, how many calories we extract from our food and whether we make or burn fat. Researchers have discovered significant links between gut bacteria and weight and metabolism in mice — and are starting to find similar associations in people.
September 14, 2010
Heating spinach remains a tried-and-true method of killing nasty pathogens like E. coli , but how long do you need to heat it? Can you warm it up, or do you need to cook it to a crisp? That's the burning question addressed by research presented at this week's Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Boston. Charles Pavia, a microbiologist at the New York Institute of Technology, infected spinach with bacteria from the September 2006 E. coli outbreak that struck several regions of the United States, then microwaved or boiled the greens for different lengths of time to see how many bacteria survived.
March 15, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
The musical instruments kids play in school bands and orchestras are traveling denizens of bacteria and fungi, say the authors of a new study. Music education is great for kids, they note, but please, please wash the instruments! Researchers at Oklahoma State University bravely examined 13 instruments that belonged to a high school band. Six of the instruments had been played the previous week and seven hadn't been played in a month. Swabs were taken of 117 different sites on the instruments, including the mouthpieces, internal chambers and even the carrying cases.
February 14, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Doctors sometimes find gonorrhea bacteria in the human body.   Now medical researchers at Northwestern University have found human DNA in the gonorrhea genome. The discovery was detailed Sunday in the American Society for Microbiology's online journal, mBio .   Study co-author Mark Anderson told The Times the work was significant because it helps explain how pathogens (such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae , the bacteria this team studied) and hosts (such as people)
December 27, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
That Christmas crib toy you got junior? It might be just the thing to give him strep throat, according to a new study. The bacteria that cause strep throat may linger far longer on inanimate objects than previous lab tests suggested, according to University of Buffalo researchers. Streptococcus pneumoniae , the leading cause of ear and respiratory tract infection in children, and Streptococcus pyogenes , the bacterial culprit behind strep throat and skin infections, lingered on surfaces in cribs, toys and books many hours after they had been cleaned, according to a study published Friday in the journal Infection and Immunity.
December 26, 2013 | By Louis Sahagun
Elizabeth Lopez maneuvered a massive steel claw over the side of a 134-foot sailboat and guided its descent through swaying kelp and schools of fish 10 miles off the coast of San Diego. She was hoping to catch pieces of a mysterious marine ecosystem that scientists are calling the plastisphere. This biological community starts with particles of degraded plastic no bigger than grains of salt. Bacteria take up residence on those tiny pieces of trash. Then single-celled animals feed on the bacteria, and larger predators feed on them.
November 25, 2013 | By Laura E. Davis
Think some cheese smells like feet? Well, now there's a cheese that has more than just that foot odor - it's actually made from human foot bacteria. An exhibit in Dublin features cheese made by taking swabs of human bacteria - from armpits, mouths, in between toes and in belly buttons - and adding milk to it. Biologist Christina Agapakis worked with odor artist Sissel Tolaas to create the cheeses, which they hope will challenge how we think about bacteria. "Cheese is actually a really great model organism for us to think about good and bad bacteria but also good and bad smells," Agapakis said at a presentation at the PopTech conference last month.
October 9, 2013 | By David Pierson
With 300 people already sickened by a salmonella outbreak in Foster Farms chicken, consumers are being reminded to take extra precautions when handling raw poultry. High on that list is something counterintuitive: Don't wash raw chicken in the sink. Researchers say all that splashing can send bacteria soaring up to 3 feet away, onto your countertops, towels and dish racks. That increases the chance of it landing on other foods or on your hands. Here's what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has to say: "Some consumers think they are removing bacteria and making their meat or poultry safe.
October 3, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
Fecal transplants are gaining ground as a highly effective treatment for recurrent infection with the intestinal bacteria clostridium difficile . But the "yuck factor" of the procedure continues to deter physicians from offering it to patients who could benefit, said a practicing gastroenterologist, who has come up with a solution to the problem: a gelatin capsule filled with the highly compacted fecal matter of a patient's family member. "There is no smell. We basically have a little cubette of microbes and we pour it into the capsules," said Dr. Thomas Louie of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
September 20, 2013 | By The Times editorial board
Beware of magical discoveries: They generally require careful use lest the magic wear off. Even the genie's lamp gave only three wishes. Antibiotics, which at one point were viewed as miracle drugs providing cures for previously fatal illnesses, are among the discoveries that have been used too carelessly, giving rise to an era of resistant infections. Scientists have been concerned about these resistant bacteria - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus , or MRSA, is probably the most familiar - for many years.
May 26, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
We already blame bacteria for spoiling our food, damaging our gardens, and causing all sorts of infections and illnesses and make us squirm and sneeze. Now, scientists say, we may be able to add bad weather to the list of the once-celled organisms' troublesome deeds, too. According to research presented this week at the meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in New Orleans, scientists at Montana State University in Bozeman have discovered large concentrations of bacteria at the core of hailstones -- a finding that suggests that bacteria or other airborne microorganisms have a role in the stones' formation.
November 12, 2009 | Thomas H. Maugh II
A high-fat, high-sugar diet does more than pump calories into your body. It also alters the composition of bacteria in your intestines, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it, research in mice suggests. And the changeover can happen in as little as 24 hours, according to a report Wednesday in the new journal Science Translational Medicine. Many factors play a role in the propensity to gain weight, including genetics, physical activity and the environment, as well as food choices.
September 5, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
The microorganisms in the human gut appear to play a pivotal role in determining whether a person is lean or obese, new research shows. The study, published online Thursday by the journal Science, is the strongest evidence yet that what's inside an individual's digestive tract influences the risk of obesity and its related health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes. The work helps explain the nation's 30-year run-up in excess weight - and it may supply a potential solution to the resulting epidemic, experts said.
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