Cockroaches, Alligators & Other Weird Sources of New Drugs

Cockroaches, Alligators & Other Weird Sources of New Drugs


Antibiotics are one of humankind’s most amazing
discoveries. Ever since that fateful day in 1928 when Scottish physician Alexander Fleming
noticed a funny mold growing in one of his petri dishes, antibiotics have been kicking
bacterial butt. That famous mold, of course, was producing
penicillin, the founding antibiotic superstar, which has since extended the average human
life by at least a decade. It fundamentally changed the face of medicine. Antibiotics,
or antimicrobials, are basically selective poisons designed to either kill or slow the
growth of bacteria to the point where your body’s own immune system can clean up. These
drugs target a specific part of bacteria or some important stage in their development
without damaging the body’s host cells. And they’re really great their job. Until they
aren’t. Lately, antibiotic technology has been having
a hard time keeping pace with bacterial evolution. We’ve talked here on SciShow about how lots
of your die-hard, go-to favorite antibiotics are starting to lose their mojo in the face
of sneaky and rapidly evolving bacteria. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that at least 2,000,000 Americans became infected with drug-resistant bacteria
in 2012, and 23,000 of them died as a result. These superbugs are deadly serious and could
quickly unleash a global health crisis if we don’t find a way to keep them in check.
The problem is we’ve already hit up many of the most obvious sources of antibiotics, like
fungi, which includes penicillin, and synthetic molecules.
Fortunately, we humans have big, delicious brains, and some of the best of them are hard
at work trying to invent all-new ways to kill dangerous bacteria or find other organisms
on the planet that are better at it than we are so we can steal their secrets. And while
they’re finding some promising leads, I gotta say, they’re looking in some pretty weird
places. [Intro] You know how everyone jokes that after some
big global disaster, only cockroaches will survive? Well, we recently found what may
partially explain their famous, and infuriating, tenacity. Research from the University of
Nottingham suggests that certain insects, like roaches and locusts, have brain tissues
that are infused with super-powered antibiotic juju. The researchers found nine different
antibiotic molecules tucked into the roaches’ nervous systems that may be protecting them
from otherwise lethal bacteria. They’re all a type of molecule known as peptides, short
chains of amino acids that make up proteins, kinda like proto-proteins. And these peptides
are specific to the bugs’ brains. They seem to be chemicals that roaches” brain cells
use to communicate with each other, y’know, whenever a cockroach is sitting around thinking
about stuff, which I guess can happen, and although we’re not sure how these peptides
actually work, laboratory tests have shown that they’re incredibly effective at eliminating
some of our least favorite bacteria, like the most dangerous strains of e.coli, which
cause gastrointestinal infections. And even MRSA, a super-resistant type of staphylococcus
bacterium that can cause unstoppable deadly infections in humans, particularly in hospitals.
In lab trials, these roach brain molecules killed over 90% of MRSA bacteria, without
harming any host cells. So I can guess what you’re thinking: shut
up and take my money! Well, hold on a sec, because we’re a bit away from having cockroach
brains on the pharmacy shelves. There’s still loads of technical hurdles to overcome, tests
to conduct, basic things we need to figure out, like how exactly these molecules work.
But roaches aren’t the only hardy animals out there. Alligators are some of the Earth’s
most rugged beasts. They essentially live in cesspool swamps teeming with bacteria and
fungus and other microbes, and more than that, they’re known brawlers. Put just a few territorial
800 pound toothy reptiles together in a dirty swamp, and you will no doubt come out with
some serious bite marks and bloody wounds, even missing limbs. But amazingly, what you
probably won’t find are any infections. This got some bayou scientists to thinkin’!
Dr. Mark Merchant, a biochemist at McNeese State University in Louisiana, helped conduct
a decade long study that investigated what makes alligators so unusually resistant to
bacterial and fungal infection. Turns out, it’s in their blood. An alligator’s
immune system is largely innate, meaning it can fight off harmful micro-organisms without
having any prior exposure to them. They just pop right out of their eggs ready to do battle.
We humans also have some innate immunity, provided by things like our skin and white
blood cells, but a big part of our immunities are adaptive, meaning we often develop a resistance
to specific diseases only after being exposed to them. Which of course is not ideal all
the time, but alligators get to skip this step. Researchers examining blood samples from American
alligators isolated their infection fighting white blood cells and then extracted the active
proteins working in those cells. And these two included a special class of peptides which
seemed to have a knack for weakening the membranes of bacteria, causing them to die. When pitted
against a wide range of bacteria including drug-resistant MRSA, these tough little peptides
proved to be effective killers. They also wiped out 6 of 8 strains of candida albicans,
a type of yeast infection that’s particularly troublesome for AIDS and transplant patients
with weakened immune systems. Such compounds may also be found in similar animals, like
crocodiles, Komodo dragons, and the skins of some frogs and toads. So far, lab trials
have shown that gator blood can kill at least 23 different strains of bacteria including
salmonella, e.coli, staph, and strep infections AND even a strain of HIV. For now, scientists
are working to find the exact chemical structures at work in four of these promising chemicals
and pinpoint which types are best at killing which microbes. One problem so far: high concentrations
of gator blood serum have already been found to be so powerful that they are toxic to human
cells. So other biologists are taking a different approach in the search for the next generation
of antibiotics. Rather than looking at other animals, they’re
exploring strange, new places, like cave soils and deep-sea sediments. Researchers have recently
discovered evidence of promising new fungi strains living way down in hundred million
year old nutrient-starved sediments in the Pacific Ocean. Everyone thought this was a
near-dead zone for life, too harsh and remote an environment for something like fungi to
survive in. Just a decade ago, the only living things known to inhabit such deep sediment
layers were single-celled bacteria and archaea, organisms known to flourish in extreme environments.
But while examining dredged up sediments from as deep as 127 meters into the sea floor,
scientists found fungi of at least eight different types, four of which they successfully cultured
in the lab. Some of the fungi even belonged to the genus Penicillium, which we have to
thank for the development of penicillin. Now, we’re not exactly sure how old these fungi
are, but they are definitely quite old and maybe, more importantly, they appear to have
been living in isolation for eons. If that’s the case, they may have evolved specific and
unusual defenses against bacteria, which, just like their penicillin kin in that famous
petri dish, could end up being a new and powerful source of antibiotics.
And there’s one more strategy that scientists are using, one that works in espionage as
well as in medicine. And that is seeing what the enemy is up to.
While exploring life in strange new places around the world, some biologists are looking
for bacteria that have never been exposed to our drugs, but still appear to be naturally
resistant to them. Wherever we find the most naturally resistant
bacteria, we might also find natural antibiotics that we never knew about.
And here, one of the most promising leads is again in one of the hardest-to-reach places:
New Mexico’s Lechuguilla cave, a place that was isolated from all human contact until
it was discovered in the 1980’s. One of the many fascinating things that scientists
have discovered here is that the cave bacteria seem to be resistant to everything.
Even though they’ve never been exposed to us or our drugs, all of the bacteria have
proven to be resistant to at least one major antibiotic, and many tend to fend off more
than a dozen of the most powerful antimicrobials we have. This suggests to scientists that
the bacteria have evolved to be this way because they live in an environment that’s rich in
naturally occurring antibiotics, ones that the germs we live with up here on the surface
have never encountered. Now we just have to find out what exactly
those compounds are. So look, I’m not going to lie to you: we have
a lot of work to do. While we might discover a new super-drug lurking
in a cave or under the sea or in a cockroach’s head, there’s a big difference between finding
a substance that cleans house in a petri dish and actually putting a new antibiotic in the
vein of a human patient. So the bummer is, as promising as some of
these bold new discoveries may be, none of them has yet yielded an actual marketable
drug. Still, there’s a long list of successful antibiotics
that we’ve managed to derive from strange sources, starting with Dr. Fleming’s rogue
fungus. So if we keep exploring strange new places
and studying how other animals deal with the problems we’re facing, we just might find
the next penicillin before the superbugs get the best of us. Thanks for watching this SciShow Infusion,
especially to our Subbable subscribers. To learn how you can support us in exploring
the world, just go to Subbable.com. And as always, if you want to keep getting smarter
with us, you can go to YouTube.com/SciShow and subscribe.

