Human & Animal Health

Rectal Microbes Influence Effectiveness of HIV Vaccine

Microbes living in the rectum could make a difference to the effectiveness of experimental HIV vaccines, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. The work is published Dec. 11 in the journal mSphere.  Evidence from human and animal studies with other vaccines suggests that Lactobacillus supplements can boost production of antibodies, while treatment with antibiotics can hamper beneficial immune responses, said Smita Iyer, assistant professor at the UC Davis Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases and School of Veterinary Medicine. 

B. infantis Reduces Intestinal Inflammation in Infants

In a recent study published in Pediatric Research, researchers have demonstrated that colonizing infants with a specific strain of probiotic bacteria --B. infantis EVC001--reduces intestinal inflammation up to 55-fold compared to infants receiving breastmilk only. The researchers on the study hypothesize that the lack of B. infantis in the gut may be at the root of the recent rise in autoimmune conditions.

Why Do Parents Keep Hearing About the Microbiome? Director Jonathan Eisen featured in NYT Parenting Article

What is the microbiome? The microbiome is a community of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes that live inside your body and on its surface. Just as in a community of people, you’ll find both good and bad actors: Some of the microbes, like the gut bacteria that help you digest food, are beneficial, while others, like certain viruses, can be dangerous. Everyone’s microbiome differs, depending on your age, gender, diet and immune system. And the types of microbes on one part of the body may be different from those on another.

Disease-Causing Nibbling Amoeba Hides by Displaying Proteins From Host Cells

A parasitic amoeba that causes severe gut disease in humans protects itself from attack by biting off pieces of host cells and putting their proteins on its own surface, according to a study by microbiologists at the University of California, Davis. “We’re very excited about how this ties into amoebic infection and into broader themes in cell biology,” said Katherine Ralston, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, College of Biological Sciences.

Stopping Superbugs With Friendly Microbes

Professor Bruce German of the UC Davis Food Science & Technology department has spent the past two decades studying lactation and its role in evolution. Among the findings of a group of scientists from across the campus: human milk contains a large proportion of oligosaccharides — short chains of sugar molecules — that babies can’t digest, so they “run right through them.” (If you have a certain kind of diaper-changing experience, you know what this looks like.) The question was, why? German joined with Professor Carlito Lebrilla from the UC Davis chemistry department and School of Medicine to analyze these amazingly complex oligosaccharides. German suspected that these oligosaccharides existed to nourish bacteria, not the baby. He turned to colleague Professor David Mills, a UC Davis molecular biologist, to find out which bacteria could digest these human milk oligosaccharides.

Microbiome testing firms proliferate along with questions about their claims

University of California, Davis, microbiologist Jonathan Eisen has been outspoken in his disdain for the burgeoning biome market, calling out one of the companies on Twitter as the “Theranos of microbiome companies” a reference to the infamous blood-testing firm whose founder was indicted on fraud charges in June.  “I just think that it’s early to be saying that we can make recommendations about what people should do based upon one of these microbiome diagnostics,” said Eisen.