Spotlight on Grants: Eliminating plasmids for antibiotic resistance

Each year, the Microbiology Society awards a number of Research Visit Grants that enable our members to work in another laboratory anywhere in the world.

PhD student Alessandro Lazdins fom the University of Birmingham writes about his trip to Sydney earlier this year, to work on plasmids in mice.

In addition to their chromosomes, many bacteria contain plasmids – small, circular DNA molecules that typically carry advantageous genes, most notably those involved in antibiotic resistance. Plasmids are particularly problematic because they can be easily passed between different bacterial populations by a process called conjugation. This can rapidly spread antibiotic resistance genes in all sorts of environments, from sewage water to the guts of humans and animals.

As a PhD student at the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, I have been studying whether we can eliminate these plasmids from their hosts. This would be particularly useful in clinical settings, where many infections are due to bacteria that are normally found in the guts of patients. If we could remove resistance plasmids from a patient’s gut before an infection develops, then treating that infection would become a lot easier.

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Posted in Clinical and Medical Microbiology, Grants | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What is a microbiome?

A microbiome is the community of micro-organisms living together in a particular habitat. Humans, animals and plants have their own unique microbiomes, but so do soils, oceans and even buildings. Watch our short animation to learn more.

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Podcast: Annual Conference 2017 Roundup

Earlier this month, the Microbiology Society hosted our Annual Conference 2017 in Edinburgh. While we were there, we managed to catch up with just a few of the researchers presenting posters and giving talks.

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New to Science: Microbes from dogs, fish and ice cores

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. 

Spring is here. Well done everybody!

There’s a triptych of new Chryseobacterium species in our latest issue. C. cucumeris has been isolated from the root of a cucumber by a team from South Korea, while another group from the country has discovered C. nepalense in oil-contaminated soil. The final species, C. endophyticum, was isolated from a maize leaf by microbiologists from Taiwan. Continue reading

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Annual Conference 2017 – a view from Twitter

The Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference 2017, which took place 3–6 April in Edinburgh, was our biggest event to date. After becoming fully booked weeks before it began, the four days saw over 1,800 delegates come through the doors and 600 posters on show – we managed to exceed our personal best that we set last year in Liverpool in 2016. Have a look at our Twitter summary of the best of this year’s Annual Conference. Continue reading

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Investigating Lyme disease on the South Downs

The South Downs National Park is an area that stretches for 140 km along the South Coast of England, and is home to a huge diversity of plants and animals.

Some of the smaller inhabitants of the park are ticks: biting arachnids that feed on the blood of a wide range of mammals and birds, including deer, sheep and rodents. A number of these ticks are colonised by bacteria of the Borrelia genus, which are known to be the causative agent of Lyme disease, a potentially serious infection that can affect many parts of the body.

Last year, researchers from the University of Brighton suggested that the national park includes two of the ten areas in the UK where Lyme disease transmission is most common.

What the team weren’t able to show was why the park has high levels of transmission. Today, at the Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference, Dr Ian Cooper from the University of Brighton is presenting a poster explaining how the team are looking to answer that question. Continue reading

Posted in Animal Microbiology, Clinical and Medical Microbiology, Emerging Diseases | Tagged | 2 Comments

Pioneer fungi start degrading dead wood before it hits the ground

Next time you go walking in a forest during the summer months, take a look up and see if you can spot any branches missing their leaves. It might not seem obvious at first, but you’re looking at a poorly understood, although rather important, ecosystem.

As a tree grows, the branches nearest the base can become starved of light as the canopy spreads out above them, meaning that they use more energy than they create. Some types of tree actually ‘self prune’ these leafless branches, dropping them to the ground, where they get broken down by micro-organisms, returning their nutrients to the soil.

However, far from being dead weight, these limbs are actually vessels for numerous species of pioneer fungi that appear to be involved in the early decay process, while a branch remains attached to its tree. These fungi are able to break into parts of the wood that other fungi can’t reach, hastening the branch’s fall. Continue reading

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