AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: shedding

Rotavirus Vaccine Leads to Important Human Microbiome Experiment

     The journal Cell Host & Microbe recently published Vanessa Harris’s and her team’s (scientists from the Netherlands) research regarding a rotavirus vaccine. Over 200,000 children each year die from rotavirus. It is the prominent cause of diarrheal death in children. Therefore, this line of research is essential to help ensure the global health of all people, especially children.

      Harris’s study consisted of sixty-three, healthy male adults. They were randomly assigned one of three possible arms (branches of types of antibiotics): a broad spectrum (with vancomycin/ciprofloxacin/metronidazole treatments), a narrow-spectrum (with a vancomycin treatment) or the control with no vaccine. After this treatment, the results of the antibodies were tested by the subjects’ viral shedding. The three treatment arms led to similar antibody levels although there was a small increase in viral shedding with the narrow-spectrum antibiotic. Most importantly there was an overall difference in between the antibiotic-treated groups compared to the control arm, with the antibiotic treatments resulting in higher viral shedding. Their results showed an impact of antibiotics on microbiomes reaction to the vaccine.

      The research team also worked with children in Ghana and Pakistan which found a correlation between immunity to the rotavirus vaccine and the presence of a specific, intestinal bacteria. A vancomycin arm was added to attempt to recreate similar results to the earlier study with the adult men. Because rotavirus is a childhood disease, the main outcome of this second half of the study was that further, more detailed and specific research is necessary.

        I believe that the scientists are correct in saying that more research is necessary in order to support any large conclusion, yet it seems to me that bacteria can clearly alter microbiomes reaction to rotavirus vaccine. In my opinion, whether that is a mostly positive or negative effect must be the next step in the research in order to use this information to help children in developing countries like Ghana. Most important, the fact that “…[Harris’s] team believes that understanding that triangulation between bacteria, virus, and the human immune system has the potential for vaccinology and can lead to important uses of the microbiome”, should be the driving factor behind research into human microbiomes.

Do Whales Exfoliate?

While trying to study bowhead whale’s feeding habits, Sarah Fortune was able to answers a questions that has been puzzling researchers for years: Why do bowhead whales continue to return to the Cumberland Sound in Canada and why are they constantly rubbing their bodies against rocks?

Well, it turns out they bowhead whales like to exfoliate and rub off dead layers of skin, just like us! Sarah Fortune made this discovery when a whale removed a transmitter, she had attached to track them, while rubbing against a rock. She noticed large pieces of skin coming off the whales’ backs and sides along with the transmitters.


Most whales are believed to shed skin and hair little by little throughout the year, like humans. However, some cold-water whale species are believed to shed as they migrate to warmer areas in the summer. Until Sarah Fortune’s study, very little was known about bowhead whales molting patterns. Although it was believed that they shed in the warmer months like belugas (a cold-water species). This latest discovery, of bowhead whales rubbing against rocks, will help confirm the belief that they shed seasonally. It also helps to explain why bowhead whales are willing swim into much shallower waters; they use rocky shores and big boulders there to exfoliate!


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar