Does the cattle gut microbiome affect methane output?


I am a second year Walsh Fellowship PhD student based in Teagasc Grange and registered at University College Dublin. The title of my project is Understanding of the role of diet, host feed efficiency and genetics on the rumen microbiome and environmental outputs in beef cattle.

The need to feed an ever growing global population while also being required to limit the negative impacts on the environment associated with livestock production is a major challenge for global agriculture. Methane originating from ruminant livestock production is responsible for nearly 40% of global agriculture’s emissions, with cattle identified as the main contributor. Here in Ireland in particular, agriculture is the single largest contributor (~30%) to overall Greenhouse Gas emissions, and it is important to develop and implement abatement strategies through dietary management and breeding tools.

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FIS 2018

On 13 – 15 November, Microbiology Society Champion Lee Sherry attended the Federation of Infection Societies Conference, or FIS, in Newcastle. Here, he discusses his experience from the meeting and how being a Society Champion complements his research career. 

I was able to attend a few different talks whilst at FIS 2018 which I found to be a highly interesting and different to the conferences I usually attend. What struck me most whilst listening to the state of the art talks on the treatment regimens of HIV and HCV patients was how the talks focused on the clinical outcome as well as the feedback on side effects of treatment from patients. This was interesting; as an academic researcher I am used to looking at things in terms of the direct effect of a drug/compound on virus infection in cells. Here, the focus was a lot more holistic, offering information on the importance of early treatment following diagnosis as well as the specific effects of different classes of viral inhibitors.

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Plan S and the Microbiology Society

You might recently have heard about Plan S, a new initiative from a group calling themselves cOAlition S, which includes the European Research Council, UK Research and Innovation, Science Foundation Ireland, Wellcome, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many other European national research funding bodies. The stated aim of Plan S is that:

“After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

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Science and the Parliament

As the Microbiology Society’s Policy and Member Engagement Intern, I joined the policy team at this year’s Science and the Parliament Conference, which took place in Edinburgh on 14th November. The event was organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, with the intention of bringing together scientists, parliamentarians and policy makers, though a programme of speeches and panel discussions.

Events like this are an excellent opportunity for the Society to stay up to date with key issues in science policy. In addition, taking part in the event’s exhibition alongside other scientific bodies, gave us a chance to highlight the role microbiology plays in solving “big picture” problems.


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Junior Awards in Microbiology

The beginning of the new set of talks for the Junior Awards in Microbiology (JAM) series recently took place at the Institute for Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham. I’m Daniel, a postdoctoral from Cardiff University, and I was privileged to be accepted to speak at this event.

DavidFreshly opened, sweet as ever:

Even before travelling to the university, the promotion of the event was clear on social media. The JAM Talks team were drumming up interest by sending promotional tweets, and retweeting things that the speakers (@DanielJMorse and @SophieClough01) had sent. After travelling up from South Wales on the train (with expenses kindly covered!), I was greeted by the JAM organising committee outside of the train station. The organising committee also kindly organised accommodation for the trip, so after a not-so-short walk to the hotel, it was then time to meet in the main room for the presentation preparations.

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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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Posted in Clinical and Medical Microbiology, Emerging Diseases | 3 Comments

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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