Cockroaches, Alligators & Other Weird Sources of New Drugs


Antibiotics are one of humankind’s most amazing
discoveries. Ever since that fateful day in 1928 when Scottish physician Alexander Fleming
noticed a funny mold growing in one of his petri dishes, antibiotics have been kicking
bacterial butt. That famous mold, of course, was producing
penicillin, the founding antibiotic superstar, which has since extended the average human
life by at least a decade. It fundamentally changed the face of medicine. Antibiotics,
or antimicrobials, are basically selective poisons designed to either kill or slow the
growth of bacteria to the point where your body’s own immune system can clean up. These
drugs target a specific part of bacteria or some important stage in their development
without damaging the body’s host cells. And they’re really great their job. Until they
aren’t. Lately, antibiotic technology has been having
a hard time keeping pace with bacterial evolution. We’ve talked here on SciShow about how lots
of your die-hard, go-to favorite antibiotics are starting to lose their mojo in the face
of sneaky and rapidly evolving bacteria. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that at least 2,000,000 Americans became infected with drug-resistant bacteria
in 2012, and 23,000 of them died as a result. These superbugs are deadly serious and could
quickly unleash a global health crisis if we don’t find a way to keep them in check.
The problem is we’ve already hit up many of the most obvious sources of antibiotics, like
fungi, which includes penicillin, and synthetic molecules.
Fortunately, we humans have big, delicious brains, and some of the best of them are hard
at work trying to invent all-new ways to kill dangerous bacteria or find other organisms
on the planet that are better at it than we are so we can steal their secrets. And while
they’re finding some promising leads, I gotta say, they’re looking in some pretty weird
places. [Intro] You know how everyone jokes that after some
big global disaster, only cockroaches will survive? Well, we recently found what may
partially explain their famous, and infuriating, tenacity. Research from the University of
Nottingham suggests that certain insects, like roaches and locusts, have brain tissues
that are infused with super-powered antibiotic juju. The researchers found nine different
antibiotic molecules tucked into the roaches’ nervous systems that may be protecting them
from otherwise lethal bacteria. They’re all a type of molecule known as peptides, short
chains of amino acids that make up proteins, kinda like proto-proteins. And these peptides
are specific to the bugs’ brains. They seem to be chemicals that roaches” brain cells
use to communicate with each other, y’know, whenever a cockroach is sitting around thinking
about stuff, which I guess can happen, and although we’re not sure how these peptides
actually work, laboratory tests have shown that they’re incredibly effective at eliminating
some of our least favorite bacteria, like the most dangerous strains of e.coli, which
cause gastrointestinal infections. And even MRSA, a super-resistant type of staphylococcus
bacterium that can cause unstoppable deadly infections in humans, particularly in hospitals.
In lab trials, these roach brain molecules killed over 90% of MRSA bacteria, without
harming any host cells. So I can guess what you’re thinking: shut
up and take my money! Well, hold on a sec, because we’re a bit away from having cockroach
brains on the pharmacy shelves. There’s still loads of technical hurdles to overcome, tests
to conduct, basic things we need to figure out, like how exactly these molecules work.
But roaches aren’t the only hardy animals out there. Alligators are some of the Earth’s
most rugged beasts. They essentially live in cesspool swamps teeming with bacteria and
fungus and other microbes, and more than that, they’re known brawlers. Put just a few territorial
800 pound toothy reptiles together in a dirty swamp, and you will no doubt come out with
some serious bite marks and bloody wounds, even missing limbs. But amazingly, what you
probably won’t find are any infections. This got some bayou scientists to thinkin’!
Dr. Mark Merchant, a biochemist at McNeese State University in Louisiana, helped conduct
a decade long study that investigated what makes alligators so unusually resistant to
bacterial and fungal infection. Turns out, it’s in their blood. An alligator’s
immune system is largely innate, meaning it can fight off harmful micro-organisms without
having any prior exposure to them. They just pop right out of their eggs ready to do battle.
We humans also have some innate immunity, provided by things like our skin and white
blood cells, but a big part of our immunities are adaptive, meaning we often develop a resistance
to specific diseases only after being exposed to them. Which of course is not ideal all
the time, but alligators get to skip this step. Researchers examining blood samples from American
alligators isolated their infection fighting white blood cells and then extracted the active
proteins working in those cells. And these two included a special class of peptides which
seemed to have a knack for weakening the membranes of bacteria, causing them to die. When pitted
against a wide range of bacteria including drug-resistant MRSA, these tough little peptides
proved to be effective killers. They also wiped out 6 of 8 strains of candida albicans,
a type of yeast infection that’s particularly troublesome for AIDS and transplant patients
with weakened immune systems. Such compounds may also be found in similar animals, like
crocodiles, Komodo dragons, and the skins of some frogs and toads. So far, lab trials
have shown that gator blood can kill at least 23 different strains of bacteria including
salmonella, e.coli, staph, and strep infections AND even a strain of HIV. For now, scientists
are working to find the exact chemical structures at work in four of these promising chemicals
and pinpoint which types are best at killing which microbes. One problem so far: high concentrations
of gator blood serum have already been found to be so powerful that they are toxic to human
cells. So other biologists are taking a different approach in the search for the next generation
of antibiotics. Rather than looking at other animals, they’re
exploring strange, new places, like cave soils and deep-sea sediments. Researchers have recently
discovered evidence of promising new fungi strains living way down in hundred million
year old nutrient-starved sediments in the Pacific Ocean. Everyone thought this was a
near-dead zone for life, too harsh and remote an environment for something like fungi to
survive in. Just a decade ago, the only living things known to inhabit such deep sediment
layers were single-celled bacteria and archaea, organisms known to flourish in extreme environments.
But while examining dredged up sediments from as deep as 127 meters into the sea floor,
scientists found fungi of at least eight different types, four of which they successfully cultured
in the lab. Some of the fungi even belonged to the genus Penicillium, which we have to
thank for the development of penicillin. Now, we’re not exactly sure how old these fungi
are, but they are definitely quite old and maybe, more importantly, they appear to have
been living in isolation for eons. If that’s the case, they may have evolved specific and
unusual defenses against bacteria, which, just like their penicillin kin in that famous
petri dish, could end up being a new and powerful source of antibiotics.
And there’s one more strategy that scientists are using, one that works in espionage as
well as in medicine. And that is seeing what the enemy is up to.
While exploring life in strange new places around the world, some biologists are looking
for bacteria that have never been exposed to our drugs, but still appear to be naturally
resistant to them. Wherever we find the most naturally resistant
bacteria, we might also find natural antibiotics that we never knew about.
And here, one of the most promising leads is again in one of the hardest-to-reach places:
New Mexico’s Lechuguilla cave, a place that was isolated from all human contact until
it was discovered in the 1980’s. One of the many fascinating things that scientists
have discovered here is that the cave bacteria seem to be resistant to everything.
Even though they’ve never been exposed to us or our drugs, all of the bacteria have
proven to be resistant to at least one major antibiotic, and many tend to fend off more
than a dozen of the most powerful antimicrobials we have. This suggests to scientists that
the bacteria have evolved to be this way because they live in an environment that’s rich in
naturally occurring antibiotics, ones that the germs we live with up here on the surface
have never encountered. Now we just have to find out what exactly
those compounds are. So look, I’m not going to lie to you: we have
a lot of work to do. While we might discover a new super-drug lurking
in a cave or under the sea or in a cockroach’s head, there’s a big difference between finding
a substance that cleans house in a petri dish and actually putting a new antibiotic in the
vein of a human patient. So the bummer is, as promising as some of
these bold new discoveries may be, none of them has yet yielded an actual marketable
drug. Still, there’s a long list of successful antibiotics
that we’ve managed to derive from strange sources, starting with Dr. Fleming’s rogue
fungus. So if we keep exploring strange new places
and studying how other animals deal with the problems we’re facing, we just might find
the next penicillin before the superbugs get the best of us. Thanks for watching this SciShow Infusion,
especially to our Subbable subscribers. To learn how you can support us in exploring
the world, just go to Subbable.com. And as always, if you want to keep getting smarter
with us, you can go to YouTube.com/SciShow and subscribe.

