Microbiology Today November 2005

Air surrounds us and we breathe in all that it contains every day - gases, dust particles and microbes. This issue of Microbiology Today looks at the microbes in our air, from how they get there and survive to how they move around the globe.

Microbes in the air: John Tyndall and the spontaneous generation debate
Apparent spontaneous generation of 'life' on growth media split scientific opinion back in the 1870's. That is, as MT Editor Gavin Thomas explains, until an Irish physicist proved that 'floating matter' in air contained microscopic life. John Tyndall's experiments on dust reinforced the new germ theory of disease.

Microbes and climate
For such small and relatively simple forms of life, microbes have a vast and complicated impact on the climate of our planet. Acting as sinks or sources of many atmospheric gases, microbes have a range of influences over the climate. Stephen Archer looks at some of these interactions and describes how research is helping to develop global climate models.

Microbe-laden aerosols
Many common illnesses, colds and 'flu included, are often spread though the air. Someone with a cold can pass on virus particles each time they sneeze. Don Clark explains how micro-organisms survive and are spread in the air.

Flying hazards: birds and the spread of disease
Our view of wild birds is mostly positive. They are a lovely sight as they soar though the air or drift lazily on updrafts. But there is a downside to this beauty and we can do little about it. As Keith Jones explains, birds are reservoirs for all manner of infectious disease - the most notorious being bird 'flu.

Clouds of desert dust and microbiology: a mechanism of global dispersion
Nutrient-rich clouds of desert dust are havens for microbiological life. Huge numbers of microbes make their way around the world carried in atmospheric dust clouds. Dale Griffin explores the impact of this phenomenon on global ecology.

RCUK consultation on research outputs
Open access is a thorny issue for not-for-profit scientific publishers. Ron Fraser describes the latest UK research council proposals which may have long-reaching effects on journals publishing. Some useful links related to this article are listed below.

Comment: Clostridium difficile
MRSA has been often in the news, but now a different hospital-acquired infection is hitting the headlines. Ian Poxton wonders what can be done to beat the increasingly virulent strains of Clostridium difficile.

Schoolzone takes a look at the nitrogen cycle. Nutrient recycling is vital for life on Earth and, as Dariel Burdass explains, microbes play a role in all of the main reactions that form part of this cycle: nitrogen fixation, ammonification, nitrification and denitrification.

Gradline Editor, Jane Westwell, looks at careers in scientific publishing, in particular journal publishing.

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:

  • Family affairs - the hierarchical system of the Alphaproteobacteria
  • Yeast as a human model in E. coli research
  • Gut flora and autism
  • A tale of two clades - monkeypox viruses

Other items include:

Last updated 3 February 2006