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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Posted in Clinical and Medical Microbiology, Microbial Evolution and Diversity, Microbiome, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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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Science and Stormont 2018: Impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland

Considering the Assembly has not sat since January 2017, it was not a quiet day at Stormont on the 8 of October 2018. Compared with my last trip here in September to attend my first meeting as the Northern Ireland (NI) Representative of the Microbiology Society at the All-Party Group on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), it was a beehive of activity, as professionals and leaders from the academia, industry and government met at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s sixth annual Science and Stormont event in the Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

The event focused on what Brexit means for STEM and Industry in Northern Ireland and commenced with an opening remark from Dr Steve Aiken MLA. In the first Panel Session, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, from Trinity College Dublin, described the results of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) Brexit Task Forces in NI and Republic of Ireland (ROI). According to the report, 96 per cent of respondents in NI believed that Brexit was likely to have a negative impact on Higher Education in NI with no obvious positive benefits.


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Could the gut microbiome influence livestock growth?

Dr Stafford Vigors is a researcher at Teagasc, a Food Research Centre in Ashtown, Dublin. At the 2018 Microbes and Mucosal Surfaces Focused Meeting, Stafford presented his research ‘Analysis of the intestinal microbiome of pigs divergent in feed efficiency.’ Here, he explains how differences in the gut microbiome could improve – or hinder – pig growth on farms. 

I am currently based in Teagasc Food Research centre in Ashtown, Dublin. Before I started here, the majority of my previous research took place in University College Dublin.

My research focuses on understanding the biological factors that impact feed efficiency in pigs and meat quality in beef cattle. Our ultimate aim is to identify functional markers of these traits to improve food production.


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The Microbiology Society and Open Access

Over the summer, the Microbiology Society publishing and policy teams worked together to re-align our Open Access position statement with our publishing practices, and the updated policy was approved by Council on 7 September.

As a membership charity and independent publisher, we have been offering Open Access publishing through the OpenMicrobiology initiative for many years, and are committed to being as open as possible, supporting not only Open Access but also other Open Science activities. The key word in our open initiatives is sustainability, because revenues from our journals help fund other programmes, including grants, professional development, and even Annual Conference.

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Microbiomes Underpinning Agriculture – a view from Twitter

The Microbiomes Underpinning Agriculture Focused Meeting took place at the Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork, Ireland, between 1–2 October. We’ve turned to Twitter to look at some of the highlights of the meeting. 

While the last preparations were being made at the venue, delegates used their journeys to Cork to share their excitement about the upcoming event.

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Microbiology Editor’s Choice: A greater understanding of UV damage in bacteria

Each month, a manuscript published in our flagship journal Microbiology is chosen by a member of the Editorial Board. This month, the paper is New envelope stress factors involved in σE activation and conditional lethality of rpoE mutations in Salmonella enterica and was chosen by Dr David Grainger.

David_GraingerUltra violet radiation has long been known to damage diverse cell types, primarily by inducing the formation of lesions, such as pyrimidine dimers, in DNA. In this work Amar and colleagues report the surprising observation that UV light triggers expression of the σE regulon in Salmonella. Usually activated in response to cell envelope stress, the σE mediated response to UV light appears important for cell survival. This work suggests that the UV damage in bacteria extends beyond mutation of the chromosome.


New envelope stress factors involved in σE activation and conditional lethality of rpoE mutations in Salmonella enterica

Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. typhimurium) can cause food- and water-borne illness. A key factor the ability of S. typhimurium to cause disease is a protein called σE. σE is coded for by the gene rpoE

This study reports new stress factors that are able to activate σE expression. We demonstrate that UVA radiation induces σE activity in a pathway that is dependent on the stringent response regulator ppGpp.

σE activity is also induced by hypo-osmotic shock in the absence of osmoregulated periplasmic glucans (OPGs). It is known that the rpoE gene is not essential in S. typhimurium. However, we report here two cases of the conditional lethality of rpoE mutations in this micro-organism.

We demonstrate that rpoE mutations are not tolerated in the absence of OPGs or LPS O-antigen. The latter case resembles that of the prototypic Escherichia coli strain K12, which neither synthesizes a complete LPS nor tolerates null rpoE mutations.


To access the full paper, click here. All Edito’s Choice articles are free to read.

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