subject: microbes

Cows May Go Green

Cows May Go Green

It’s a tough gig being a cow. Productivity expectations for meat and milk are high, and at the same time, the cow gets a bad rap for belching a potent greenhouse gas, methane, which is a by-product of its digestion. Some people say it’s like driving a car very hard on a winding mountain road and then complaining about the car’s increased exhaust gas emissions. Reducing emissions and fuel consumption while maintaining performance is the golden ambition of car manufacturers. A similar goal is also true for the cow. People in many government agricultural agencies and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) want the beef and dairy industries to use more productive cattle emitting less methane and using less feed i.e., increasing industry production efficiency while decreasing its environmental footprint. It’s a tall order seemingly resisted by the realities of cow biology, however recent ground-breaking research may have opened new opportunities to meet these ambitious aims. Read More...

Immune Factors in Human Milk Shaped by Mother’s Environment

Immune Factors in Human Milk Shaped by Mother’s Environment

Human milk may be a complex biological fluid, but many of the ingredients that make it so complex are influenced by culture. Milk fatty acids reflect the fat content of the mother’s diet, and milk microbes have been linked to the mother’s diet, antibiotic use, and psychological stress. Now, a new study reports that a mother’s subsistence strategy—that is, the way that mother’s community makes a living—affects the quantity of immune proteins in her milk. Whereas maternal antibiotic use is a novel cultural influence on milk composition, subsistence strategies have influenced the maternal pathogen experience, and likely shaped milk immune factors, throughout human evolutionary history. Read More...

A Cow’s Milk Reveals Her Health

A Cow’s Milk Reveals Her Health

Defense wins games. Ask any coach impatiently striding the sidelines. “The defensive line-up must be ever vigilant and able to rapidly neutralize the attacking incursion, which may come from any direction. You cannot wait for help from the cover defense! Any defensive lapse will be ruthlessly exploited by this opposition and all will be lost,” shouts the coach at spent and cowed players as the bell signals the end of their halftime break. Coaches could learn a lot more about defense from biology. An exemplar defensive strategy par excellence is used by mammals, especially dairy cows, where the defensive system is the animal’s immune system, the best in the league, and the opposition threat is microbial infection. Read More...

A Human Milk Oligosaccharide Protects Against Intestinal Infection and Inflammation

A Human Milk Oligosaccharide Protects Against Intestinal Infection and Inflammation

Sugars found in human milk, called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), have various protective effects against intestinal infections. A new study finds that the HMO 2'-fucosyllactose (2'-FL) protects against infection and inflammation caused by the pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. Read More...

Tasmanian Devil Milk Provides Powerful Antibacterial Proteins

Tasmanian Devil Milk Provides Powerful Antibacterial Proteins

The Tasmanian devil is best known for being a swirling, growling, trouble-making cartoon character. But the marsupial mammal's reputation is about to get a complete makeover, thanks to new research on the function of proteins secreted in their milk and their skin. Read More...

The Bacterial Diversity in Raw Cow Milk During Its Transport and Storage

The Bacterial Diversity in Raw Cow Milk During Its Transport and Storage

Pasteurization helps make raw cow milk safe for human consumption, but it doesn’t get rid of all bacteria. These remaining bacteria can cause spoilage, thus affecting the shelf life and quality of milk products and leading to wastage. Knowing what bacteria are present in milk before and during milk processing could help identify sources of spoilage and find ways to get rid of them. Read More...

Maternal Milk Antibodies Prepare Newborn Mice to Host Commensal Gut Microbes

Maternal Milk Antibodies Prepare Newborn Mice to Host Commensal Gut Microbes

Our immune system protects us from many harmful microbes, but in doing so it needs to be able to differentiate between friend and foe. Our bodies harbor many beneficial gut bacteria that play important roles in digestion and immunity, and our immune system needs to react differently to these microbes compared with harmful pathogens. Read More...

De-stressing with Dairy

De-stressing with Dairy

When, a few years ago, researchers analyzed fecal samples from volunteer undergraduates at Swinburne University of Technology, in Victoria, Australia, they didn’t necessarily expect to find evidence of the students’ examination stress. Yet the fecal lactic acid levels—reflecting the amount of “good bacteria” of the genus Lactobacillus in the students’ guts—took a dive during the exam period. In other words, exam stress had caused the volunteers’ intestines to become more favorable environments to pathogenic organisms. As the exams went on, things only got worse: the researchers observed day-by-day reductions in the undergraduates’ fecal lactic acid levels. This couldn’t have been because exam-period diets were messing with the students’ health—the only significant dietary change was an increase in coffee consumption. Read More...

How Probiotic Bacteria Protect Against Allergy to Cow’s Milk

How Probiotic Bacteria Protect Against Allergy to Cow’s Milk

Whether it’s to nuts, cow’s milk, eggs, or some other food, food allergies have become increasingly common in recent decades. Allergy to cow’s milk is especially common, affecting up to 3% of children worldwide. There have been many recent efforts to treat cow’s milk allergy, and probiotics have looked particularly promising. Recent studies have shown that feeding infants formula supplemented with the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) results in higher rates of tolerance to cow’s milk compared to infants fed unsupplemented formula. Read More...

Training Your Body to Digest Lactose

Training Your Body to Digest Lactose

The common understanding of the inability to properly digest lactose is that it’s all about genetics: either a particular gene in cells lining your upper intestine—which enables everyone to digest lactose as an infant—becomes inactive as you grow up, or it doesn’t. But the truth is less cut and dry. In fact, there is some recent and gathering evidence to suggest that those who suffer the symptoms of lactose intolerance could be better off by frequently consuming small quantities of the sugar that bothers them. Read More...

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