Koalas have a virus that might protect them from chlamydia

In 2016, the koala was upgraded from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The cuddly-looking marsupial is not only threatened by habitat loss, but also by disease – most notably chlamydia infections.

Different species of chlamydia bacteria infect koalas and humans. Previous research into the koala pathogen, Chlamydophila pecorum, shows something rather puzzling – not all koala populations are affected by the pathogen in the same way.

Infected koalas in the northern part of Australia have a higher rate of actual disease, while those in the south seem to either be less likely to be infected, or they do not show symptoms. Today, at the Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference, Dr Rachael Tarlinton from the University of Nottingham is presenting research that might explain why this is the case. Continue reading

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This device uses a laser to rapidly detect bacteria

SLIC by name, slick by nature.

That’s the title of a presentation later today by Dr Robert Hammond from the University of St Andrews. In it, he’ll be talking about a new technology for quickly detecting bacteria and their susceptibility to antibiotics.

SLIC can detect between 10 and 100 bacterial cells in 1ml of liquid – that’s equivalent to finding 10 Maltesers hidden around Wembley Stadium.

It works by shining a laser beam inside an orange-sized sphere, which contains the sample in a small well. Most of the light – around 99% – escapes out the other side. But the other ~1% doesn’t make it, hitting bacteria inside the liquid and getting scattered around the inside of the sphere.

“Imagine a single photon that interacts with a bacterium. That diverts it from its perfectly linear course, and it starts to fly off in any random direction,” explains Robert.

“It might hit another bacterium, or hit the inside of the sphere. But eventually, all the photons will be seen by the photodetector on the inside of the sphere. And all this happens at the speed of light, so it’s more or less instantaneous.” Continue reading

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Podcast: Antarctic microbes from Scott’s Discovery Expedition

In 1901, Captain Robert Falcon Scott led a team of men on the Discovery Expedition to explore the mysteries of Antarctica.

The expedition is famous for its scientific legacy, including the discovery of snow-free valleys, emperor penguin colonies and the location of the South Magnetic Pole.

But the team also brought back some mysterious life forms living at the bottom of a lake. It took nearly 60 years for scientists to work out what they really were: cyanobacteria. Continue reading

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In New York State, bats are showing signs of recovery from white-nose syndrome

Bats in North America are in trouble. Millions of them have died over the past few years, over an area that stretches for thousands of miles, from Nova Scotia in Eastern Canada to Nebraska in the heart of North America. This area is moving steadily west, although isolated cases have already been found in Seattle on the US West Coast.

The disease responsible for killing the bats is known as white-nose syndrome, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Some populations have suffered catastrophic declines of up to 90%, and the northern long-eared bat – one of the most common in North America – has completely disappeared from some areas. Continue reading

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Studying microbes in space

A new microbe has been discovered on the International Space Station. The species, Solibacillus kalamii, was isolated from an air filter on board the station, and is described in the Microbiology Society’s journal, IJSEM.

In space, no one can hear you clean.

Okay, strictly speaking that isn’t true. But cleaning in space isn’t something that you tend to hear much about, even though keeping the International Space Station (ISS) spic and span is a top priority for the astronauts who call it home. Continue reading

Posted in Microbial Evolution and Diversity | Tagged | 1 Comment

How to network at a conference

The Microbiology Society Annual Conference is just a couple of weeks away!

While this is definitely exciting, there is one aspect some of you may be nervous about: networking.

Networking is a bit of a dirty word in science – but it’s not about schmoozing over wine and cheese, and it doesn’t have to be scary.

Watch our video for some great tips on how to network effectively.

Head over to our website for more resources on Microbiology Careers.
We also have a video on giving great presentations, which you can find here.

Anand Jagatia

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New to Science: Microbes from Aloe vera, anchovies and the Red Sea

Before we get going, a quick bit of news. All of our journals, including IJSEM, have now moved to continuous publication! This means that papers are now published on a rolling basis as soon as they have been approved and finalised. Articles will still be collated into monthly issues, from which we’ll still be highlighting our favourites.

And if you enjoy New to Science, check out our new ‘Microbe Profiles’ in the journal Microbiology. These are concise, free-to-read overviews of novel microbes written by leading microbiologists. You can read the first profile, focusing on E. coli O157:H7, here.

Now onto the new species for this month. A team from Thailand and Japan have
discovered a novel bacterium from the root of Aloe vera, which they name Achromobacter aloeverae. And elsewhere in the plant world, scientists from China haveisolated the actinobacterium Streptomyces capparidis from the fruits of the caper bush. These fruits are known as caper berries, while the capers themselves are actually edible flower buds.

In the Republic of Korea, microbiologists have found a new bacterial species living in traditional fermented anchovies (a food known as myeolchi-jeotgal). The species, Virgibacillus jeootgal, is able to survive in the food’s high salt concentrations, which can be up to 30% of the total mass! Continue reading

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