There has been a huge increase in bedbug infestations – in homes, hotels, dorm rooms and even movie theaters. Once a pest of the past, bedbugs now infest every state in the U.S. Many bedbugs are now resistant to pesticides, so getting rid of these pests is neither easy nor cheap.
Now microbiologists are using a fungus called Beauveria bassiana, a natural organism that causes disease in insects, against these blood-sucking pests.
It’s hard to imagine an environment where instant and clear communication is more critical than in biodefense labs dealing with the most lethal pathogens on Earth. And yet, these facilities, which are few in number and rich in potential nightmares, often require researchers to tap on each other’s shoulders and shout in order to be heard.
It is so difficult for scientists to talk to one another because they work in heavy, cumbersome, noisy suits designed to protect them. Air pumped into these suits hisses at up to 85 decibels, nearly the same noise level produced by a passenger train approaching a station. Also, wireless telecommunication signals don’t move easily through facilities used for handling the worst infectious diseases because they have thick concrete walls, steel doors and special plumbing and ventilation designed to stop absolutely anything from entering or escaping.
Bacteria and other microorganisms interact in complex and unique ways within people. This interaction is hard to mimic in a lab when cells are trapped inside glass, plastic or silicon petri dishes, which allows their waste products to build up against the barrier of impermeable, inorganic material.
Now, biology researchers are creating customized lab gear made from natural materials to better administer their research. Their results could shed new light on how bacteria responsible for certain diseases interact with cells in the human body.
A group of physicists and biologists has developed a nanotechnology-based technique that promises to increase the speed and sensitivity of diagnosing Lyme disease, a bacterial condition that infects more than 30,000 Americans each year.
The method, still in the research stage, uses nanotubes – tiny threads of carbon barely visible to the human eye – attached to antibodies that react with particular proteins carried by the bacteria responsible for the disease.
"We’re looking directly for the Lyme organisms," said physicist A. T. Charlie Johnson, who led the multidisciplinary group at the University of Pennsylvania with bacteriologist Dustin Brisson. "This could be very useful in detecting early-stage infection."