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Annual Editions: Microbiology 10/11
UNIT 1: Habitats and Humanity: An Introduction to the Microbes Around Us and Inside Us
1. Microbial Diversity Unbound, Christine Mlot, Bioscience, December 2004, vol. 54
Since less than 1 percent of all microbes on the planet have been cultured, scientists are now using molecular techniques to catalog and characterize members of the microbial world. These methods reveal that microbes have far more complex relationships with our world and each other than we previously understood.
2. Extreme Microbes, Shiladitya DasSarma, American Scientist, May/June 2007, vol. 95
From icy glaciers to hydrothermal vents, archaea occupy a unique niche among microbes. Salt-loving haloarchaea provide a good model system for understanding how organisms can survive in such extreme environments.
3. Pondering a Parasite, Gordon Grice, Discover, July 2008
A decaying tree spurs reflections on the symbiosis between fungi and plants, as well as their relationship to humans. From single-celled organisms to colonial forms reaching across miles, fungi are diverse in form and function.
4. Say Hello to the Bugs in Your Gut, Patrick J. Skerrett and W. Allan Walker, Newsweek, December 10, 2007, vol. 150
Can your microbes make you fat? The role of gut microbes in human health and disease is just beginning to be explored. Recent research unveils differences in the energy-extracting capabilities of different groups of gut microbes and how this influences your metabolism.
5. Nurturing Our Microbes, Janet Raloff, Science News, March 2008, vol. 173
The "good bacteria" in our intestines help us by digesting our food, producing vitamins, and even protecting us from harmful bacteria. How can we maintain the balance of our friendly gut flora? The pros and cons of microbial supplements, or probiotics, are examined in this report.
6. An Endangered Species in the Stomach, Martin J. Blaser, Scientific American, February 2005
For centuries, Helicobacter pylori has been a part of human stomach flora. In recent decades, however, this bacterium has been disappearing from humans in the industrialized world. This extinction has led to decreased rates of peptic ulcers with an accompanying increase in acid-reflux disease and esophageal cancer.
7. Bacteria Are Picky about Their Homes on Human Skin, Elizabeth Pennisi, Science, May 23, 2008, vol. 320
Preliminary results from the microbial census are in, and there are some surprises about who lives where on human skin! Stay tuned for more results from the Human Microbiome Project.
8. Biofilms, Joe J. Harrison et al., American Scientist, November/December, 2005, vol. 93
This article summarizes new research on how bacteria live in nature. Most bacteria do not live alone; they cooperate with each other to form biofilms. The structure, physiology, and signaling that underlie these communities is described, along with a discussion of how our new insights into how bacteria live will change how we treat bacterial infections.
UNIT 2: Genetics and Biotechnology
9. Understanding Fungi through Their Genomes, Paul D. Thacker, Bioscience, January 2003, vol. 53
Throughout history fungi have led the way in drug development as well as basic research. Learn how genomic technologies are making it easier for us to develop antifungal agents.
10. Going with His Gut Bacteria, Melinda Wenner, Scientific American, July 2008, vol. 299
The developing field of metabolomics paves the way for new diagnostic tools by analyzing the byproducts of our intestinal bacteria. Another future application of this field is the development of drugs tailored to fit a person's metabolic and bacterial profile.
11. New Tactics against Tuberculosis, Clinton E. Barry III and Maija S. Cheung, Scientific American, March 2009, vol. 300
Obtaining the genome sequence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis has transformed our understanding of how this deadly bacterium works. Applying genomic knowledge to develop diagnostic tests and treatments is challenging, but progress is being made. Other new "omics" technologies are paving the way for future treatment strategies.
12. Fighting Killer Worms, Patrick Skelly, Scientific American, May 2008, vol. 298
Genome sequencing promises hope to millions who suffer from the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. Using the genetic information obtained, vaccine research is moving forward.
13. Bacterial Therapies: Completing the Cancer Treatment Toolbox, Adam T. St Jean, Miaomin Zhang, and Neil S. Forbes, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 2008, vol. 19
Genetically engineered bacteria are at the forefront of cancer treatment research. Engineered, nontoxic forms of E. coli and Salmonella can easily penetrate tumors and deliver therapeutic agents in a targeted manner.
14. Microbial Moxie, Aimee Cunningham, Science News, February 4, 2006, vol. 169
Bacteria have long been used in bioremediation processes. This article describes bacteria that not only break down sewage but also provide the electricity for running wastewater treatment plants. Microbial fuel cells powered by genetically engineered Geobacteraceae promise to increase energy production.
