Tagged With microbes

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Hundreds of millions of years ago, a tiny green microbe joined forces with a fungus, and together they conquered the world. It's a tale of two cross-kingdom organisms, one providing food and the one other shelter, and it's been our touchstone example of symbiosis for 150 years. The trouble is, that story is nowhere near complete.

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This week's episode of Meanwhile in the Future gets very scary, very quickly. And we're not going all that far into the future, either. We're already starting to see the beginnings of an age without antibiotics. So what does a world without these drugs look like? Listen to find out.

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In the otherwise barren space 350km above Earth's surface, a capsule of life-sustaining oxygen and water orbits at 27,000km/h. You might know this capsule as the International Space Station (ISS), currently home to six humans — and untold billions of bacteria. Microbes have always followed us to the frontiers, but it's only now that scientists at NASA and elsewhere are seriously investigating what happens when we bring Earth's microbes into space.

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The European Space Agency has been collecting examples of "spacecraft-associated biology" in a small collection housed at the Leibniz-Institut DSMZ in Brunswick, Germany. 298 strains of "extremotolerant" bacteria, isolated from spacecraft-assembly rooms because they managed to survive the incredible methods used to clean spacecraft, are now being studied for their biological insight. How on earth can they still be alive?

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Friends, this is Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus, here are some victims. You probably already knew each other. After all, the bacteria - origin of the MRSA superbug - lives in the nasal cavity of one third of all humans. Now scientists know why.

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Two potential signatures of life on Saturn's moon Titan have been found by the Cassini spacecraft. But scientists are quick to point out that non-biological chemical reactions could also be behind the observations.