Microbiology Today February 2005

February 2005 - Microbial communities

Scientists are only just beginning to unravel the complexities of the interactions between micro-organisms living together and this issue of Microbiology Today focuses on microbial communities.

Living together: microbial communities
Microbes do not naturally live in isolation. They live in communities - whether they are in soil, the gut or in dental plaque. Hilary Lappin-Scott and Sarah Burton explore some of the latest research in this fascinating area of microbiology.

Let it flow but don't let go: saliva and colonization
Every time we brush our teeth, the mixed-species biofilm on the enamel surface is disrupted and has to reform in a few hours. Paul Kolenbrander believes that molecular signalling between plaque-forming bacteria is crucial to the success of this process.

Eavesdropping on bacterial conversations
Bacteria are known to communicate with each other by means of chemical signals. Ian Joint and Karen Tait describe how in marine systems, seaweeds are listening in and using these bacterial signals to select suitable surfaces for attachment and growth.

Sugar-coated bacteria: wolves in sheeps' clothing?
The sugary matrix of a biofilm was considered impenetrable to grazing protozoa, but some can get through and feed on the bacteria inside. What seems like a sticky end may in fact be a means for some bacteria to exploit the grazing organisms for their own benefit. As Jackie Parry explains, a bacterium that can develop a mechanism to avoid protozoan digestion in the wild, should also be able to avoid digestion by macrophages of the immune system.

Urinary catheters: ideal sites for the development of biofilm communities
Around 100 million catheters are used each year to provide a convenient way to drain urine from the bladder of many elderly or disabled patients. Unfortunately, they provide an ideal surface for a community of different bacteria to grow in the form of a biofilm. David Stickler describes how studies on the unique nature of these microbial communities should help to provide solutions to a very distressing problem.

The Biofilm Club
The Biofilm Club is a focal point for researchers with interests related to the study of micro-organisms living in biofilm communities. As Mat Upton describes it serves as a focal point for both academic and industrial scientists in this particular field, in the UK and overseas.

Microbial ecology of activated sludge
The activated sludge process relies on a complex microbial community to clean up wastewaters before discharge and thus protect our environment. Michael Wagner explains how new molecular techniques are shedding light on this ecosystem and how the information can be used to improve the treatment process.

Comment: MRSA - national disgrace?
MRSA is constantly in the headlines and is even the focus of 'campaigns' in some UK tabloids. It is often suggested that improved hospital hygiene will solve the problem, but as Mark Enright describes, the issue is far more complex than the public realise. Britain's MRSA epidemic may in part be due to the emergence of highly transmissible clones of the superbug.

Schoolzone takes a look at quorum sensing. Microbiologists now know that the organisms in microbial communities communicate with each other using chemical signals and Faye Jones explains how it works.

Gradline Editor, Jane Westwell, talks to a number of the major UK recruitment agencies to get an idea of the range of job opportunities open to new microbiology graduates.

Hot off the Press highlights some new developments in microbiological research published in the Society's journals - Microbiology, Journal of General Virology, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology and Journal of Medical Microbiology. Topics covered include:

  • A sticky problem - how mycoplasmas move
  • A complementary approach to systematics
  • Antimicrobial resistance in otitis media patients
  • Filtering prions out of blood

Other items include:

Last updated 25 April 2005