Microbiology Today February 1999

The first issue covers many topical issues of concern both to scientists and the public.

Genetically modified foods and plants are in the headlines and are causing much controversy throughout Europe. Microbiology is at the centre of much of the technology. This feature focuses on areas of risk and uncertainty associated with GM crops, but also asks, are all the concerns justified?

Ethics are important to all scientists and microbiologists are no exception. Ray Spier, Professor of Science and Engineering Ethics at the University of Surrey, considers the range of issues that affects everyone working with micro-organisms.

BSE and the emergence of new variant CJD are currently the subject of a long-running government inquiry. SGM member Sir John Pattison, chairman of SEAC, reflects on some of the major issues that have confronted the committee charged with giving advice to parliament.

Rabies is a terrifying disease, transmitted to humans by infected animals and always fatal. The UK currently has strict quarantine regulations to prevent rabies being brought in by pets, but a relaxation of the rules is likely. Virologist Ulrich Desselberger looks at the changes proposed in a recent report.

How do microbes 'talk' to one another and what mechanisms are involved in their interaction with plant and animal cells? The SGM is holding a symposium in April at the University of Edinburgh where scientists will reveal the latest findings in microbial signalling and communication. Reg England and the co-organisers of the meeting give a taster of the extensive range of topics to be covered.

Shipping cultures of micro-organisms around the globe is a closely regulated practice. Microbiologists must comply with national and international legislation in order to protect human health and prevent the distribution of organisms to unauthorized recipients. David Smith, Chair of the World Federation of Culture Collections, and his co-workers, discuss the responsibilities of microbiologists and the potential consequences of failure to comply with the law.

An updated summary (November 2003) is available here as an Acrobat PDF file.

A European Centre for Infectious Diseases is a collaborative venture being actively considered by a group of experts as a means of combating the threats from microbial infections in the next century. Jean-Claude Piffaretti describes the proposals.

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:

  • BSE equivalent in sheep?
  • Disease in humans is rarely caused by fungi
  • Cellular communication
  • Prions and the species barrier
  • Novel bacterium that degrades lindane
  • Diversity of soil bacteria - a new approach
  • Why does the bubonic plague bacterium store iron?

Last updated 29 May 2003