15. Eyeing Oil, Synthetic Biologists Mine Microbes for Black Gold, Robert F. Service, Science, October 24, 2008, vol. 322
In tackling climate change and the need for alternative fuels, researchers are turning to microbes for solutions. Instead of replacing fossil fuels with corn-based ethanol, scientists are engineering E. coli to convert agricultural waste into gasoline-like molecules.
UNIT 3: The Never-Ending Battle: Antimicrobial Drug Resistance
16. The Bacteria Fight Back, Gary Taubes, Science, July 18, 2008, vol. 321
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and drug-resistant Clostridium difficile are among the prevalent "superbugs" that have arisen in response to the onslaught of antibiotic use in recent decades.
17. Germ Warfare, J. Glenn Morris, Jr., Nutrition Action Health Letter, October 2008
Read about the best strategies for stopping the spread of antimicrobial drug resistance in this Q and A with a public health expert. Learn which companies are breaking the habit of using antibiotics in animal feed.
18. Routes of Resistance, Robert L. Dorit, American Scientist, January/February 2009, vol. 97
The genetic mechanisms of drug resistance are discussed, along with a reflection on why microbes produce antibiotics in the first place. Will this understanding help in our battle against resistant "superbugs"?
19. Is Your Patient Taking the Right Antimicrobial?, Mary C. Vrtis, American Journal of Nursing, June 2008, vol. 108
This article provides practical advice for patients and healthcare practitioners to ensure that antibiotics are prescribed appropriately. The importance of culture and drug-sensitivity testing is described.
20. Constant Struggle to Conquer Bacteria, Sabin Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, January 28, 2008
This article describes the challenge of making new antibiotics to keep up with constantly evolving strains of resistant bacteria. It also addresses the issue of antibiotic use in livestock and discusses two new bills (the STAAR Act and Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act) submitted to Congress to limit the use of antibiotics on farms.
21. Super Bugged, Jessica Snyder Sachs, Discover, March 2008
New research indicates that our environment is being polluted with the DNA of drug-resistant microbes. This article summarizes our current understanding of how drug resistance genes spread among bacterial populations.
UNIT 4: New Antimicrobial Drug Development
22. New Antimicrobial Agents for the Treatment of Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections, D. Y. Aksoy and S. Unal, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, May 2008, vol. 14
This review article introduces the reader to several new antibacterial drugs and explains how they work. Clinical trial results with these drugs are discussed and side effects of their use are also described.
23. Bacteriophage Lysins as Effective Antibacterials, Vincent A. Fischetti, Current Opinion in Microbiology, 2008, vol. 11
Given the rise in antibiotic resistant pathogens, it is necessary to explore alternative strategies in antimicrobial drug development. The advantages of using bacterophage lysins for treating bacterial infections are enumerated, particularly with respect to pathogens found on mucous membranes.
24. HIV Integrase Inhibitors—Out of the Pipeline and into the Clinic, Diane V. Havlir, New England Journal of Medicine, July 24, 2008, vol. 359
The new drug Raltegravir suppresses HIV in patients who have already experienced multi-drug-resistant forms of the virus. It is important to use new classes of HIV drugs only in cases where traditional antiretroviral therapy has failed.
25. Removing the Golden Coat of Staphylococcus aureus, Robert S. Daum, New England Journal of Medicine, July 3, 2008, vol. 359
This commentary reviews an alternate strategy to attacking pathogens—blocking the production of microbial virulence factors. Though this research has not yet been translated into clinical applications, it may provide new avenues for drug discovery.
26. Antibodies for the Treatment of Bacterial Infections: Current Experience and Future Prospects, Christopher Bebbington and Geoffrey Yarranton, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 2008, vol. 19
Will antibodies replace antibiotics in the treatment of bacterial infections? Though the use of antibodies to specifically target pathogenic bacteria seems like a useful alternative to antibiotics, there are no approved candidate drugs to date. This article reviews the pros and cons of using antibodies as therapeutic agents against bacterial infections.
27. Sponge's Secret Weapon Revealed, Laura Sanders, Science News, March 14, 2009, vol. 75
A recent report from the AAAS meeting in Chicago describes a new compound called ageliferin, which can reprogram antibiotic-resistant bacteria to become susceptible to antibiotics. This compound has been isolated from ocean-dwelling sponges and may prove to have exceptional potential in the resensitization of drug-resistant microbes.
UNIT 5: The Immune Response: Natural and Acquired
28. Immunity's Early-Warning System, Luke A. J. O'Neill, Scientific American, January 2005, vol. 292
This overview of the immune system focuses on how the innate immune response uses a system of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) to send out early warning signals of microbial invasion.
