Microbiology in the News

Last revised: Wednesday, February 23, 2000.

This page contains links to recent newsworthy stories regarding microbes. I welcome suggestions for inclusion. Please send URLs to Tom Terry, terry@uconnvm.uconn.edu

  • Hydrogen gas from Pond Scum? WASHINGTON (AP) - Hydrogen may be an ideal fuel when the supply of oil and natural gas runs out, but the problem has been finding a way to produce it cheaply. Scientists now say the answer may be an ordinary pond scum. Green algae, a simple plant that grows all over the world, has the unique ability to convert water and sunlight into hydrogen gas, researchers said Monday at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Now scientists have found a new way to force the algae to make hydrogen gas on demand, a process that could lead to an almost limitless supply of fuel that burns without pollution and produces only water as a waste product. (Posted 2/22/2000)
  • Salmonella incidence in eggs has dropped significantly! ATLANTA (AP) - The rate of salmonella from eating raw or undercooked eggs dropped by more than one-third between 1996 and 1998, the government said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credited better safety measures for egg production and preparation. For reasons not fully understood, the rate of a type of salmonella illness associated with raw or undercooked eggs soared in the 1980s and '90s from 0.6 cases per 100,000 people in 1976 to 3.6 in 1996. But the rate dropped to 2.2 per 100,000 from 1996 to 1998, the CDC said. In the late 1980s, health officials began a push to educate people about the dangers of raw or undercooked eggs in such things as Caesar salads, homemade ice cream and eggnog. (Posted 2/4/2000)
  • The AIDS epidemic may have have originated back around 1930! SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The worldwide AIDS epidemic has been traced back to a single viral ancestor - the HIV Eve - that emerged perhaps around 1930. Earlier research had suggested the epidemic began in the first half of the 20th century, but the latest analysis, done at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, appears to be the most definitive so far. Bette Korber, who keeps a database of HIV genetic information at the lab, calculated HIV's family tree by looking at the rate the virus mutates over time. She assumed these genetic changes happen at a constant rate, and using a supercomputer she clocked the mutations back through time to a common ancestor. Korber estimates the current epidemic goes back to one or a small group of infected humans around 1930, though this ancestor virus could have emerged as early as 1910 or as late as 1950. From this single source, she suggests, came the virus that now infects roughly 40 million people all over the world. (Posted 2/2/2000)
  • Bugs in the News , by Jack Brown, U. of Kansas. (Posted 1/31/2000)
  • Microbe of the Week , from the Digital Learning Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University. (Posted 2/16/98)