PHE Guest Investigator David Thaler and RU colleague Tom Sakmar publish open access in BMC Infectious Diseases 21, Article #601 (2021) ‘Archiving time series sewage samples as biological records of built environments.” The idea for the article arose during our 2020 twice-weekly PHE Zooms. It is rooted in part in Paula Olsiewski’s completed Sloan Foundation program on the Microbiology of the Built Environment, to which David contributed. It also links to the Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project, to which both David and Tom belong, and which searches for biological relics from times past and also explores how better to preserve recent traces of DNA and RNA.
This commentary encourages the regular archiving of nucleic-acid-stabilized serial samples of wastewaters and/or sewage. Stabilized samples would facilitate retrospective reconstitution of built environments’ biological fluids. Biological time capsules would allow retrospective searches for nucleic acids from viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Current resources for testing need not be diverted if samples are saved in case they become important in the future. Systematic storage would facilitate investigation into the origin and prevalence of viruses and other agents. Comparison of prevalence data from individual and clinical samplings with community wastewater would allow valuable comparison, contrast and correlation among different testing modalities. Current interest is focused on SARS-CoV-2, but archived samples could become valuable in many contexts including surveys for other infectious and chemical agents whose identity is not currently known. Archived time series of wastewater will take their place alongside other biological repositories and records including those from medical facilities, museums, eDNA, living cell and tissue collections. Together these will prove invaluable records of the evolving Anthropocene.
Spurred by PHE Guest Investigator and microbiologist David Thaler’s publication, “Is global microbial biodiversity increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?” , David and Jesse Ausubel co-author a 900-word essay raising the question of what’s happening to microbes in RealClear Science.
PHE Guest Investigator and microbiologist David Thaler has published the paper, “Is global microbial biodiversity increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?” in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. The answer is, we do not know.
The paper arose from Zoom discussions PHE began holding every Tuesday and Thursday noon during COVID lockdown of our NYC group members with colleagues in California, Israel, Switzerland, and elsewhere. Bravo to David for asking a bold question and putting it onto the research agenda. Thanks to Gary Borisy (Forsyth Institute) and Jessica Mark Welch (Marine Biological Laboratory) for sharing images. A Press Release from the journal summarize the paper.
The Guardian, Microbes are ‘unknown unknowns’ despite being vital to all life, says study (another excellent article from Guardian science reporters!)
Agencia EFE, Spain, Un estudio resalta la “profunda ignorancia” de la biodiversidad de microbiosAargauer Zeitung, Switzerland, Biologie – Gilt das Artensterben auch für die Mikroben?
IndoAsian News Service, India Is microbial life, including viruses, changing too?
COSMOS Magazine, Australia The great unknown of global microbial diversity
Mongabay, ‘Profound ignorance’: Microbes, a missing piece in the biodiversity puzzle by Ian Morse on 26 April 2021
Thanks to Diana Wierbicki, Dean Nicyper, and Eric Rayman, Jesse Ausubel presented a short talk on Some DNA Issues for Art Law to the Art Law Committee of the New York City Bar based on the progress of the Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project.
Biologists in the Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project have shared a trio of fascinating, innovative papers.
Manolito G. Torralba, Claire Kuelbs, Kelvin Jens Moncera, and Karen E. Nelson of the J Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, California, and Rhonda Roby of the Alameda California County Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory, used small, dry polyester swabs to gently collect microbes from centuries-old, Renaissance-style art in a private collector’s home in Florence, Italy. Their findings are published open access in the journal Microbial Ecology, “Characterizing microbial signatures on sculptures and paintings of similar provenance.”
Concurrently available are a pair of papers by David Thaler, of the University of Basel and a guest investigator in the Program for the Human Environment. David’s papers are
Thaler’s papers form part of a collection now in press as a book: Actes du Colloque International d’Amboise: Leonardo de Vinci, Anatomiste. Pionnier de l’Anatomie comparée, de la Biomécanique, de la Bionique et de la Physiognomonie, edited by Henry de Lumley, CNRS editions, Paris.
Two major newswires, Agence France Presse and Agencia EFE, each did separate stories:
LiveScience, United States Did Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘quick eye’ help him capture Mona Lisa’s fleeting smile?
By Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project (summary)