Microbe Magazine

June 2007

Cover Image
Cover ImageVaccines are crucial for controlling the spread of influenza, but currently are only effective against a limited mix of strains. A universal vaccine remains elusive, but progress is being made (see p. 433). (Image © James King-Holmes/ Science Source.)
Microbe Magazine, Cover Image

  • Forces Shaping Bacterial Systematics
    Image of Author: Erko Stackebrandt

    Microbial taxonomists are cautious about adopting novel approaches for classifying organisms. Not that I was ever against progress, but I often struck a wait-and-see attitude during more than 30 years of exposure to the latest scientific means for identifying, naming, and classifying microbial sp... More...

  • Sugar-Coating Bacteria with Lipopolysaccharides
    Image of Authors: Andrew C. McCandlish, and Thomas J. Silhavy

    Gram-negative bacteria produce lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the endotoxin that causes septic shock and is a leading cause of death in critically ill patients. Because LPS is the predominant surface-exposed lipid in Gram-negative bacteria, it is one of the first compounds to interact with host cells.... More...

  • RNAi Restricts Virus Infections
    Image of Author: Shou-Wei Ding

    The innate immune system provides diverse organisms, including the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, with an early-acting defense against a broad range of microorganisms. Because D. melanogaster is relatively simple to work with and its genetics have been extensively analyzed, it p... More...


  • Zoological Database Serves as Warning System for Infectious Diseases
    Image of Author: Barry E. DiGregorio

    Zoos and aquariums typically monitor animals under their care for infectious diseases, and often share information about outbreaks with the International Species Inventory System (ISIS) in Eagan, Minn. With the aim of developing a global warning system for zoonotic infectious disease outbreaks, I... More...

  • Does Viral Fusion Cause Aneuploidy and Cancer?
    Author: Carol Potera

    Although largely overlooked as a cause of cancer, viruses that induce cell fusion may contribute more to this disease than is commonly thought, according to Yuri Lazebnik and his colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. Their recent findings suggest that viral fusio... More...

  • Expanding Biodefense Research Leading to Opportunities Plus Unease
    Author: Jeffrey L. Fox

    It is unsettling to view slides explicitly labeled “unclassified” during a matter-of-fact talk on food safety issues, even in the context of a biodefense meeting—in this case, during the 4th ASM Biodefense & Emerging Diseases Research Meeting, held in Washington, D.C., last March. Although mo... More...

  • National Academy Report Urges Major Microbial Metagenomics Initiative

    Metagenomics presents the greatest opportunity since the invention of the microscope to revolutionize our understanding of the microbial world, according to a report from the National Research Council of the National Academies (NA) in Washington, D.C. The report, “The New Science of Metagenomics:... More...

  • Can Insights into Specific Pathogens Lead to General Countermeasures?
    Author: Jeffrey L. Fox

    Recent efforts to probe pathogens that are potential biowarfare agents and their toxins are providing highly specific insights, and participants at the 4th ASM Biodefense & Emerging Diseases Research Meeting, held in Washington, D.C., last March, offered several fascinating recent examples. Y... More...

  • Microbes Implicated in Human Behavioral Changes

    In several separate developments, researchers linked human behaviors with the behavior of microorganisms in unexpected ways, including:

    • Christopher Lowry of Bristol University in Bristol, United Kingdom, and his collaborators are testing whether ch...

  • Mechanism Explaining Low-Level Strep Resistance Raises Bigger Questions
    Image of Author: David Holzman

    Although high-level resistance to streptomycin arises from mutations in a ribosomal protein, the source of low-level resistance to this antibiotic remained obscure for several decades. Now that mystery is solved, although it raises several others, according to Kenji Nishimura, Susumu Okamoto, and... More...

  • Food for Thought on Foodborne Illnesses

    Statistics reinforce a recent spate of news reports indicating that food-borne infections are steady or on the rise, according to a report released in April by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga. For instance, the incidence of infections caused by ... More...

  • Experts Urge FDA To Use Databases, Post-Market Monitoring To Boost Safety
    Author: Jeffrey L. Fox

    “Approval is but one magic moment,” says Chris Schroeder of Duke University School of Law in Durham, N.C., referring to the life cycle of drugs and other products that come before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review before being licensed. During the past few years, however, safety c... More...

  • Progress for Separate Products that Block Hepatitis B, C Viruses

    Officials of the Food and Drug Administration in April approved an immune globulin, called HepaGam B, for preventing hepatitis B virus from reinfecting patients who receive liver transplants. In a clinical trial, HepaGam B, which is manufactured by Cangene Corp. of Winnipeg, Canada, reduced the v... More...


  • Public Communications Award Recognizes Ocean Series
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    Los Angeles Times reporters Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling have been named recipients of the 2007 ASM Public Communications Award. Their five-part series “Altered Oceans” was a result of their 18-month investigation into human-caused microbiological ch... More...

  • MicrobeWorld on MySpace…and Elsewhere

    MicrobeWorld Radio now has a presence on MySpace.com, a social networking website offering an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music, and videos. The goal of putting Microbe-World on MySpace is to reach out to younger ASM members and scient... More...

  • ASM and BioQUEST Host Bioinformatics Institute for Undergraduate Faculty

    Twenty-four undergraduate faculty members from a diverse mixture of institutions converged at ASM Headquarters recently to attend the second annual ASM/BioQUEST Bioinformatics Institute on 8–11 March. The Institute first started last year as a way to provide an opportunity for participants to str... More...

  • Newly Appointed ASM International Ambassadors
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    By identifying prominent and visible ASM members from the global microbiological community to serve as ASM international representatives to their designated regions, the Ambassadors program gives a local face—and accessible contact— that members can feel confident will understand and advocate for... More...

  • Laboratory Capacity Building in Kenya
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    ASM has recently begun a major endeavor to strengthen and expand clinical microbiology services in Kenya. The ASM team of Larry Buck, Janet Maleski, Khye Seng Goh, and Lynee Galley, Program Manager, International Affairs, traveled to Kenya in February 2007 to assess the needs of microbiology labo... More...

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  • Mosquito Bites Boost Resistance to Malaria
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    People living where malaria is endemic are less likely than naive nonnatives to become infected with malaria parasites, and if infected, less likely to be severely so. Those apparently resistant residents may be bitten hundreds of times a day, each bite injecting a bolus of clot-blocking mosquito... More...

  • Molecular Basis of Plus and Minus H. capsulatum Should Illuminate Virulence Differential
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    Mating can play a role in virulence in human pathogens. Recombination can result in a new strain with increased virulence, as has been documented in Toxoplasma gondii and other pathogens. Despite the existence of two mating types in Histoplasma capsulatum, studies have found mostly ... More...

  • New Insights into Resistance to Antibiotic, Fusidic Acid

    The antibiotic fusidic acid is used extensively in Europe, often as a topical treatment for infections of Staphylococcus aureus. One resistance mechanism has long been known, and recently, researchers led by I. Chopra at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, fingered another resistance ... More...

  • Prion Infection via the Nasal Cavity: a Hamster's Tale
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    While bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United Kingdom and kuru in New Guinea are thought to be caused by oral transmission, the natural infectious pathways have not been identified in species where the disease appears to spread between animals. Since many species naturally infected by prio... More...

  • Detecting Fecal Water Pollution Sources Faster and Cheaper
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    Billions of gallons of untreated human wastewater enter U.S. surface waters annually. Strong evidence suggests that fecal indicator bacteria in recreational waters contribute to illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as to eye, ear, nose, skin, respiratory, and other infections. Most me... More...


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