Bathrooms are a prime location for smearing disease-causing microbes all over your hands. Yet, despite societal pressures and prodding signage, a lot of people don’t clean their grimy mitts after a potty break. Some audacious folks just skip the sink all together, while others don’t wash for long enough (experts recommend singing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head) or omit the cleansing soap step. All of those sanitation-slackers threaten to spread disease—particularly in healthcare settings packed with vulnerable patients. But what the latter groups do to dry off their un-cleaned hands may end up setting off a germ bomb.
Not surprising – the forced air hand dryers had been found to have this effect years ago. The idea for both was to reduce waste & use of paper products, but paper products are recyclable and isolate microbes rather than spread them.
When it comes to major anthropogenic sources of methane (an important greenhouse gas), livestock and leaky natural gas wells and pipelines might come to mind. However, rice cultivation is also among the largest sources. Microbes in wetlands, where water saturation leads to low-oxygen conditions, produce most of the world’s methane, and rice paddies are essentially human-controlled wetlands.
For the more biologically minded, you may want to go read the paper because it isn’t clear from the article that the “barley gene” is actually a transcription factor. Which is way cool because of all the genes I would expect to fail when moved from one species to another, transcription factors are pretty high on the list.
For the non-biologists in the room, transcription factors are the “volume knobs” of the gene world and it looks like these folks added a new one that goes to 11.
We all know that the homes we believe belong to us are actually varied landscapes in which billions of creatures live, but we usually try not to think about our microbial roommates. Find out why your bathroom is the ultimate bacteria battleground, and why cleaning it can sometimes make it worse.
Beyond physical barriers such as skin, our main protection against marauding bacteria and viruses is the immune system. This is a complex network of cells with sophisticated weapons such as antibodies, which recognise and destroy foreign cells and proteins. But although many microbes multiply rapidly, it can take days for antibody production to ramp up. It now seems fat cells also play a defensive role – and they respond more speedily than many parts of the immune system.
A team led by Richard Gallo of the University of California, San Diego, injected mice with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria under the skin. Within hours, the subcutaneous fat cells had released a chemical called cathelicidin. This is thought to disrupt bacterial cell membranes and is also known to harm viruses, although it is unclear exactly how.