Death by a thousand cuts: how antibacterial clays kill

A section of blue clay from the open pit mine at the Oregon Mineral Technologies clay deposit near Crater Lake. The antibacterial blue clay is surrounded by white clay which lacks antibacterial properties. (Credit: Keith Morrison) By now most of you will have heard that more and more bacteria are becoming impervious to the many life-saving antibiotics on which we’ve come to rely. In November, scientists in China sampling bacteria from meat and hospitalized patients…

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Too hot to handle: investigating birds’ heat tolerance sheds light on their ability to adapt to climate change

A Gambel’s quail (Credit: Dick Daniels. CC BY 3.0) In January 2014 more than 100,000 megabats died in the Australian state of Queensland. The cause? Heat. That summer, a heatwave passed through Queensland causing temperatures to reach highs of nearly 45°C (113°F). Unable to cope with the extreme heat and subsequent dehydration, megabats, or flying foxes as they’re known locally, started dropping from the sky. On one extremely hot day, researchers recorded at least 45,500…

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Asymptomatic dengue-infected humans can transmit the virus to mosquitoes

A drawing of a female Aedes aegypti mosquito (Credit: E.A. Goeldi) An estimated 3.9 billion people in 128 countries are at risk of dengue virus infection. Of the estimated 390 million dengue infections that occur each year, 96 million will manifest clinically with flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, nausea and muscle and joint pain. Unlike the flu virus, dengue virus cannot be transmitted directly from person to person. It instead relies on an insect vector, the…

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Resistance to plant toxins in milkweed butterflies is linked to toxin storage for defense

A monarch caterpillar feeding on milkweed (Credit: OakleyOriginals. CC BY 2.0) When your only food source also contains a deadly poison, your options are pretty limited: either find a new food source or find some way of making the poison less toxic. This is exactly the situation that many plant-eating insects find themselves in, particularly those that eat milkweed. Milkweeds produce a class of chemical toxins named cardenolides. These compounds specifically bind and inhibit the…

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