Cockroaches, Alligators & Other Weird Sources of New Drugs


Antibiotics are one of humankind’s most amazing
discoveries. Ever since that fateful day in 1928 when Scottish physician Alexander Fleming
noticed a funny mold growing in one of his petri dishes, antibiotics have been kicking
bacterial butt. That famous mold, of course, was producing
penicillin, the founding antibiotic superstar, which has since extended the average human
life by at least a decade. It fundamentally changed the face of medicine. Antibiotics,
or antimicrobials, are basically selective poisons designed to either kill or slow the
growth of bacteria to the point where your body’s own immune system can clean up. These
drugs target a specific part of bacteria or some important stage in their development
without damaging the body’s host cells. And they’re really great their job. Until they
aren’t. Lately, antibiotic technology has been having
a hard time keeping pace with bacterial evolution. We’ve talked here on SciShow about how lots
of your die-hard, go-to favorite antibiotics are starting to lose their mojo in the face
of sneaky and rapidly evolving bacteria. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that at least 2,000,000 Americans became infected with drug-resistant bacteria
in 2012, and 23,000 of them died as a result. These superbugs are deadly serious and could
quickly unleash a global health crisis if we don’t find a way to keep them in check.
The problem is we’ve already hit up many of the most obvious sources of antibiotics, like
fungi, which includes penicillin, and synthetic molecules.
Fortunately, we humans have big, delicious brains, and some of the best of them are hard
at work trying to invent all-new ways to kill dangerous bacteria or find other organisms
on the planet that are better at it than we are so we can steal their secrets. And while
they’re finding some promising leads, I gotta say, they’re looking in some pretty weird
places. [Intro] You know how everyone jokes that after some
big global disaster, only cockroaches will survive? Well, we recently found what may
partially explain their famous, and infuriating, tenacity. Research from the University of
Nottingham suggests that certain insects, like roaches and locusts, have brain tissues
that are infused with super-powered antibiotic juju. The researchers found nine different
antibiotic molecules tucked into the roaches’ nervous systems that may be protecting them
from otherwise lethal bacteria. They’re all a type of molecule known as peptides, short
chains of amino acids that make up proteins, kinda like proto-proteins. And these peptides
are specific to the bugs’ brains. They seem to be chemicals that roaches” brain cells
use to communicate with each other, y’know, whenever a cockroach is sitting around thinking
about stuff, which I guess can happen, and although we’re not sure how these peptides
actually work, laboratory tests have shown that they’re incredibly effective at eliminating
some of our least favorite bacteria, like the most dangerous strains of e.coli, which
cause gastrointestinal infections. And even MRSA, a super-resistant type of staphylococcus
bacterium that can cause unstoppable deadly infections in humans, particularly in hospitals.
In lab trials, these roach brain molecules killed over 90% of MRSA bacteria, without
harming any host cells. So I can guess what you’re thinking: shut
up and take my money! Well, hold on a sec, because we’re a bit away from having cockroach
brains on the pharmacy shelves. There’s still loads of technical hurdles to overcome, tests
to conduct, basic things we need to figure out, like how exactly these molecules work.
But roaches aren’t the only hardy animals out there. Alligators are some of the Earth’s
most rugged beasts. They essentially live in cesspool swamps teeming with bacteria and
fungus and other microbes, and more than that, they’re known brawlers. Put just a few territorial
800 pound toothy reptiles together in a dirty swamp, and you will no doubt come out with
some serious bite marks and bloody wounds, even missing limbs. But amazingly, what you
probably won’t find are any infections. This got some bayou scientists to thinkin’!
Dr. Mark Merchant, a biochemist at McNeese State University in Louisiana, helped conduct
a decade long study that investigated what makes alligators so unusually resistant to
bacterial and fungal infection. Turns out, it’s in their blood. An alligator’s
immune system is largely innate, meaning it can fight off harmful micro-organisms without
having any prior exposure to them. They just pop right out of their eggs ready to do battle.
We humans also have some innate immunity, provided by things like our skin and white
blood cells, but a big part of our immunities are adaptive, meaning we often develop a resistance
to specific diseases only after being exposed to them. Which of course is not ideal all
the time, but alligators get to skip this step. Researchers examining blood samples from American
alligators isolated their infection fighting white blood cells and then extracted the active
proteins working in those cells. And these two included a special class of peptides which
seemed to have a knack for weakening the membranes of bacteria, causing them to die. When pitted
against a wide range of bacteria including drug-resistant MRSA, these tough little peptides
proved to be effective killers. They also wiped out 6 of 8 strains of candida albicans,
a type of yeast infection that’s particularly troublesome for AIDS and transplant patients
with weakened immune systems. Such compounds may also be found in similar animals, like
crocodiles, Komodo dragons, and the skins of some frogs and toads. So far, lab trials
have shown that gator blood can kill at least 23 different strains of bacteria including
salmonella, e.coli, staph, and strep infections AND even a strain of HIV. For now, scientists
are working to find the exact chemical structures at work in four of these promising chemicals
and pinpoint which types are best at killing which microbes. One problem so far: high concentrations
of gator blood serum have already been found to be so powerful that they are toxic to human
cells. So other biologists are taking a different approach in the search for the next generation
of antibiotics. Rather than looking at other animals, they’re
exploring strange, new places, like cave soils and deep-sea sediments. Researchers have recently
discovered evidence of promising new fungi strains living way down in hundred million
year old nutrient-starved sediments in the Pacific Ocean. Everyone thought this was a
near-dead zone for life, too harsh and remote an environment for something like fungi to
survive in. Just a decade ago, the only living things known to inhabit such deep sediment
layers were single-celled bacteria and archaea, organisms known to flourish in extreme environments.
But while examining dredged up sediments from as deep as 127 meters into the sea floor,
scientists found fungi of at least eight different types, four of which they successfully cultured
in the lab. Some of the fungi even belonged to the genus Penicillium, which we have to
thank for the development of penicillin. Now, we’re not exactly sure how old these fungi
are, but they are definitely quite old and maybe, more importantly, they appear to have
been living in isolation for eons. If that’s the case, they may have evolved specific and
unusual defenses against bacteria, which, just like their penicillin kin in that famous
petri dish, could end up being a new and powerful source of antibiotics.
And there’s one more strategy that scientists are using, one that works in espionage as
well as in medicine. And that is seeing what the enemy is up to.
While exploring life in strange new places around the world, some biologists are looking
for bacteria that have never been exposed to our drugs, but still appear to be naturally
resistant to them. Wherever we find the most naturally resistant
bacteria, we might also find natural antibiotics that we never knew about.
And here, one of the most promising leads is again in one of the hardest-to-reach places:
New Mexico’s Lechuguilla cave, a place that was isolated from all human contact until
it was discovered in the 1980’s. One of the many fascinating things that scientists
have discovered here is that the cave bacteria seem to be resistant to everything.
Even though they’ve never been exposed to us or our drugs, all of the bacteria have
proven to be resistant to at least one major antibiotic, and many tend to fend off more
than a dozen of the most powerful antimicrobials we have. This suggests to scientists that
the bacteria have evolved to be this way because they live in an environment that’s rich in
naturally occurring antibiotics, ones that the germs we live with up here on the surface
have never encountered. Now we just have to find out what exactly
those compounds are. So look, I’m not going to lie to you: we have
a lot of work to do. While we might discover a new super-drug lurking
in a cave or under the sea or in a cockroach’s head, there’s a big difference between finding
a substance that cleans house in a petri dish and actually putting a new antibiotic in the
vein of a human patient. So the bummer is, as promising as some of
these bold new discoveries may be, none of them has yet yielded an actual marketable
drug. Still, there’s a long list of successful antibiotics
that we’ve managed to derive from strange sources, starting with Dr. Fleming’s rogue
fungus. So if we keep exploring strange new places
and studying how other animals deal with the problems we’re facing, we just might find
the next penicillin before the superbugs get the best of us. Thanks for watching this SciShow Infusion,
especially to our Subbable subscribers. To learn how you can support us in exploring
the world, just go to Subbable.com. And as always, if you want to keep getting smarter
with us, you can go to YouTube.com/SciShow and subscribe.

6 Weird Mushrooms (And Other Fungi)

6 Weird Mushrooms (And Other Fungi)


[♪ INTRO] There’s more to mushrooms than the cute
button varieties you find at your local grocery store. The word “fungus” describes a whole kingdom
of organisms that are neither plant nor animal. It includes chanterelles and shiitakes, but
also molds and yeasts. Mushrooms are the part of the fungus that
spreads its spores in order to reproduce. And there are some really strange examples
of fungi and their fruiting bodies out there. They’re not just interesting looking, either. Some have the power to trick animals into
caring for them, or even clean up radiation. So here are six weird mushrooms and other
fungi, and what sets them apart from regular garden
fare. The first fungus on our list has a pretty
clever survival technique. The genus Fibularhizoctonia, also known as
the cuckoo fungus, hides itself in piles of termite eggs by mimicking
their size and color. Its little round balls aren’t technically
mushrooms. They’re actually the fungus’s sclerotia
form. That’s a resting state that will eventually
sprout a new colony when conditions are right. By making itself look like termite eggs, the
fungus ensures it’s safe until it’s time to sprout. See, termites will pile all their eggs together
in one place and groom and lick them to protect them from dryness and infection. By hiding in the heap, the fungal termite
balls get the same protection. But it’s not just a matter of looking
like a termite egg. The cuckoo fungus smells like them too. To blend in, the fungi make an enzyme called
beta-glucosidase. This same enzyme is made by termite eggs to
help adults recognize them. And in an experiment from 2000, termites didn’t care for glass beads resembling
termite eggs unless they were coated in egg-recognition
chemicals. Researchers have found that multiple species
of fungus can all hide away in the same termite mound; all it takes is looking and smelling similar
enough. There’s just one catch to all this protection: the fungal balls can’t sprout with worker
termites around. Researchers think that maybe the termite’s
saliva keeps them from growing somehow. When the termites run out of food and relocate
to a new colony, they carry their own eggs,and the fungus,
with them. And then the fungus can sprout. It’s a handy way for the fungus to hitch
a ride and set up camp in a brand new location before
its competitors get there. This next fungus on the list sounds and looks
positively frightening. But it turns out, all its weirdness is just
a mushroom living its life. The bleeding tooth fungus gets its name in
part from the teeth-shaped structures on its underside. In fact, all members of the hydnoid family
of fungi have these structures, not just the bleeding tooth. Most mushrooms use gills or pores to release
their spores. You can easily spot the gills if you flip
over a portobello. But hydnoids use teeth instead.
And the bleeding part? That dark red liquid oozing from the mushroom’s
top is actually because of the fungus’s internal
transportation system. See, fungi transport nutrients and water up from
the soil through root-like structures called hyphae. Under the right conditions, pressure can build
up in the hyphae and push fluid up and out of the pores on
the mushroom’s surface. Although there haven’t been any studies
to figure out exactly why the fluid is red, one fungi expert we asked thinks the mushroom
might add red pigments to attract insects that help spread its spores; the same insects that are also attracted to
red flowers. Not creepy and bleeding at all! One of the other cool things about these fungi is how they get their nutrients in the first
place. Bleeding tooth fungi are mycorrhizal, meaning they form symbiotic relationships
with trees like pine or spruce. The fungi get carbohydrates from the trees
and, in return, they give the tree nitrogen and phosphorus. And you could say it’s quite an intimate
relationship. The fungus’s hyphae grow as a layer on the
outside of the tree’s root tips, actually growing in between the tree’s cells, so they can easily hand nutrients back and
forth with one another. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with having
a gruesome-looking fungus latched on to me. But it seems to work out just fine for the
trees! When you think of a wild mushroom, chances
are you picture something like the Fly Agaric. And I know we’re supposed to be talking
about weird mushrooms, but stick with me. This iconic mushroom is depicted in everything
from Germanic Christmas decorations to Super Mario. But its recognizability has as much to do
with its chemistry as it does aesthetics. See, the Fly Agaric’s name may not actually
refer to insects. Instead, it may be related to an older usage
of the word ‘fly’, which could refer to madness or possession. That’s because the world’s prettiest, most stereotypical
mushroom has hallucinogenic properties. But they’re also kind of toxic, so just
in case we have to say it, don’t. There are accounts dating back to at least
the 18th century, and perhaps much earlier, of European and Asian peoples using the mushrooms
in religious rituals. If ingested, the mushrooms cause confusion,
dizziness, space distortion, unawareness of time and hallucinations, followed
by drowsiness and fatigue. The two main compounds responsible are muscimol
and ibotenic acid. They have a chemical structure that’s really
similar to the neurotransmitter GABA. And they act in kind of the same way to make neurons in the spinal cord and brain
less likely to fire. Which has kind of a calming effect. But they also explain the mushroom’s psychedelic
effects. Muscimol and ibotenic acid trigger the release
of additional neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which give those happy
feelings. At least that’s what the mice studies have
shown. The funny thing is, these mushrooms are actually
trying not to be eaten. Their distinctive red and white color is a
warning to animals that, hey, I’m toxic! Seems one creature’s warning system is another’s
video game powerup. This next group of fungi have earned the nickname
‘Hulk bugs’. That’s because they seem to have the ability
to absorb radiation. These superhero fungi have been found in areas
with some seriously high levels of radiation, like inside the damaged nuclear reactor at
Chernobyl and even hanging out on the outsides of spacecraft. Some fungi on the outskirts of Chernobyl even
grow towards the source of radiation. Hence their name, radiotropic fungi; tropism being a term for when an organism
turns towards a particular stimulus. But radiation is nasty stuff for most living
things, given its ability to shred DNA. So how can these fungi tolerate it? Some fungi, like black yeast, can protect
themselves by using the radiation to activate particular genes related to DNA
repair and defense. These fungi seem to have a sensor for detecting
UV light, which can also cause DNA damage. And that sensor may be picking up radiation
and turning on DNA repair. And they don’t just absorb it and cope. The radiation actually helps some fungi grow
stronger. For example, when black yeast was exposed
to low doses of radiation over 24 hours in the lab, it grew 30 percent
more cells, and those cells were larger than the ones
that hadn’t been exposed to radiation. And the single-celled fungus Cryptococcus
neoformans grew faster when exposed to high levels of gamma radiation
in the lab. Scientists think this might have to do with
melanin in the fungi’s cell walls. Yes, the same pigment that gives our skin
its color. They think melanin might be acting in a similar
way to other biological pigments like chlorophyll to turn radiation into usable
energy. When researchers exposed fungi containing
melanin to gamma rays, they found an increase in cellular energy
production. But not all fungi found in radioactive areas
have melanin, so there may be something else going on that
we don’t understand yet. And it would be a good thing to investigate, since some radiotropic fungi may have the
ability to decompose and decontaminate radioactive material, meaning they could be used for environmental
cleanups. Two fungi are doing just that with the debris
at Chernobyl. But scientists don’t yet whether the fungi
retain the radioactive particles or spit them back out into the environment
somehow, which is to say, more research is needed to
see if they can truly decontaminate radiation. Still, maybe we should rename them Captain
Planet bugs? Speaking of names, you can learn a lot about
the fungi in this next group from both their scientific and common names. Their family name, Phallaceae, alludes to
these fungus’s distinctive shape. But that’s not the whole story. These mushrooms actually come in a wide variety
of forms, from geometric, to alien looking, to something
quite beautiful. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why these
fungi take so many different shapes, but some have speculated that it might increase
the mushrooms’ surface area to help spread their spores. That’s where this family’s other name
comes in: Stinkhorn fungi. They secrete a foul-smelling slime that reeks
of rotting flesh thanks to a chemical called dimethyl trisulfide. The same chemical is given off by necrotic
wounds. This attracts flies that gobble up the slime,
as well as a bunch of spores. The flies then spread those spores to another
location when they poop, helping the mushrooms reproduce. And it’s not just flies that are interested
in this mushroom as a snack. Despite its horrid odor, pickled stinkhorn
eggs are a delicacy in China and Europe. One species, the bridal veil stinkhorn, is
dried and eaten on special occasions in China. Once dried they apparently smell more earthy,
musty or almondy than putrid, and when cooked have a nice umami flavor. So, don’t judge a mushroom by its smell
I guess? Lion’s Mane sounds like something you might
add to a potion. And it kind of is. This fluffy, white mushroom is edible; it’s said to have a fleshy texture and seafood-like
taste. It’s been used in Chinese medicine for centuries
as an antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-aging supplement. Claims abound in support of the beneficial
properties of the various chemicals found within lion’s mane mushrooms. And there seems to be some evidence to support
these claims. One group of compounds, the hericerins, slows
the growth of cancer cells. Another, belonging to a class of chemicals
called polysaccharides, stimulates immune responses by activating
the body’s defensive cells. And in a double blind study from 2008, elderly people who took tablets containing
the dry mushroom powder scored better on a test of cognitive function after 16 weeks
than those who received a placebo. But before you start stockpiling Lion’s
Mane, you should know there are a few snags. For one, a lot of these studies were done
in vitro, that is, with a culture dish of cells rather
than an actual person. And others were done on rodents. There’s a big difference between rodents
and people, and between cells and full-blown human bodies, so the effects probably aren’t as staggering
as some people might have you believe. Still, if there’s a silver lining, it’s
that this mushroom still tastes pretty good. These magnificent mushrooms and fancy fungi
all stand out for different reasons, but it goes to show that there’s a lot more
going on than what’s in your backyard. Unless there’s stinkhorns in your backyard. Those things smell terrible. I’m so sorry. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow. If this list piqued your interest, there’s a whole episode of our spin-off podcast
SciShow Tangents about the fungus among us. And that’s just one of the lightly competitive,
science poem-filled topics on offer. It’s brought to you by the same super smart
people who make SciShow, as well as Complexly and WNYC Studios. Check it out wherever you find podcasts. [♪ OUTRO]

This Killer Fungus Turns Flies into Zombies | Deep Look


We like to think we’re in control … that
our minds are our own. But that’s not true for this fruit fly. Its brain has been hijacked by another organism
and it’s not going to end well. It all starts when the fly is innocently walking
around, sipping on overripe fruit. It picks up an invisible fungus spore, which
bores under its skin. For a few days, everything seems normal. But inside, the fungus is growing, feeding
on the fly’s fat … and infiltrating its mind. At dusk on the fourth or fifth day, the fly
gets a little erratic, wandering around. It climbs to a high place. Scientists call this behavior “summiting.” Then it starts twitching. The fungus is in control. The fly sticks out its mouthpart and spits
out a tiny drop of sticky liquid. That glues the fly down, sealing its fate. A few minutes later, its wings shoot up. And it dies. Now that the fungus has forced the fly into
this death pose … wings out of the way … nothing can stop it. It emerges. Tiny spore launchers burst out of the fly’s
skin. Hundreds of spores shoot out at high speed,
catching a breeze if the fly climbed high enough. They’re the next generation of killer fungus. It continues for hours, spores flying out. These flies are in the wrong place at the
wrong time. And if spores land on a wing, which they can’t
bore into, they shoot out a secondary spore to increase their chances of spreading. So how does a fungus take control of a brain? At Harvard, Carolyn Elya is trying to understand
that. She thinks the fungus secretes chemicals to
manipulate the fly’s neurons, maybe stimulating the ones that make flies climb. But don’t worry: The fungus can’t hurt
humans. Scientists have tried to harness its power
for our benefit, to kill flies in our kitchens and farms. They haven’t had any luck though. The deadly spores are actually pretty fragile
and short-lived. It turns out, this lethal puppet master does
only what it needs to for its *own* survival. Hi, it’s Lauren again. If you love Deep Look, why not help us grow
on Patreon? We’re raising funds to go on a filming expedition
to Oaxaca, Mexico. And for a limited time, we’re sweetening the
deal with a special gift. Link is in the description. And if you’re craving more spooky videos,
here’s a playlist of our scariest episodes. Don’t watch ‘em after midnight. See you soon.

