Published: April 25th, 2012
Revised: July 21st, 2014
IF YOU thought the bacteria that line our gut were pretty personal, think again. They influence our digestion, risk of disease, and even our behaviour. Now it seems we might be sharing these gut bugs with the people around us – via dust.
Dr. James Scott at the University of Toronto in Canada and his colleagues investigated the bacterial make-up of faeces from 20 three-month-old babies, which represents the bacteria in their gut flora. The group then compared the faecal bacteria with bugs found in dust samples collected from each baby’s home.
They found a significant overlap in bacterial communities in a baby’s faeces and dust from their home. This suggested that a baby may be sharing their gut bacteria with the environment and vice versa. Scott presented the findings at the International Human Microbiome Congress in Paris, France, last month.
Dr. Scott’s interview with NEW SCIENTIST explores the potential implications of dust-borne bacteria on the microbiome of the developing gut. A follow-up piece on this work also appeared in DISCOVER MAGAZINE.
Published: April 18th, 2012
Revised: April 26th, 2012
ASPERGILLUS NIGER is a common environmental fungus with a very interesting story. This black mold, “could probably be found on every table-top in the world,” says Richard Summerbell, research director of biotech Sporometrics in Toronto. It can cause everything from black fuzz on onion bulbs, to toenail infections, to painful and itchy swelling and discharge from the ears of children who stick dirty toys inside.
But A. niger, Summerbell points out, is also a workhorse of industry. For example, it can turn sugars into citric acid, the white powder that’s ubiquitous in foods, beverages, detergents, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. The fungus can also produce useful enzymes, such as alpha-galactosidase, the main ingredient in the anti-flatulence pill Beano