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Science

Bacteria-Killing Viruses Wield an Iron Spike 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the isn't-it-ironic dept.
sciencehabit writes "Scientists have long known that a group of viruses called bacteriophages have a knack for infiltrating bacteria and that some begin their attack with a protein spike. But the tip of this spike is so small that no one knew what it was made of or exactly how it worked. Now a team of researchers has found a single iron atom at the head of the spike, a discovery that suggests phages enter bacteria in a different way than surmised (abstract)."
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Bacteria-Killing Viruses Wield an Iron Spike

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  • by MisterMidi (1119653) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @01:53AM (#39194281) Homepage
    Yeah, that's why life expectancy has been going up for the last two centuries or so. But don't let get facts in the way :)
  • by aintnostranger (1811098) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @02:02AM (#39194333)

    Yeah, that's why life expectancy has been going up for the last two centuries or so. But don't let get facts in the way :)

    This is why I still read slashdot. A place like any other where stupidity flourishes - but where it might meet a quick death at the hands of intelligence and inquiry. Bravo.

  • by BluBrick (1924) <blubrick@gmSLACKWAREail.com minus distro> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @02:54AM (#39194565) Homepage
    To be fair, life expectancy has been going up for the last 200(,000) odd years because in that time we have discovered and learned how to do something about some of the things that used to kill us early - you know, starting with predators, and moving on through weather and famine right up to bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, and influenza.

    These days we have a tendency to live long enough for other things to kill us early. (Often it's ourselves - we haven't been able to do anything about that one yet!)

    Life is an arms race, in which life only ever wins by beating its opponent, life.
  • by tbird81 (946205) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:45AM (#39194759)

    I can tell you what's killing us early right now. Diet. Toxic chemicals - in particular inorganic ones.

    Inorganic ones?

    So NaCl is dangerous, but organic compounds such as CH3OH are okay to consume? I'll remember that.

  • by moogaloonie (955355) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:05AM (#39194845)
    I think dumb stuff can actually improve your cognitive skills if you approach it properly. I hadn't thought about gravity like I should've until I saw how wrong everything was in the Star Trek reboot. I gained an understanding about something without taking in any new information simply by seeing how it was depicted so clearly wrong that I had to reconcile (almost) every notion I held about about gravity. Similarly, American politics never made sense to me until I understood how professional wrestling is booked, scripted, canonized, and repeated or redacted right in front of the audience.
  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:35AM (#39196979) Homepage Journal

    I don't want to live for ever. The great thing about life is, there is so much of it. Trillions of humans have lived, and that's a wonderful thing. I hope that trillions more will live after me. This cannot happen if we live for ever, in which case those trillions will never have a chance at life. We'll be clinging on to the earth, and throwing down the ladders and stepping on the fingers of those that would follow us as we grow older and meaner and more jealous of the lives that we have stolen.

    I want live my life, and then I will slip into the void and let others live theirs. And that fills me with joy, not fear.

  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @11:09AM (#39197411) Homepage

    E.coli has been around for over 100m years. Even in the 1800's when it was isolated, it was present in every subject's gut flora. There's nothing "modern" about it at all. If you create food, especially food that's been anywhere near an animal, you have a chance of E.coli.

    Salmonella is almost identical in these terms too. Animals have it naturally in their bodies, it's just whether it takes hold in a particular session of you eating it. If you're eating animals, you're going to get it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, ... People were dying of bacteria like this for millions of years before we worked out how to cook food properly (and even there, as you can see by how easy TOMATOES can be affected by a bacterium from animals, there's nothing we can do to stop it, or to stop it getting more successful at infecting us!).

    And incidents of poor hygiene show you exactly what was happening even 100 years ago in terms of people eating food. WW2 "Stomach Divisions" were rife, and have been in every war prior to that. It's arguable that the UK became such a world power because we discovered several facts related to food hygiene.

    Meat is no more dangerous than before. You don't have to be any more careful cooking with a modern cow than with a ancient one. The only fact is that we're much more likely to spot the cause and isolate it today.

    There is also no amount of cooking or scrubbing that will guarantee your food free of such adverse effects. Our grandparents eat food fresh or not at all. We now *CHOOSE* to keep food for months because we can.

    Nobody claims that modern food is perfect, but even in my grandparents time, we weren't able to station an army for a year without people falling foul of all sorts of stomach illness and food poisoning. In some famous historical European battles, nearly HALF of the troops used were out of action at any one time because of illness, primarily caused by food hygiene and the food itself.

    The health scares you talk about regarding modern processed are like the modern "war" news. One person dies and it's front-page. Back in my grandparents time, entire streets of civilians were bombed to obliteration and didn't get a mention in the local paper because it was so insignificant compared to everything else happening at the time.

    Today, a few dozen people falling to E.coli is "news", because we don't see E.coli much in the wild now because of the extent of processed and tested food. In my grandparent's time, it was taking out vast swathes of the army and a major problem.

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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