Ants vs. Alien Mold

Ants vs. Alien Mold


Previously in the Tomb Raider Saga… Now as the ants were eating, I noticed something
strange. AC Family, look. Alien mold. This is very bad news. Please subscribe to my channel, and hit the
bell icon. Welcome to the AC Family. Tired of nature channels now sowing nature
shows? Just watch this channel. Enjoy. Last week, we watched in excitement as our
Golden Empire, our yellow crazy ant colony received their new home, thanks to your votes,
into our new Youtube Gold Play Button. It was a magical and joyous event for the
Golden Empire. But acquiring a new home has not been so joyous
for all our ants, for just nearby, our newly caught Pharaoh ant colony, you called the
Tomb Raiders, had been undergoing a more challenging transition in their new massive, room-sized
home. By the way, AC Family, if you’re excited about
this episode and enjoy our ant videos, please hit that LIKE button and let me know! So for those of you who might be new to the
channel, let’s recap real quick and go back to two weeks ago. This new Tomb Raider setup composed of various
terrariums all connected by tubing was designed to house our newly captured colony of wild
pharaoh ants, whose menacing invasion of another one of our ant terrariums we successfully
intercepted by trapping them and turning the traps into these neat terrariums. After this video, feel free to watch the whole
story in this series playlist. The new Tomb Raiders’ 35 foot long territories,
which span the entire ant room was pretty impressive and quite promising, until we discovered
these creepy growths that began making an nightmarish appearance, all over the sticks
and mosses. It was some alien mold, and it didn’t look
good. So, let’s get to it! Trying my best not panic, we had to look at
this critically. Though the mold looked quite scary, the important
question was: Was this mold dangerous to the colony? And AC Family, to answer that we needed to
look at the facts, and consider two possibilities. The first posibility was that this was a non-lethal
mold. Most ants, being natural residents of soil,
are generally adapted to deal with most molds and fungi which naturally occur in a terrestrial
environment. In fact, their lifestyle is built to work
with molds and keep mold growth regulated. You see, ants are super clean and sterile
animals. They don’t just leave their trash laying around
to fester. Like humans, they establish a designated garbage
site to which they carry their trash, and from there they leave it to natural critters
like springtails and molds to further breakdown the garbage safely. Some ants have underground chambers which
they make their garbage sites and then when these chambers are full they simply block
off the entrances to these garbage rooms with soil and leave it to the sprintails and molds
to break them down. Ants like humans, also have a designated bathroom
area for the same reason, which again creates an isolated site for molds and other life
forms to feed and grow. They don’t just deficate anywhere in the nest. Even the young are built to to be clean. They poop just once in their entire larval
stage and it is contained in a meconium which appears a little black dot on cocoons or white
dot on naked pupae. That way, no poop lays around the nursery
chambers for molds to get out of control inside the nest. Also, as we saw in last week’s video, ants
transfer their food mouth to mouth through a process called trophallaxis, and the food
is carried inside their bodies. This way, food is kept sterile and isn’t laying
around the nest for endangering molds to grow. Finally, worker ants are constantly licking
and cleaning the young and themselves to make sure mold doesn’t grow on them nor the young. So, in light of all of this, it was assuring
to me that perhaps this alien mold was not a threat to our Tomb Raiders. The mold after all seemed to be growing on
our natural moss and sticks, so perhaps it was more of a mold specialized on feeding
on decaying organic matter and not on living ants. Now let’s consider our second possibility:
that this alien mold is a danger to our Tomb Raiders. Two things were of concern to me regarding
this. First, even if this mold was not attacking
our ants directly, if left unchecked, and allowed to completely take over the Tomb Raider’s
setup, it was possible that the ants would eventually be unable to clean all this mold’s
spores from the skin of their brood, which would lead to all eggs, larvae, and pupae
falling vicitim to the mold, and in an advanced case, proceeding to grow on and kill the worker
ants and queens. The mold would win simply by numbers. This type of mold takeover would be a nightmare. It actually happens in the ant keeping hobby
within moldy test tubes all the time! The second concern, was the impending possibility
that this fungus was one of several species of an ant-eating specialized parasitic fungus. The ever infamous cordyceps fungus turns adult
ants into zombies, literally taking over their brains and causing them to walk to a certain
location high up somwhere to become a breeding bed for their mushrooms which like in a terrifying
science fiction horror film, break out of the zombified ants’ bodies to expel spores
which go on to zombify other ants nearby. But to me, this mold being a cordyceps or
ant-zombifying mold was the least likely circumstance, mainly because it seemed to be mostly growing
and feeding on the sticks and mosses. Cordyceps and other such zombifying molds
feed mainly on insects and other arthropods. So what do you guys think? Do think this mold is a danger to our Tomb
Raiders? Considering all the aforementioned possibilities,
I felt our best bet was to stop this unbridled growth of the alien mold throughout the Tomb
Raider’s territories. We needed to act immediately and eradicate
it, just to be safe. So AC Family, here was my plan. I have found in all my experience in ant keeping
that molds have a tendency to show up in moist areas where the air is still and not moving. These moist, still air conditions can be a
result of an outworld that has poor ventilation. Now let’s have a look at our Tomb Raider’s
setup here. Because of the Tomb Raider’s tiny worker size
of 1-2 mm, some of the workers ants are fully able of fitting through the microholes in
the perforated floors of our Hybrid Nests, our AC plugs, and our AC Test Tube Portals
which I normally use to give ants in ant farms air. So when putting together the Tomb Raiders’
territories a few weeks ago, I couldn’t use these items to provide ventilation. Instead, I had to create small specific points
of air entry at two locations using a micro screen mesh. One at the top of the Garden of Anubis, as
well as at the top of the Field of Aaru. I also knew that anytime I opened one of the
terrariums to water or feed the Tomb Raiders, ample fresh air would enter the setup. Normally these three points of air flow would
be enough air to sustain the colony, but it seems to have also lead to stagnant, humid
air pooling inside the setup which has invited these creepy-looking molds to flourish. So, AC Family, our solution to our problem
lay in this piece of technology, our new wind maker, i.e. a fish aquarium air pump. We needed to create some wind to help save
our ants. You see, if the territories had some wind
and increased air movement within the terrariums of our Tomb Raiders, the territories would
become less favourable for these molds. I have used air pumps in the past to successfully
create microwinds in ant setups, and they have always been quite effective at not only
improving ventilation but also at keeping mold levels down. The ants however, kind of hate the wind, especially
in places they are nesting, but it is necessary sometimes to get fresh air pumping and moving
around in a stuffy, humid ant space. My plan was to install this air pump tube
to this opening in the Valley of the Kings, where the entire setup starts, which would
then pump fresh dry air through the setup, not enough to cause an ant tempest, but enough
to at least create a microwind, and theoretically keep all this alien mold growth under control. My guess is once this air pump is installed,
the colony which is currently camped out in Nerfertiti’s Tunnel will be bothered and move
somewhere else less windy. We’ll just have to see. Here we go AC Family are you ready? It’s time to give our ants some centralized
ventilation. Removing the cotton and wrapping it around
the air pump tube, and placing it into the hole opening of the Valley of the Kings. Installed. Let’s watch how our Tomb Raiders react! The colony is instantly perturbed by the sudden
winds. They can feel it throughout Nerfertini’s Tunnel. Surprisingly, ants spill out into the Valley
of the Kings, perhaps because they felt like an intruder was causing this sudden disturbance,
while others exiting Nerfertiti’s Tunnel and moving into the Garden of Anubis. Overall, just as I thought they would, the
ants seemed triggered by this sudden moving air. It surely would affect the well-being of the
brood, so they had to mobilize quickly. 12 hours later, as expected, the colony had
completely deserted Nefertiti’s Tunnel to move camp, and were now nestled in the shadows
of the Nubian Shelf. Sorry Tomb Raiders, it is for your own good. I put them back in the dark to leave them
in peace. Fast forward to two weeks later having this
constant wind blowing through the lands, and as of a couple days ago, this is what I saw. The mold was dying and decreasing in size. Yes, AC Family, our plan had worked! I was so happy at the outcome! I felt this was a positive triumph and step
towards colony fruition for our Tomb Raiders. But wanna see something else super interesting? What surprised me further was this discovery. It seems our new wind has carried moisture
from inside the Valley of the Kings, as well as from within the Garden of Anubis through
the setup, and to the Garden of Alexandria, where the moisture seems to all be collecting. The terrarium walls were moist with condensed
water. It seemed the Garden of Alexandria had became
a kind of swamp or bog land, which made it super favourable for some friends to flourish
and breed: springtails and even snails! How cool! This excited me because it meant that the
Garden of Alexandria had become the new breeding grounds and hub for the reproduction of Springtails
and Snails, who naturally clean up our ants’ garbage, organic decaying waste, and molds. These springtails and snails would then freely
migrate to other areas of the Tomb Raiders’ setup, to go on with their beneficial biological
work in those areas. The Garden of Alexandria in other words would
be the Tomb Raiders’ new janitory dispatch headquarters, which is super cool, right AC
Family? So it seems this potentially life-threatening
alien mold, now under control, has in the end lead us to improve the living space of
our Tomb Raiders by making it a more biologically balanced system for all inhabitants. I have discovered based on our past experience
particularly with our Golden Empire and even our Titans that the key to a successful and
fruitful ant farm is to establish a balanced, biological system of organisms, not much more
different than establishing a biological balance in an aquatic fish tank where all living things
depend on one another in ideal proportions. As the ant keeper, we have a very God-like
responsibility and role, to make the necessary critical decisions that ensure the thousands
and perhaps millions of lives under our care are each provided with all the things they
need to properly sustain themselves and find their balance within a contained setup. Today, AC Family, I feel we did good, and
our ants will be ok. In fact, it seems straggler pharaoh ants from
the outside are still trying to find ways to get into our Tomb Raiders’ setup to join
the rest of their family, and so I simply scoop up these interloppers with a cotton
ball and throw them inside to reunite. It was a happy ending for our Titans… or
at least so I thought, until a couple nights ago, as I was filming the Tomb Raiders and
their growing piles of brood. Something about the appearance of the queens
and even the workers didn’t seem right. Their bodies seemed somehow bumpy. So zooming in with my camera, I made a discovery
that left me speechless. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Look, AC Family! How could this be happening? I looked around and realized that all of our
Tomb Raiders were now dealing with a second plague. Mites. Tonnes and tonnes of parasitic mites. Oh man! AC Family, this is just unbelievable. Now our Tomb Raiders have a mite problem,
something our Golden Empire went through at this time, exactly 1 year ago. We must think of a solution to help our Tomb
Raiders overcome these mites! AC Inner Colony, I have left a hidden cookie
for you here, if you would like to see more extended play footage of these new parasitic
mites threatening our Tomb Raiders. I am sure a lot of you are as concerned as
I am. And before we proceed to the AC Question of
the Week, I have an exciting announcement! In case you haven’t heard yet, our annual
Christmas Sale at AntsCanada.com is in full effect! This year we have a great sale on our brand
new Hybrid Nest 2.0 and our All You Need Formica Hybrid Nest Gear Pack! So if you’ve always wanted to get into ant
keeping, I have left links in the description box to these sale items so you can pick one
up for yourself or someone you love this Christmas. We ship worldwide, but just a reminder, you
must order before Dec 18th to get your order before Christmas so go get it asap! But if you’re not fussy about getting the
item before Christmas day, this Christmas sale as usual will continue until January
1st, 2018 and we also have gift cards in case you would like to get your special loved one
an ant setup but are not sure what they would want. Keep ants with me and discover how amazing
and mind-stimulating these creatures are in real life! Alright, and now it’s time for the AC Question
of the week! In last week’s video we asked: Why did we choose to
make Golden Rock a dry setup? Congratulations to Beatriz Pacheco who correctly
answered: We don’t want the setup to
absorb moisture and rot. Congratulations Beatriz, you just won a free
ebook Handbook from our shop! In this week’s AC Question of the Week, we
ask: Name one of the several ways
in which ants keep mold and fungus levels low or under control
within the nest? Leave your answer in the comments section
and you could win a free ant t-shirt from our shop! Hope you can subscribe to the channel as we
upload every Saturday at 8AM EST. Please remember to LIKE, COMMENT, SHARE, & SUBSCRIBE
if you enjoyed this video to help us keep making more. It’s ant love forever!

Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves? | Deep Look

Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves? | Deep Look


We’re looking at some of the world’s earliest
and most competent farmers. These leafcutter ants make humans look like
newbies. We’ve been farming for 12,000 years. Ants have been doing it for 60 million. We developed plows and shovels. Ants use their own bodies. Their mandibles
are shears that cut through leaves with incredible efficiency. The ants drink the sap in the leaves for energy.
But they don’t eat them. Remember, they’re farming here. They’re using the leaves to grow something else. But first they have to haul the gigantic leaf
pieces away. This is no small matter. For a human, it would be like carrying more than
600 pounds between our teeth. Then, they clean the leaves. They crush them. Cut them into little pieces. Arrange them carefully in stacks. They even compost the leaves, with a little
of their own poop. They spread spores around, like seeds. Over time, a fungus grows. And that – this highly nutritious fungus
– that’s what the ants are after. They feed it to the colony’s offspring, millions of them. For humans, farming was the origin of our
civilization. And it’s the same for ants. They are fungus tycoons. Their colonies are
true underground cities with a bottomless need for resources. Having this reliable source of food has given
them the luxury to specialize. Leafcutter ants have the most complex division of labor
of any ants. There are tiny worker ants. And large worker ants. And enormous half-inch-long
soldiers that protect the colony. Like human farmers, their abundant food source
has made leafcutter ants very, very successful. And this is where two civilizations – ant
and human – collide. From Texas to South America, leafcutter ants
are huge agricultural pests. Working stealthily at night, they can strip an entire tree of
its best leaves in just hours. As their ant civilization grows, they build
up the soil in the tropical forest. But they also pose a threat to those around them. And in this way, we resemble them more than we might like to admit.

BIO153 Microbiology and Infectious Disease

BIO153 Microbiology and Infectious Disease


My name’s Julia Lodge and I run the first
year Microbiology and Infectious Diseases module.
Now, for a lot of our students they haven’t done very much microbiology at school so a
lot of the content of this module is new. Hopefully that makes it very interesting.
So we start by introducing you to all the different types of micro-organisms. You’ll
study viruses; you’ll study bacteria and eukaryotic micro-organisms, like fungi, algae and protists.
So within micro-organisms there are organisms with incredibly versatile metabolisms, a whole
range of different cell types and organisms that are adapted to living in a wide range
of environments. Some live in quite hospitable sort of environments, for instance living
on the human body. But others live in incredibly inhospitable places, for instance there are
micro-organisms at the base of the food chain around black smokers deep in ocean trenches
where there’s no sunlight and incredibly high pressures and temperatures.
The final part of the module then concentrates on infectious disease and we introduce you
to the main types of micro-organisms involved in disease and key disease types and we’ll
also look at anti-microbial therapies. And this leads on really nicely to our second
year microbiology module, which is called Microbes and Man, and where you focus on the
role of micro-organisms in infectious disease. In addition to lectures and workshops, you’ll
do practicals in microbiology. These lead on from your first semester skills module
where you’ll be introduced to some really important techniques in microbiology. You
will have learned how to handle micro-organisms safely in the lab, that’s called aseptic technique,
and you’ll also have learned to use microscopes and you’ll be able to apply those in the microbiology
practicals to looking at bacteria and fungi. When you do a practical you have a practical
manual which has details about the background to the experiments, what you need to do and
places to record your results. And as part of the assessment for this module we’ll mark
your practical manual. The other assessments include a short multiple choice test part
way through the course. That’s to help you assess how you’re doing. You’ll also so a
case study where you’ll research a topic in microbiology and then the exam component will
be held in the summer and will include multiple choice questions and short answer questions,
some of which will ask you to draw annotated diagrams.

