What's up in

microbes

Lede photo for "How Vaccines Can Drive Pathogens to Evolve"
immunology

Vaccines Are Pushing Pathogens to Evolve

Just as antibiotics have bred resistance in bacteria, vaccines can potentially lose their effectiveness over diseases they controlled. Researchers are working to head off the evolution of new threats.

Lede art for "Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Hide in Gene Transfers"
Abstractions blog

Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Lurk in Gene Transfers

To date the branches on the evolutionary tree of life, researchers are looking at horizontal gene transfers among ancient microorganisms, which once seemed only to muddle the record.

Traveling person with a luggage filled with bacteria
Quantized Columns

What Bacteria Can Tell Us About Human Evolution

To discover our species’ deep history and to shape its future health, we should learn from the microbes that accompanied us on our evolutionary journey.

evolution

Can Microbes Encourage Altruism?

If gut bacteria can sway their hosts to be selfless, it could answer a riddle that goes back to Darwin.

Abstractions blog

Hope That an Old Drug Might Treat Zika

Scientists are having a difficult time finding a treatment for the Zika virus in part because so few drugs are safe for pregnant women. But one antibiotic has shown promise.

neuroscience

New Insights Into How Zika Harms the Brain

Researchers are racing to understand how the Zika virus causes birth defects. Their first results have revealed tantalizing clues about how the virus interferes with the developing brain — and how it might be stopped.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

Life’s Secrets Sought in a Snowflake

A single genetic change and some clever geometry show how single-celled organisms can band together to form cooperative multicellular entities.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

Mongrel Microbe Tests Story of Complex Life

A newly discovered class of microbe could help to resolve one of the biggest and most controversial mysteries in evolution — how simple microbes transformed into the complex cells that produced animals, plants and fungi.

Biology

The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death

Only a few genetic changes were enough to change an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague.