Microbe Talk: West Nile Virus

West Nile Fever is a disease spread to humans and horses by mosquitoes. In Europe this year, there have been 230 cases of West Nile Fever, and 17 deaths.

This month, we spoke with an expert to discuss where the virus comes from, what influences disease spread, and what infection looks like:

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Young Microbiologist of the Year Finalists: Laura Caller

The Sir Howard Dalton Young Microbiologist of the Year Prize is awarded by the society each year. The prize recognises and rewards excellence in science communication by a Microbiology Society Member who is a postgraduate student or postdoctoral researcher, having gained their PhD in the last two years.

Two finalists are shortlisted from each of the Society’s divisions based on a presentation given the Microbiology Society Annual Conference or Irish meetings. The eight young scientists in this shortlist will give a 15-minute presentation at the Microbiology Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on September 6.

In the run up to the AGM, we will be getting to know this year’s finalists:

Virology Division Finalist: Laura Caller

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Editor’s Choice: A new test to measure treatment of plant diseases

Each month, a manuscript published in our flagship journal Microbiology is chosen by a member of the Editorial Board. This month, the paper is Comprehensive screening of antimicrobials to control phytoplasma diseases using an in vitro plant–phytoplasma co-culture system, which was selected by Dr Jennifer Cavet.

Jen_CavetDr Jennifer Cavet: Phytoplasmas infect over a thousand different plant species and cause devastating crop losses worldwide. Strategies to control these non-culturable plant-pathogenic bacteria have been hampered by the lack of an efficient antimicrobial screening system. This article describes the development of an efficient in vitro plant-phytoplasma co-culture system which allows for the accurate screening of antimicrobial efficacy. The authors put this system to use and tested a range of antimicrobials and approaches to control phytoplasmas. As a result, they were able to successfully eliminate phytoplasma from infected plants. This article thus makes an important step forward in the development of phytoplasma disease control strategies, with the applicability of the system also likely to extend to the study and management of other important non-culturable bacterial crop diseases.

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A history of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14

This month, the first paper describing Pseudomonas aeruginosa UCBPP-PA14 has been re-printed in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa UCBPP-PA14 is a unique strain. It can cause severe disease in both plants and animals. Because of this, it is becoming increasingly popular in pathogenesis research.

In 2007, Kalai Mathee began a quest to find out where this strain came from and when it was first described. In her editorial published alongside the original article, Professor Mathee describes the history of the strain and what she learned when she met with some of the pioneers of interdisciplinary research.


Professor Milton Scroth, the first scientist to report P. aeruginosa PA14, and Professor Kalai Mathee

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New to Science: August 2018

Each month, the Microbiology Society publishes the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM), which details newly discovered species of bacteria, fungi and protists. Here are a few of the new species that have been discovered and the places they’ve been found.

The Mariana Trench in is the deepest known part of the world’s oceans. Researchers used specialist equipment to collect a sample of seawater from the abyssopelagic zone of the Trench. Here, 5000 metres below the surface, they found a new species of bacteria which they called Pseudomonas abyssi.

dumbo octopus

Dumbo octopuses live in the abyssopelagic zone of the ocean, where P. abyssi was found.

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In pictures: Brachonella pulchra

Researchers have found Brachonella pulchra in freshwater sediment near Prague. They decided to take a closer look at these metopids and the results are pretty amazing:


B. pulchra was first found in the Hamburg Botanical Garden in 1927

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Science and the Industrial Strategy

Parliamentary Links Day is the largest science event in Parliament. Now in its 30th year, the event aims to bring together the scientific community and MPs to discuss the most pressing issues in science policy. With a jam-packed schedule and a venue to match, the theme of this year’s Links Day was “Science and the Industrial Strategy”, and I was very excited to be invited along by the Microbiology Society. 


John Bercow stressed the importance of scientists and engineers in Parliament

The Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, sets out the UK Government’s plan to boost productivity in four leading areas: artificial intelligence and big data; clean growth; the future of mobility; and meeting the needs of an aging society.

Links Day regular (this was his tenth!) and Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, kicked things off with a warm welcome and the first of several calls for more scientists and engineers to enter the House of Commons. He also proposed the creation of an annual lecture at Speaker’s House to facilitate further dialogue between scientists and parliamentarians.

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