Microbiology Today February 2000

This issue is the first to be published in the new millennium. We have indulged in a little crystal-ball-gazing to mark the occasion, but also focus on some innovations in microbiology and consider the professional development of microbiologists.

To make progress in microbiology - such as combating the effects of harmful micro-organisms or harnessing microbial activities to solve problems - money is required. SGM President Howard Dalton explains how effective communication of our science to the public and policy makers is crucial if future research is to be funded properly.

One of the major challenges facing microbiologists is to develop new strategies against microbial infections. Petra Oyston covers the wide-ranging topics addressed by speakers in the SGM/SfAM symposium at the SGM meeting at the University of Warwick (10-11 April 2000). The widespread emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance means that there is no longer a pill for every ill. Ian Chopra, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Leeds University, describes the rise of the superbugs and shows how genomics is offering exciting opportunities for the discovery of new antibiotics. The incidence of foodborne disease seems to be rising inexorably. Tom Humphries and his colleagues at the PHLS laboratories in Exeter look at some of the factors responsible for this unacceptable situation and describe the focus of current research. Clinicians have long used smell as a means of diagnosing disease. Tim Gibson of Bloodhound Sensors describes how this arcane art is being turned into a science by the development of electronic noses. Microbes have an amazing capacity to degrade and transform a wide range of pollutants in nature. Now engineers and microbiologists are collaborating to harness these powers to treat waste products of industrial processes. Ajay Sharman and Cliff Burton of Viridian EHC Ltd have developed a novel bioremediation system to treat waste solvent in the footwear industry. In Europe a consortium of research groups is investigating mobile genetic elements in bacteria, with a view to exploiting their potential in industry, agriculture, medicine and environmental management. Chris Thomas and Konny Smalla, of MECBAD (Mobile Genetic Elements' Contribution to Bacterial Adaptability and Diversity), describe how the concerted efforts of molecular biologists and ecologists is helping to bring this about. Microbiologists should exercise caution before embarking on a new project, for as Milton Wainright of Sheffield University warns, it may all have been done before! He takes some examples from the older literature of past work on current hot topics, and speculates that many good ideas lay forgotten in dusty tomes on the library shelves. In satirical mood, Howard Gest, Emeritus Professor at Indiana University, reports on the discovery of the bacterial taxonomy gene, thus supporting his contention that scientists may well be barking up the wrong phylogenetic tree. Microbiologists have their professional development to consider, as well as their research. Those teaching in academia are currently under scrutiny from the Quality Assurance Agency. This body is now turning its attention to benchmarking of degree courses. Helen O'Sullivan of Liverpool Hope University describes the implications for microbiology teaching in higher education. Learned societies have to look to the future, no matter how successful they are at present. Ron Fraser, Executive Secretary of the SGM, explores the issues that face professional bodies representing life scientists in the new millennium. Hot off the Press [Acrobat PDF] 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 and Evolutionary Microbiology. Topics covered include:
  • Glowing in the dark - the effects of UV light on bioluminescent bacteria
  • Out of Africa - the geographical origins of ONN and CHIK viruses
  • Fire and ice - new species of bacteria, some from Icelandic Springs and others from Antarctica
  • Cats and dogs - the transmission of parvoviruses from pets to wild animals
  • Dung lovin' thermophiles - the microbial secrets of chicken manure revealed
  • Stuck on you - Candida albicans and streptococci bond in the mouth
  • 'Permo-Triassic Park' - can bacteria survive in rock salt for millions of years?
Going Public [Acrobat PDF] covers a range of successful activities to teach children about microbiology

Other items include:

Last updated 29 May 2003