Paul Stamets at TEDMED 2011

Paul Stamets at TEDMED 2011


♪ dreamy electronic music ♪ applause We are now rediscovering
that which our ancestors
long ago knew- that mushrooms are deep
reservoirs for very powerful
medicines. In the next 10 minutes, I’m
going to describe 4 mushrooms which I think are essential for
human health. The first mushroom I want to
mention is amadou. Amadou is described by
Hypocrites in 450 B.C. as an anti-inflammitory. Well amadou is a birch
polypore, but has other
attributes as well. You can hollow this mushroom out
in the center, put embers of a fire inside, and keep fire alive for days. Moreover, if you boil this
mushroom, it delaminates into a
cellular fabric. And my hat is made from amadou. Now, another fungal friend I
have here, which I want to unveil is
agarikon. Agarikon is the longest living
mushroom in the world. It was described by
Diascribes in 65 A.D. as
elexirium adlongem vitum- the treatment against
consumption. This mushroom is a resident of
the old growth forest. It is now thought to be extinct
in Europe. It grows in Northern
California, Oregon, Washington,
and British Columbia. This mushroom survives in the
old growth forest under
extremely adverse conditions- hundreds of inches of rain per
year, wind, sleet, hail, baking
in the sun, and yet it’s the longest living
mushroom we know today. And may I have the clicker? Thank you So, my partner and wife
spend a lot of time in the
old growth forest looking for these mushrooms. And to give you some idea how
rare agarikon is, although we have 40 strains
of agarikon in culture after
30 years- the largest library by far in
the world, my dear professor,
Dr. Michael Beug, discovered his first agarikon in
the old growth forest just these
past few weeks, after looking for mushrooms in
the old growth forest for more
than 40 years. So, agarikon has anti-tubercular
properties, and we have now confirmed this working with the U.S. Bioshield
Biodefense Program under the guidance of NIH and
US AmRad. And sometimes we have to go
great extremes to find these
mushrooms. This is a 700-year-old douglas
fir tree. Our team member has sentenced
the tree. We go 100 feet up this tree, and this is the oldest agarikon
that we found so far,
approaching 100 years in age. Now how is it that this
mushroom can survive under
microbial attack? And is able to do so
because the mycelium is
this cellular architecture that is based on a
network concept. And we don’t need to harvest the
mushroom- we just need a small
piece of tissue and the mycelium, as it
grows, utilizes what we
know as apigenesis. It has the amazing
ability to adapt. It has host defense strategies
against pathogens. And using this information,
we’ve been able to develop some
very powerful gateways to new medicines. And these are extracellular
droplets that we wash from
the mycelium and I’m happy to announce that
we have discovered a new class of antimicrobals and antivirals
called fomitopsterols- after the Latin name for
this mushroom which is
fomitopsis officinalis. So powerful are these antivirals
that when we do a 100 to 1 dillusion, we are more
powerful than ribovirin, against flu viruses and herpes. Now mushrooms have
other properties which
are interesting. So this is a group of cordyceps
mushrooms. They’re known as
entomopathogenic fungi – fungi that kill insects. Insects are in constant dire
dance between dinner and death as they go through soils. And cordyceps is a source of
cyclosporine. Moreover, just recently the FDA
approved Novartis for a new
anti-MS drug called Gilenya, which is predicted to be one of
the 10 most profitable
commercially produced drugs in the history of medicine. But cordyceps has a
different face. The cordyceps is a mold, has a
mold stage, and they’re like 2 faces of the
same organism. These spores are very infectious
to these insects, and most insects have
entomopathogenic fungi that can
harm them, so they avoid them with great
diligence. But I did something different. I took these cultures of the
mold state and I morphed it
in a laboratory to a pre-sporulating form. And so the insects avoid
these spores, but I’ve discovered that if
you took the mycelium without
the spores, something else happened which
was truly amazing- they became super-attractants. They became super-attractants to
ants, to termites, and a surprising array of other
types of other types of insects. And so the insects, in
this case an ant, becomes mummified and then
boing! of course this mushroom sprouts
out of his head. So it goes full circle. Now, we did extracts, again
watching the mycelium, and we were able to find
that termites would stream directly to the
location where the extracts
were placed and 3 positive controls and the
termites would tunnel specifically to where that
location was. Well, I starting trying it
against other non-social
insects – flys, gnats, mosquitos- and this is a baseline, the flat
graph there is the control, and the only difference
there is we added the
mycelium to the extract. And we have not just
attractants, but I’ve discovered super-attractants. So when I tried it against the
mosquitos, and this is where we hit the big
homerun, we can attract mosquitos roughly
equivalent to a human hand with
the extracts. This has profound implications
for disease control, for malaria
to yellow fever to west nile virus. And so, what can we do? There’s lots that we can do. I think we can now control
disease vectors- zoonotic diseases cariied by
insects across landscapes. And since so many insects and
arthropods vector diseases, most of you may not know that
H5N1 birdflu is carried by
houseflies. This is something that is not
widely reported. But because of climate change,
sub-tropical diseases are now entering into temperate zones. So being able to control
zoonotic pathogens I think is one avenue that will
have a positive impact and helping habitats and humans
dwelling within those habitats. Moreover, insects and arthropods
not only transmit diseases that afflict humans but plants. So the implications of this I
think are absolutely enormous. So we can increase the
efficiency of bug zappers, we can steer insect migrations
across landscapes. This is a paradigm-shifting
revolutionary breakthrough on the most fundamental
of levels. And moreover, we can attract
disease-carrying bugs and blend them with expired
antiviral drugs, antimicrobial drugs, or the crude precursors that
made those drugs. We can create a panoply of a
mixture of these drugs so the disease resistence would
not occur. We can distract the insects away
from human populations, away from animal populations, away from plant populations. Or we can bring them to a locus
and be able to control them. Most of you have heard that
the mosquito population on
the east coast was 10 times greater this year
than it was previously. So another mushroom empowers the
immune system, and this is turkey tails. And turkey tail mushrooms
have also been used for
more than a thousand years. NIH funded our group with a
$2.1 million breast cancer
clinical study, which has recently been
completed. Now this breast cancer clinical
study was dealing with a non-ER, non
estrogen responsive breast cancer patients – ladies. And the study has come back with
some remarkable results. When the patients have radiation
therapy, or chemotherapy, their immune system is often
times impaired so natural killer cells are
decreased. Taking these mushrooms… the adjunct therapy, not as a substitution, but to
support the immune system, the natural killer cells
increase on a dose-dependant
basis. The red bar is no
treatment, with 3 grams
and 6 grams per day. And then post-radiation, the
immune system is depressed, and then a dose-dependant basis,
the natural killer cells are enhanced over a period
of 4 weeks. This raises base
immunity function, which I think is critically
important. Now this hit home to me very
personally. In June of 2009, when my
84-year-old mother called me up, and says Paul, I have
something very serious to
talk to you about, but you’re always so busy. It’s a terrible thing to hear
from a mom. I said Mom, what wrong? She’s a very happy, genuine
person. And she goes I’m worried. And my mother’s deeply
religious – has not seen a doctor
since 1968. She said my right breast is 5
times the size of my left. I have 6 swollen lymph glands
the size of walnuts. And her voice started shaking, and I’m not ashamed to admit
that I started crying. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? We spent a large part of June at
the Swedish Breast Cancer Clinic
in Seattle. The oncologist examined her, and
upon the second examination, she had a 5.5 centimeter in
diameter tumor. It metasticized – it went
to her sternum, it went
to her liver. She had stage 4 breast cancer. The doctor gave her less than 3
months to live. He stated it was the second
worse case of breast cancer she had seen as a doctor in 20
years of practice. We had the circle family
meeting. Many of you have
gone through this. My mom announced that she
bought a pine casket, the cheapest one that
she could find, because she was going to heaven. But then the doctor said
you’re too old to have
radiation therapy, you can’t have your
breast removed, but there’s an interesting
study on turkey tail mushrooms
at Bastyr Medical School. You might want to
try taking those. Well my son’s supplying those! So she was put on Taxol and
Herceptin – wonderful drugs – and she started taking 8 turkey
tail capsules a day – 4 in the morning and 4 in the
evening. And that was in June of 2009. And today, my mother has no
detectable tumors. And I’d like to bring
my mother up. applause