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PROOF: The Science of Booze

Published: September 29th, 2014

Revised: September 29th, 2014

PROOFIn a follow-up to Adams’ WIRED article “The Angel’s Share”, the Distillation chapter of Proof tells the story of how Sporometrics’ Dr. James Scott found himself studying mycology and delves deeper into the mystery of the whiskey fungus he investigated.

Proof expands upon Adam Rogers’ 2011 WIRED magazine article “The Angel’s Share”; the story of Sporometrics’ Dr. James Scott’s discovery of not just a new species, but a completely new genus of fungi, identified on trees, street signs, and buildings surrounding whiskey warehouses in Lakeshore Ontario, then around distilleries across the globe. The unmasking of the whiskey fungus Baudoinia compniacensis is just one of dozens of tales Rogers tells as he uncovers the science of alcohol production, powered by physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, and a bit of metallurgy-and our taste for the products is a melding of psychology and neurobiology.

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Babies, pets and house dust

Published: March 16th, 2014

Revised: July 21st, 2014

dog_baby_200Using cutting edge high through-put DNA sequencing, Sporometrics CEO Dr. James Scott and his colleagues investigated the bacterial make-up of faeces from young babies and the homes where the babies lived.

Scott’s group found a significant overlap in bacterial communities in a baby’s faeces and dust from their home, suggesting that a baby may be sharing their gut bacteria with the environment and vice versa.

This finding may have long-ranging implications on how our environments may influence our lives. How much of a personal imprint do we leave on our home? When we move to a new home, does the microbial imprint of the former occupants have the potential to affect us? And are these effects good or bad? Sorting out these interesting questions will be the focus of Scott’s future research.

Reference: Konya T, Koster B, Maughan H, Escobar M, Azad MB, Guttman DS, Sears MR, Becker AB, Brook JR, Takaro TK, Kozyrskyj AL, Scott JA, and the CHILD Investigators. 2014. Associations between bacterial communities in house dust and infant gut. Environmental Research 131: 25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.02.005.

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Killing the bacteria on your cell phone

Published: February 10th, 2014

Revised: February 15th, 2014

Lucas and James testing Phone SoapTune in to Daily Planet February 13th, 2014 at 7 PM EDT on Daily Planet to watch James and Lucas testing out Phone Soap, a nifty, high-tech gadget that gets rid of nasty bacteria from your cell phone!

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First report on the molecular identification of the phytoplasma associated with a lethal yellowing-type disease of coconut palms in Côte d’Ivoire

Published: August 8th, 2013

Revised: July 21st, 2014


Cocos nucifera is considered the most important crop along the coastal belt of West Africa. Particularly in Côte d’Ivoire, coconut palm is cultivated on approximately 50,000 ha and produces an average of 45,000 tonnes of copra per year, which represents the main source of income for people living in the coastal region. Lethal yellowing (LY)-type diseases affecting coconut and other palm species worldwide have mostly been associated with phytoplasma strains of group 16SrIV ‘Coconut lethal yellows’. However, LY-type diseases like Cape St Paul wilt in Ghana (CSPW), the “maladie de Kaincopé” in Togo and Awka disease (Lethal Decline, LD) in Nigeria, previously included in 16SrIV group have been recently classified as a new group 16SrXXII. LY-type disease has quickly developed among coconut palms in the Grand-Lahou in Côte d’Ivoire, currently affecting more than 7000 hectares. We present the first report on the molecular identification of the phytoplasma associated with a lethal yellowing-type disease of coconut palms in Cote d’Ivoire.

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Infant gut microbiota and the hygiene hypothesis of allergic disease: impact of household pets and siblings on microbiota composition and diversity

Published: June 5th, 2013

Revised: July 21st, 2014


Multiple studies have demonstrated that early-life exposure to pets or siblings affords protection against allergic disease; these associations are commonly attributed to the “hygiene hypothesis”. Recently, low diversity of the infant gut microbiota has also been linked to allergic disease. In this study, we characterize the infant gut microbiota in relation to pets and siblings.


The study population comprised a small sub-sample of 24 healthy, full term infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort. Mothers reported on household pets and siblings. Fecal samples were collected at 4 months of age, and microbiota composition was characterized by high-throughput signature gene sequencing.


Microbiota richness and diversity tended to be increased in infants living with pets, whereas these measures were decreased in infants with older siblings. Infants living with pets exhibited under-representation of Bifidobacteriaceae and over-representation of Peptostreptococcaceae; infants with older siblings exhibited under-representation of Peptostreptococcaceae.


This study provides new evidence that exposure to pets and siblings may influence the early development of the gut microbiota, with potential implications for allergic disease. These two traditionally protective “hygiene hypothesis” factors appear to differentially impact gut microbiota composition and diversity, calling into question the clinical significance of these measures. Further research is required to confirm and expand these findings.

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