Microbiology Today May 2000

This issue focuses on microbial threats to our health in the domestic setting and considers some of the strategies that are appropriate to combat their effects.

Is it that we are so hygienic these days that our immune systems are not being properly challenged, thus leading to an inability to resist any pathogens that might be encountered? Hugh Pennington, outspoken critic of government policy on food safety, considers the so-called "clean dirt" hypothesis and finds it wanting.

Domestic kitchens are a significant source of foodborne infection. Charles Penn and Anthony Hilton of the University of Birmingham describe various aspects of kitchen hygiene and evaluate the role of new antimicrobial products in reducing the risks of disease in the home environment.

Contact lenses are an increasingly popular alternative to spectacles, but as University of Leicester lecturer Simon Kilvington describes, poor hygiene in their use can lead to unpleasant eye infections.

Immunization has been responsible for massive reductions in the incidence of childhood sickness and mortality over the past 50 years. Liz Miller, Head of the PHLS Immunisation Division, explores current practice and describes the potential impact of the anti-vaccination lobby on child health.

Vaccination has eliminated smallpox and done away with many of the epidemics of infectious diseases that occurred in the past, but there is still a need to develop new vaccines. Philip Minor of the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control describes the scientific difficulties that can be encountered and explains how socio-economic and ethical issues can also affect success.

Influenza is an unpleasant illness which can lead to death, mainly in the elderly. Douglas Fleming, Director of the Royal College of General Practitioners, describes the current incidence of 'flu, some new methods of diagnosis and recent advances in treatment.

In the developed world we tend to take it for granted that clean water will come out of the tap, but in many countries, there is no such luxury as piped water. Peter Wyn-Jones of the University of Sunderland takes a look at the history of drinking water supply, describes some waterborne diseases, reveals how potable water gets to our homes and wonders what the future holds in an era of ever increasing demand.

There are millions of domestic pets in the world, but what kind of parasites and pathogens do they harbour, and what risk do they pose to the health of the humans who share their homes? G. Suresh Kumar and Huw Smith describe the various organisms and tell us what to do to avoid catching infections from our furry friends.

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:
  • The mystery of the missing phosphate - how microbes remove phosphates from waste water and sewage sludge
  • Genes in knots - the molecular genetics of a virus found in prawns
  • Passing the acid test - an archaeon which grows at pH 1.7
  • Toxic shock - animal feed additives may enhance the production of bacterial toxins in the gut
  • Turned on by milk - the genetics of mastitis producing Staph. aureus
  • Seafood cocktail - white spot syndrome virus, the cause of a devastating disease in seafood
  • Hybridization in miniature - a technique for classifying bacteria
Going Public [Acrobat PDF], which features science promotion activities, covers:

  • A sense of community - how one company promotes the understanding of science by sixth formers
  • National Science Week 2000 - this year's event run by the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth to explain marine virus ecology to the public

Other items include:

Last updated 29 May 2003