Microbe Talk: November 2016

When pathogenic viruses pass from their animal reservoir into humans – known as ‘spillover events’ – the consequences can be severe. For example, it is thought that the West African Ebola outbreak began with an 18-month-old child in Guinea contracting the virus from a wild animal.


screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-14-59-12To prevent future disease epidemics, we need a better understanding of the nature of
spillover events, and the viruses involved in them. In this month’s podcast, we spoke to Professor Jonna Mazet, Director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis. Jonna is also the Global Director of PREDICT, an ambitious project that is trying to identify any pathogens that might pose a threat to human health, and working to build capacity in areas of the world that are at risk of disease emergence.

Benjamin Thompson

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to Microbe Talk on iTunes. You can also find us on Soundcloud and Stitcher.

Image credit: UC Davis
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What is antibiotic resistance?

This week is the WHO’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which raises awareness of one of the world’s biggest health threats. But what is antibiotic resistance? How is it spread? What can we do to prevent its spread? These are some of the questions answered in our new video. Continue reading

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On the Horizon: Rift Valley fever

In 1930, a new disease was reported in sheep on a farm near the town of Naivasha, in the central Rift Valley region of Kenya. This disease caused mass spontaneous abortions among pregnant ewes and the death of newborn lambs. This disease, which came to be known as ‘Rift Valley fever’, also infected people who’d come into contact with the animals, causing muscle pains, fever and headaches. The causative agent was identified as a member of the Bunyaviridae family of viruses, known as Rift Valley fever virus. Continue reading

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New to science: October 2016

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. 

Here’s a quick roundup of some of our favourites from the latest issue. If you have a read online, you’ll see that our platform has been updated! You can now find out more information about the nomenclature, strain information and taxonomy of different microbes by clicking on the species or genus name (data from Names for Life).


First off for this month, a team of researchers have isolated a new actinobacterium from limestone cliffs in the Sahara desert. Geodermatophilus pulveris is resistant to gamma radiation, joining other members of its genus as a species that can cope with environmental stresses. A related species, Geodermatophilus obscurus, is thought to achieve this via mechanisms like pigmentation and catalase production.

Guiyu, China is often described as the ‘e-waste capital of the world’, and is heavily contaminated with heavy metals and other chemicals from old mobile phones and other electronics. Microbiologists from China have discovered a new species of bacterium in sediment from a river in Guiyu, which they name Sphingobium hydrophobicum. Elsewhere in the country, another team has isolated the heavy metal-resistant bacterium Mucilaginibacter pedocola from a contaminated paddy field. Continue reading

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Big Biology Day Cambridge: Human Microbiome Panel

Earlier this month, the Microbiology Society attended Big Biology Day Cambridge, an annual event that attracted over 2,000 families from the local area eager to learn about all things biological. The Society showcased the Antibiotics Unearthed project along with other learned societies as part of the Biology Big Top. Continue reading

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Microbe Talk: October 2016

The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) building in Boston is a high-tech facility for the study of emerging, and re-emerging, microbial diseases of humans and animals. The building, part of Boston University, is equipped up to Biosafety level 4 (BSL-4), allowing the researchers there to safely study dangerous viruses like Ebola or Nipah.

The facility hasn’t had final approval to open the BSL-4 labs yet, which gave us the opportunity to go and have a look round, guided by Professor Paul Duprex, a Microbiology Society member and an Editor of our Journal of General Virology.

On the tour we got to meet the NEIDL’s Director, Professor Ron Corley, who told us about the building’s architecture and function, and talked with Dr Nahid Bhadelia who runs the facility’s back-up medical programme.

Benjamin Thompson

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to Microbe Talk on iTunes. You can also find us on Soundcloud and Stitcher.

Image credit: Boston University Photography/Tim Llewellyn
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Spotlight on Grants: Nickel and cobalt in Streptococcus

Each year, the Microbiology Society awards a number of grants that enable undergraduates to work on microbiological research projects during the summer vacation. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a series of articles from students who were awarded Harry Smith Vacation Studentships this summer. This week is Siti Nur Amalina, a third-year student studying Biomedical Science with Medical Microbiology at Newcastle University.

Nickel and cobalt in oral bacteria S. sanguinis and S. gordonii  

FROM THE STUDENT: Siti Nur Amalina

sitiMy summer project focused on two bacterial species that live in the mouth, Streptococcus sanguinis and S. gordonii. These Gram-positive bacteria are most abundantly found in dental plaque, which is actually a community of microbes living in a biofilm on top of the enamel.

Although they are considered to be ‘commensals’, meaning they live in the oral cavity without harming/affecting the host, these species are thought to contribute to the accumulation of dental plaque and to the recruitment of pathogens, causing diseases such as dental caries and periodontitis. Continue reading

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