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Mouth bug could trigger illnesses

Scientists have identified a common mouth bug that can trigger serious illnesses if it gets into the bloodstream.

Identified by University of Zurich researchers, the oral bug has been named Streptococcus Tigurinus after the region of Zurich where it was first recognised.

The similarity of S. Tigurinus to other related bugs has meant that it has existed without being identified, which is clinically important, explained Andrea Zbinden from the Zurich Institute of Medical Microbiology, who led the study.

“Accurate identification of this bacterium is essential to be able to track its spread. This will allow infected patients to be treated quickly and with the right drug,” added Zbinden, the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology reports.

Streptococcus Tigurinus was isolated from blood of patients suffering from endocarditis (inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and its valves), meningitis (bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) and spondylodiscitis (inflammation of the spine), according to a Zurich statement.

It bears a close resemblance to other Streptococcus strains that colonise the mouth.

Bleeding gums represent a possible route of entry for oral bacteria into the bloodstream.

Scientists discover unique sea snake

A unique species of sea snake discovered in the Gulf of Carpenteria, northern Australia, has raised scales. The finding by Bryan Fry, associate professor from the University of Queensland, and colleagues from the University of Adelaide  provide important clues about evolution.

Fry said that Hydrophis Donaldii had evaded earlier discovery, as it prefers estuarine habitats that are poorly surveyed and not targeted by commercial fisheries, the journal Zootaxa reported. “All venomous animals are bio-resources and have provided sources of many life-saving medications, such as treatments for high-blood pressure and diabetes,” said Fry, according to a university statement.

“This reinforces why we need to conserve all of nature, as the next billion dollar wonder-drug may come from as unlikely a source as sea snake venom,” Fry said.

The snake has been given the scientific name Hydrophis Donaldii to honour Fry’s long-time boat captain David Donald. It has also been named a “rough-scaled sea snake” to reflect the unique scalation.

Early events leading to photosynthesis found

Researchers, led by one of Indian origin, have shed light on the early events leading to photosynthesis, the result of the sequencing of 70 million base pair nuclear genome of the one-celled alga Cyanophora.

One of the fundamental steps in the evolution of our planet was the development of photosynthesis in eukaryotes- that include humans, plants, and most recognizable, multicellular life forms - through the process of endosymbiosis.

This crucial step forward occurred about 1.6 billion years ago when a single-celled protist captured and retained a formerly free-living cyanobacterium. This process, termed primary endosymbiosis, gave rise to the plastid, which is the specialized compartment where photosynthesis takes place in cells.

Endosymbiosis is now a well substantiated theory that explains how cells gained their great complexity and was made famous most recently by the work of the late biologist Lynn Margulis, best known for her theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles.

In the world of plants, “Cyanophora is the equivalent to the lung fish, in that it maintains some primitive characteristics that make it an ideal candidate for genome sequencing,” stated Debashish Bhattacharya, evolutionary biologist and Rutgers University professor, who led the study.

Bhattacharya and colleagues consider this study “the final piece of the puzzle to understand the origin of photosynthesis in eukaryotes.” Now researchers will be able to figure out not only what unites all algae as plants but also what key features make them different from each other.

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