A Revolution in Basic Microbiology?

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Many bacteria are notoriously picky eaters. The microbe that causes leprosy, for instance, cannot be grown in a test tube. Instead, researchers must culture the microbe in armadillos or on the footpads of mice. Other bacteria without foot fetishes can still be difficult to culture, requiring a long and complex recipe of various nutrients, ions, and vitamins. As a result, it is simply impossible for microbiologists to grow some 99% of bacteria in the laboratory. Continue reading

Simmer Down: Viruses Not ‘Fourth Domain’ of Life

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Biologists have categorized life into three large domains: Bacteria, Archaea (weird, bacteria-like microbes), and Eukarya (unicellular and multicellular organisms such as fungi, plants, and animals that possess nucleated cells). Under this classification system, viruses are left out in the cold. They certainly are not “alive” in the classical sense because they are not capable of metabolizing or replicating on their own. But it does not feel quite right to classify them as “inanimate,” either, because they are built of biological molecules and contain genetic information. Thus, for the most part, viruses languish in the no man’s land between the living and the dead. Continue reading