UW News

microbes and viruses


February 4, 2020

First-of-its-kind hydrogel platform enables on-demand production of medicines and chemicals

a water-based gel that is used in molecular biology research

A team of chemical engineers has developed a new way to produce medicines and chemicals and preserve them using portable “biofactories” embedded in water-based gels known as hydrogels. The approach could help people in remote villages or on military missions, where the absence of pharmacies, doctor’s offices or even basic refrigeration makes it hard to…


May 1, 2019

Arsenic-breathing life discovered in the tropical Pacific Ocean

people working on deck of boat

In oxygen-poor parts of the ocean, some microorganisms survive by breathing arsenic. This holdover from the ancient Earth was not thought to still exist in the open ocean.


November 27, 2018

Threatened tropical coral reefs form complex, ancient associations with bacteria, researchers say

Fish swimming in a coral reef.

In a comprehensive study of healthy corals published Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists from the University of Washington Bothell, Pennsylvania State University and Oregon State University report that coral bacteria are a surprisingly diverse bunch — and that different sections of the coral body can host unique communities of bacteria.


August 25, 2017

As Tolstoy noted (sort of), all unhappy microbiomes are unhappy in their own way

The bacterial communities that live inside each of our guts are relatively similar when times are good, but when stress enters the equation, those communities can react very differently from person to person.


July 19, 2016

UW oceanographers grow, sequence genome of ocean microbe important to climate change

Marine microbes were collected from a low-oxygen fjord in Barkley Sound, off the coast of British Columbia.

A University of Washington team has shed new light on a common but poorly understood bacteria known to live in low-oxygen areas in the ocean. By culturing and sequencing the microbe’s entire genome, the oceanographers found that it significantly contributes to the removal of life-supporting nitrogen from the water in new and surprising ways.


November 19, 2015

Sequencing algae’s genome may aid biofuel production

Chrysochromulina tobin

University of Washington scientists have sequenced the complete genetic makeup of a species of ecologically important algae, which may aid in biofuel production.


November 12, 2015

From garden to gut: New book from UW’s David Montgomery explores an unfolding scientific revolution

A new book by University of Washington geologist David Montgomery weaves history, science and personal challenges into an exploration of humanity’s tangled relationship with microbes, perhaps the least loved and most misunderstood creatures on Earth — and in you. “The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health” comes out Nov. 16…


May 13, 2014

Health Digest: Cutbacks jeopardize newborns, safe water, MERS facts

WIC food program

The costly effects of cutbacks on maternal/child services, assuring a pure water supply, and what you need to know about Middle East respiratory syndrome.


February 10, 2014

Newly found tactics in offense-defense struggle with hepatitis C virus

Ram Savan lab window

People who are genetically equipped to stop hepatitis C viruses from turning off a type of interferon generally have a robust antiviral response. Findings on the mechanisms governing this ability suggest new avenues for treatment research.


January 21, 2014

Dental school researchers patent new antibacterial agent

Titanium-based materials can inhibit bacterial growth when bound to metal ions. If proven beneficial in clinical trials, certain titanates could be applied after a dental procedure to prevent infection or decay.


January 15, 2014

Data suggest new class of drug may be potent against genital herpes

herpes simplex virus

A new drug, called pritelivir, may offer a new treatment option for patients with genital herpes, a new industry-sponsored – study led by University of Washington researchers has found.


December 31, 2013

Genetically identical bacteria can behave in radically different ways

bacterial cells split

When a bacterial cell divides into two daughter cells there can be an uneven distribution of cellular organelles. The resulting cells can behave differently from each other, giving them an evolutionary advantage.


July 15, 2013

Ecological forces structure your body’s personal mix of microbes

Researchers hope to build a predictive model of the human microbiome to study what affects this massive biological system and to design ways to manipulate the microbiome to achieve desired clinical outcomes.


May 8, 2013

Pioneer bacteria lay down trails that draw new recruits

bacteria form colonies

New research shows bacteria may draw other bacteria to an infection site by laying down trails of a “molecular glue” that attract free-swimming individual bacteria.


April 30, 2013

Tactics of new Middle East virus suggest treating by altering lung cells’ response to infection

Coronavirus Erasmus

The Erasmus virus resets 207 genes in lung cells to hamper the cells’ ability to launch an antiviral reaction. Available drugs might correct this sabotage.


April 11, 2013

Tuberculosis fighter and promoter reveals what’s behind its split identity

TB cording in zebrafish

Latest research findings suggest the possibility of reverting TB hyper-susceptibility to TB hyper-resistance.


March 29, 2013

Head-on collisions between DNA-code reading machineries accelerate gene evolution

Houra Merrikh Samuel Million-Weaver

Bacteria speed up their evolution by positioning specific genes along the route of expected traffic jams in DNA encoding. Collisions can result in mutations.


February 19, 2013

Mutant champions save imperiled species from almost-certain extinction

Gloved had holds plate with dozes of tiny wells of reddish orange hue

Species facing widespread and rapid environmental changes can sometimes evolve quickly enough to dodge the extinction bullet. UW scientists consider the genetic underpinnings of such evolutionary rescue.


December 17, 2012

Plumes across the Pacific deliver thousands of microbial species to West Coast

Mount Bachelor observatory.

Microorganisms – 99 percent more kinds than had been reported in findings published just four months ago – are hitching rides in the upper troposphere from Asia.