Everyone knows the story of the Trojan horse.
The Greeks, in a war against the Trojans, hid some soldiers inside a giant wooden horse and left it outside the city of Troy. Thinking that they’d won, the Trojans dragged the horse inside the city walls. Later that night, the Greek soldiers crept out and sacked Troy from the inside, winning the war.
Our story this month is also set in ancient Troy, and has a few things in common with this mythical tale. There’s no great battle, but there is death. And instead of soldiers hiding inside a wooden horse, it involves some unexpected microbes hiding inside the chest of a woman who died 800 years ago.
We spoke to Caitlin Pepperell from the University of Wisconsin–Madison about her research into this woman’s story, and the remarkable molecular portrait of her life and death that scientists were able to piece together.
Music: Chris Zabriskie
What’s it like to travel right down to the bottom of the ocean?
Deep sea microbiologist Julie Huber should know. Her group, at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, USA, is trying to uncover more about the microbes living in the deepest darkest depths of the ocean. But that’s not all – there are even microbes living thousands of metres beneath the ocean floor itself, within the rocks and sediment.
This is an environment that couldn’t be more different to our world on land – no light, huge pressures, underwater volcanoes and hardly any nutrients. So what kind of microbes do we see living there, and how do they manage to make a living?
Image credit: NOAA Submarine Ring of Fire 2006
Music: Sacred Motion by staRpauSe
What gives beer its taste? Why do some ales taste of berries, bananas or chocolate?
A big part of the answer is the type of yeast used to ferment it. There are hundreds of different strains that brewers can use to make beer, and many of them can be found at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in Norwich.
We went for a pint with scientists from the NCYC to find out how different yeasts affect the taste of ales, and learn about their research to find strains that can produce new and better beers.
Music: Live Action Fez – Carol of the Bells
When pathogenic viruses pass from their animal reservoir into humans – known as ‘spillover events’ – the consequences can be severe. For example, it is thought that the West African Ebola outbreak began with an 18-month-old child in Guinea contracting the virus from a wild animal.
To prevent future disease epidemics, we need a better understanding of the nature of spillover events, and the viruses involved in them. In this month’s podcast, we spoke to Professor Jonna Mazet, Director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis. Jonna is also the Global Director of PREDICT, an ambitious project that is trying to identify any pathogens that might pose a threat to human health, and working to build capacity in areas of the world that are at risk of disease emergence.
Image credit: UCDavis
Music: Velella Velella - That's a terrible name for a song
The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) building in Boston is a high-tech facility for the study of emerging, and re-emerging, microbial diseases of humans and animals. The building, part of Boston University, is equipped up to Biosafety level 4 (BSL-4), allowing the researchers there to safely study dangerous viruses like Ebola or Nipah.
In this episode, we got special access to the facility to have a look round, guided by Professor Paul Duprex, a Microbiology Society member and an Editor of our Journal of General Virology.
On the tour we got to meet the NEIDL’s Director, Professor Ron Corley, who told us about the building’s architecture and function, and talked with Dr Nahid Bhadelia who runs the facility’s back-up medical programme.
Music: Ryan Cross – Out
Image credit: Tim Llewellyn for Boston University Photography
The threat of antibiotic resistance is large and looming. Drugs that once worked miracles are now failing to work at all as bacteria become resistant to them.
This could mean a future where a simple operation, a minor infection, or even a scratch could kill.
In this month's podcast, we bring you a recording from a panel event at New Scientist Live. The discussion is fantastic primer on the issue of antibacterial resistance, why it’s so important that we act now, and what we can all do to prevent it.
Laura Bowater – senior lecturer at Norwich Medical School
Caroline Barker – clinician at University of East Anglia
Anthony McDonnell – head of economic research for the Prime Minister’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance
Tamar Ghosh – lead on the Longitude Prize to solve antibiotic resistance
The event was organised by the Microbiology Society and the Biochemical Society.
"Every one of us is a zoo in our own right – a colony enclosed within a single body. A multi-species collective. An entire world."
In this episode, we chat to science writer Ed Yong about his upcoming book and The New York Times Bestseller, 'I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life'.
It's a book about the trillions of microbes that live on us and within us; microbes that build our bodies and organs, protect us from disease, shape our behaviour and drive the processes for life on earth.
Every year, hundreds of millions of patients across the world are affected by Healthcare-associated Infections, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). These infections can result from a surgery, or from the use of a medical device like a catheter, for example, and cause significant mortality and economic losses.
One of the things that hospital staff can do to prevent these infections is effective handwashing. In this podcast we spoke to Professor Didier Pittet, who has been leading a WHO campaign to promote the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser in hospitals and clinics across the globe.
Image credit: Bananastock/Thinkstock
Fungal diseases cause an estimated 1.5 million deaths each year – more than malaria. Despite this, fungi are often overlooked compared to other pathogens like bacteria and viruses.
In this extra edition of the podcast, we sent Anand Jagatia along to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition to find out more about the dangers of killer fungi, and the world's biggest Petri dish...
On 6 July, the spacecraft Soyuz MS-01 is scheduled to blast-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, headed for the International Space Station (ISS). On board, will be Dr Kate Rubins, who, along with Anatoli Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi, will be part of the 48th expedition to the ISS, due to return in November this year.
Before training with NASA, Kate worked as a microbiologist, most recently at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where she worked on emerging viruses such as the Ebola and Lassa viruses.
For this month's podcast, we caught up with Kate as she prepared for her mission, and chatted about the experiments she'll be undertaking in space, what it's like to train to be an astronaut, and whether a pipette works in microgravity...
Image credit: NASA, public domain
Podington Bear – Bountiful
Alex Fitch – Ronny