Microbiology Today November 1999

This issue is the last to be published in the current millennium. With this in mind, Allan Hamilton, former chairman of the UK National Committee for Microbiology, looks at the significance of microbes over the past 1000 years and offers some thoughts on the challenges that will face microbiologists in the future.

Other articles focus on the hot topic of genomics, an area of research that offers exciting potential for solving many microbiological problems in the coming years. Simon Baumberg, Professor of Genetics at the University of Leeds, introduces the subject with an overview of the techniques involved in sequencing microbial genomes and the importance of bioinformatics in making sense of the results. James McInerney, National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Kenneth Wolfe, Trinity College Dublin, expand on the introductory outline with an in depth coverage of genomic analysis methods. Sequence homology tells scientists how genes are related to each other and what their history is. Andrew Davison, a herpesvirologist at the MRC Institute of Virology, Glasgow, explains how genomics is leading to a greater understanding of the role of gene capture in viral evolution. It is not difficult to predict that the first data revolution of the 21st century - the ability to sequence and compare the entire genomes of organisms - will bring with it many new insights into the genetical history of life on earth. Eddie Holmes, a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, expands on this theme. Professor Jean Lobry of the Université Claude Bernard de Lyon, in France, takes a novel look at genomics, describing how to make DNA walk and climb mountains! Why not try out the techniques he describes for yourself? With ever-growing problems of antibiotic resistance, the fight is on for pharmaceutical companies to find new antimicrobial drugs to combat infectious disease in the very near future. In this article, Aileen Allsop, who is Vice-President and Head of Infection Therapy Area for AstraZeneca in Cheshire, describes how genomics and bioinformatics are transforming research in this field. Horizontal transfer of genes in bacteria has been studied for several years, especially with regard to extrachromosomal elements. Genomic sequencing is now providing increasing evidence for widespread exchange of chromosomal genes. Professor Paul Roy, of the University of Laval, Québec, gives an overview of the mechanisms of genetic exchange and how genomic data can be searched for evidence of horizontal transfer. Looking back, instead of looking forward, virologist Peter Balfe reviews the evidence that Edward Jenner was the pioneer of vaccination. Did the honour really belong to Lady Mary Wortley Montague? 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 Bacteriology. Topics covered include:
  • Arctic sulfate-reducers - new psycrophilic strains of SRBs
  • Whipple's Disease - linking symptoms with strains
  • Trouble in paradise - HTLV-1 in Polynesia
  • Microbial diversity in the guts of Australian mammals
  • Secrets of pathogenicity - the characteristics needed by bacteria to be pathogens
Going Public [Acrobat PDF] covers the 1999 Microbiology in Schools Advisory Committee competition for schools - a very successful event where students were required to Make a Meal with Microbes.

Other items include:

Last updated 29 May 2003