Today August 1999
This issue focuses on the spread of pathogenic micro-organisms.
What are the risks of contracting infections in hospital? Nick
Brown, a consultant medical microbiologist at Addenbrookes Hospital,
Cambridge, describes some opportunist pathogens which are compromising the
health of patients.
Gastro-enteritis causes misery to millions of people every year,
but the major role of small, round structured viruses (SRSVs)
as agents of diarrhoeal illness have only recently become apparent. Barry
Vipond and his colleagues from Southampton Hospital and the Bristol PHLS
reveal how molecular methods are aiding the research into the transmission
and diagnosis of these organisms.
Foot-and-mouth disease is one of the most important infections of
farm animals in the world. Alex Donaldson, Head of the Pirbright
Laboratory of the Institute for Animal Health, describes the airborne
transmission of the causal virus and explains how computer models can be
used to predict and thus control its spread.
Q Fever, caused by Coxiella burnetii, affects both animals
and man. The parasite is endemic throughout the world, and as Ulrich
Desselberger, PHLS, Addenbrooke's Hospital, shows, is transmitted to
humans mainly from chronically infected animals. However, direct contact
is not necessary as several large outbreaks have been attributed to
windborne spread of spores from a source several miles away.
Plant diseases are no less important than animal infections and
often lead to immense economic losses as well as posing the threat of
starvation in some parts of the world. Jim Duncan of the Scottish Crop
Research Institute describes how Phytophthora infestans, the fungus
causing late blight, which was responsible for the Irish Potato
Famine in the mid 1840s, is once again threatening food supplies now that
a Mexican strain has spread to Eurasia.
Rhizomania of sugar beet is a fascinating disease, caused by a
virus, yet transmitted by a fungus in the soil. Mike Asher of BBSRC
Institute of Arable Crops Research, Brooms Barn, describes how the disease
is spreading rapidly around the world on beet seed contaminated with soil
containing virus-infected fungal spores. Rhizomania is now a major
economic problem for the sugar beet industries and the major hope for
control lies in the development of virus-resistant varieties of the crop.
Cultures are the foundation of microbiological research. David Smith of
the UK National Culture Collections describes the new system in
place as a result of the recent restructuring and the services that are
now available to scientists.
Although based in the UK, SGM is a truly international society and its
journals are well received all over the world. Although we welcome members
and subscribers from each and every country, the Society has carried out
little direct marketing overseas. This year we took the new step of
exhibiting at the annual meeting of the American Society for
Microbiology, a huge conference which regularly attracts around 10,000
delegates. Ron Fraser and Janet Hurst, of the Marlborough House staff,
recount their adventures in Chicago.
Hot off the Press
highlights some new developments in microbiological research that have
been published in the Society's journals - Microbiology, Journal
of General Virology and International Journal of Systematic
Bacteriology. Topics covered include:
- Hip to be square - Haloarcula, extremophiles with a square
- The mystery of TTV - a distillation of seven papers on this recently
- Revealing the secrets within the cystic fibrosis lung - the possible
role of Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- The enemy within - Burkholderia cepacia, a cause of lung
infections, is found to survive inside nasal amoebae
- Ancient and modern - two new species of microbes are associated with
medieval times. Clostridium isatidis is found in the fermentation
vat when blue dye is produced from woad, whereas Agrococcus citreus
is isolated from a decaying medieval wall painting.
[Acrobat PDF] focuses on
SGM activities at the 1999 Edinburgh International Science
Festival. Jane Westwell of the SGM External Relations Office describes
in some detail the packed session and debate on the problems of
antimicrobial resistance and shows how hands-on workshops
can interest children as young as six in the fascinating world of
- Antibiotics: use or abuse?
- SGM workshops
Last updated 29 May 2003