World Antibiotic Awareness Week at the University of Plymouth

Tina JoshiLast week, Dr Tina Joshi and colleagues from the University of Plymouth Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine arranged a series of activities to engage the public and students for World Antibiotic Awareness Week. The events ran from 12-16th November 2018 and included a “Superbugs Pub Quiz”, research poster exhibition and a Film Screening in association with the Longitude Prize (NESTA). Here, Tina Joshi discusses the potential impact of these events to increase awareness of the antibiotic resistance crisis:

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New antibiotics needed: Salmonella

As part of World Antibiotics Awareness Week, we are continuing our New Antibiotics Needed blog series with Salmonella.

Salmonella is the gram-negative genus of bacteria in the Enterobacteriaceae family and iscommonly associated with food poisoning. The genus contains just two species; S. enterica and S. bongori. S. enerica is further divided into an additional six subspecies with over 2600 distinct variations also known as serovars. Salmonella is traditionally split into either typhoidal and non-typhoidal Salmonella depending on symptoms.

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New antibiotics needed: Enterobacteriaceae


Studio shot of raw chicken

Salmonella is a food-borne disease often associated with raw or incorrectly prepared chicken

Enterobacteriaceae is a family of bacteria often associated with the gut. Some Enterobacteriaceae may be more familiar than others, including Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Shigella.

Another important bacterium in this family is Klebsiella pneumoniae. When in the lungs, this bacterium causes a particularly aggressive form of pneumonia. Even when treated with antibiotics, fatality of K. pneumoniae lung infections can be as high as 50%.

Resistance to Carbapenems – a group of antibiotics often described as ‘the last line of antibiotic defence’ – is becoming increasingly common in Enterobacteriaceae. This has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to rate the need for new antibiotics against Enterobacteriaceae-family bacteria as critically important.

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New antibiotics needed: WHO priority pathogens

Bacteria are becoming resistant to antimicrobial medicines at an alarming rate. As antibiotics are used to treat infections, bacteria are able to adapt to survive, particularly when antibiotics are used inappropriately, or the full course is not completed.

Asia and Australia, Global WorldResistant bacteria are capable of passing on the tools they use for resistance to other bacteria. As these beneficial genes are spread throughout bacterial populations there are concerns that, eventually, certain antibiotics will be rendered useless.

While this spread of resistance to antimicrobials is showing no sign of slowing down, development of new medicines has ground to a halt. To drive development into new antibiotics, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of 12 ‘Priority Pathogens’ in 2017. This is a group of pathogens they believe to pose the greatest threat to human health if emergence of antimicrobial resistance continues on its current trajectory.

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Willie Russell obituary

Willie RussellWillie Russell, molecular virologist and supporter of the Microbiology Society: an obituary.
Written with thanks to Professor Richard Randall and Willie’s friends and family

Willie Russell, who was emeritus Professor of Virology at the University of St Andrews, died peacefully in his sleep on 31st October 2018 at the age of 88.

Born into a working-class background in a tenement block in Glasgow, Willie graduated with a first-class degree and Ph.D. in chemistry from Glasgow University. In 1959, after two years National Service as a chemist working in Royal Ordnance factories followed by two years in the research laboratories of J P Coats Ltd in Paisley, he took the bold step of returning to academia and the even bolder step in changing fields from chemistry to the expanding discipline of virology.

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Wolbachia: The mosquito manipulator

Using mosquitoes infected with bacteria sounds like a strange way to prevent the spread of disease, but that is exactly how scientists have been making headlines in Australia, Florida and Brazil. In an effort to combat dengue fever and Zika virus, thousands of mosquitoes are being intentionally infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia and released around the world.

First identified in 1923, Wolbachia is a highly-prevalent genus of bacteria, believed to infect over 40% of insects. It is an endosymbiotic bacterium, meaning it lives within the host and contributes to host functions. In most cases, endosymbionts have mutuallybeneficial relationships with the host organism, but some of their effects can also be negative.

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New microbes found in cars, termites, and the Mariana Trench

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 some of the new species that have been discovered and the places they’ve been found.

This month, microbes were being discovered at some of the highest and lowest points of the planet. Reaching 10,994m, the Mariana Trench has the deepest point in the world, research group discovered not just a new species but also a new genus, Abyssibacter profundi, isolated from sea water collected at a depth of 1,000m. Over 5,000 higher, in Chandra Tal, a high-altitude lake in the Lahaul-Spiti valley of the Himalayas, a research group from India discovered Psychromicrobium lacuslunae, isolating the bacterium from the lake’s subsurface water.

chandrataal lake

Chadra Tal, the high-altitude lake where Psychromicrobium lacuslunae was discovered. Chandra Tal is located 4,250m above sea level

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Microbiology Editor’s Choice: How E. coli adapts to nitrogen starvation

Each month, a manuscript published in our flagship journal Microbiology is chosen by a member of the Editorial Board. This month, the paper is A novel regulatory factor affecting the transcription of methionine biosynthesis genes in Escherichia coli experiencing sustained nitrogen starvation and was chosen by Dr Isabelle Martin-Verstraete.

Isabelle_MVThis interesting manuscript analyzes the biological role of a kinase YeaG, which is switched on during nitrogen starvation via the regulator NtrC. YeaG plays a key role in the survival upon extended nitrogen starvation and controls methionine biosynthesis by an uncharacterized mechanism. This work is a nice example of integration of transcriptomics and metabolomics approaches to decipher a dynamic adaptive response to sustained N-starvation.

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Streptomyces – Nature’s Solution to AMR

Antibiotics were one of the most important medical discoveries of the 20th century. Before their discovery, infections of even small cuts had the potential to be fatal. What started with Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin in 1928 led to the development of the over 100 antibiotics we have today, fighting infections the world over.

The world’s most important medical bacteria?

Pile of different color pills

Although many of the more recently developed antibiotics are synthetically produced, they are based on naturally occurring antibiotics, created by the host to protect it from other harmful microorganisms. After the discovery of penicillin, the next big discovery came in the form of a genus of bacteria known as Streptomyces. Since work started on this group of bacteria in 1939, it has grown to become by far the most important group of bacteria in antibiotic production. Research on bacteria from the Streptomyces genus is responsible for over 50 different antibiotics and other medicines in use today. These range from tetracycline, one of the most widely used broad-spectrum antibiotics, through to bleomycin, a heavy hitting antibiotic used to treat cancer, and boromycin, an antiviral drug used for patients with HIV.’

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Acting on your feedback

In July 2018, the Society’s publishing team launched a new set of author and reviewer surveys, aiming to gather information about what we do well and what we can do better. With three months of data under our belts we’re pleased to be able to tell you that 92% of authors and 89% of reviewers think we’re doing a very good or excellent job.

One author commented:Pull quote 1 feedback

A sentiment echoed by many other respondents.

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