29. How Cells Clean House, Vojo Deretic and Daniel J. Klionsky, Scientific American, May 2008, vol. 298
Learn what scientists have discovered about the connections between autophagy, the process by which cells "take out the trash," and the immune system. A robust system of "housecleaners" protect us from harmful viruses and bacteria.
30. Start Early to Prevent Genital HPV Infection—And Cervical Cancer, Elizabeth Heavey, Nursing, May 2008, vol. 38
This article describes the new vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV), Gardisil, and how to teach parents and adolescent girls about the benefits of vaccination.
31. How Safe Are Vaccines?, Alice Park, Time, June 2, 2008, vol. 171
Fear and confusion over the safety of vaccines has led some parents to prevent their children from being immunized against common childhood diseases. Learn why this is a disturbing trend and sort the facts from myths for yourself.
32. Caution: Killing Germs May Be Hazardous to Your Health, Jerry Adler and Jeneen Interlandi, Newsweek, October 29, 2007
This survey of "good microbes" explains the health benefits of our normal microbial flora. The American obsession with cleanliness may explain why we are seeing a rise in autoimmune diseases. In order to develop a working immune system, humans need exposure to a variety of harmless microbes at an early age.
33. Why We're Sicker, Rob Stein, The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, March 10–16, 2008
The "hygiene hypothesis" is explored as a reason for the increased incidence of autoimmune disorders in developed countries. Although this theory is not proven, evidence is accumulating to support it. Other reasons for increases in allergies and autoimmune disease are also presented.
34. Novel Anti-Infectives: Is Host Defence the Answer?, Pamela Hamill et al., Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 2008, vol. 19
Can we use drugs that stimulate our natural immunity without causing a harmful inflammatory response? This review article explores the novel drug development strategy of targeting the host's innate immunity to fight off pathogens. Current challenges in this field are discussed.
35. Malaria Vaccines and Their Potential Role in the Elimination of Malaria, Geoffrey A. Targett and Brian M. Greenwood, Malaria Journal, December 2008, vol. 7 (Suppl I)
This review article discusses recent progress in the development of malaria vaccines. Because the malaria parasite can cause asymptomatic infections in humans that result in further transmission to mosquitoes, researchers are faced with the challenge of using a community-based approach of treating all individuals and not just those with clinical malaria.
UNIT 6: Emerging Infectious Diseases and Public Health
36. Preventing the Next Pandemic, Nathan Wolfe, Scientific American, April 2009, vol. 300
Viruses adapt quickly to find new hosts, moving from animals to humans and wreaking havoc in their wake. By monitoring the microbes of wild animals through a global surveillance network, scientists hope to catch emerging infectious diseases before they become pandemic.
37. An Ill Wind, Bringing Meningitis, Leslie Roberts, Science, June 27, 2008, vol. 320
Along with the dusty dry season in Burkina Faso comes an infectious disease outbreak of meningococcal meningitis. This seasonal epidemic stops when the rains come, but not until wiping out tens of thousands of lives. Learn about a new vaccine under development that may bring an end to this seasonal killer.
38. The Flu Hunter, Michael Rosenwald, Smithsonian, January 2006, vol. 36
This profile of avian influenza expert Robert Webster traces the origins of bird flu and highlights the steps being taken to prevent a pandemic outbreak of bird flu.
39. Climate, Environment, and Infectious Disease: A Report from the AIBS 2008 Annual Meeting, Cheryl Lyn Dybas, Bioscience, October 2008, vol. 58
This review of the 2008 American Institute for Biological Sciences (AIBS) meeting focuses on the role of climate change on our environment and how this in turn impacts the spread of infectious diseases throughout the world. In particular, the spread of cholera is discussed.
40. Mosquito Modifications: New Approaches to Controlling Malaria, Sharon Levy, Bioscience, November 2007, vol. 57
This article reports on exciting new developments in the quest to control malaria by creating transgenic mosquitoes that could spawn a new breed of malaria-resistant mosquitoes in the wild. Another strategy involves studying the genes responsible for making most wild mosquitoes in Africa naturally resistant to malaria. The pros and cons of both approaches are discussed.
41. The White Plague, Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist, March 24, 2007
An old foe with new tricks, "extreme TB" (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB) now haunts every corner of the globe, from developing nations to your own backyard. Find out how the World Health Organization plans to halt the spread of this "re-emerging" disease.
42. Rising Incidence of Valley Fever and Norovirus, Carol Potera and Shawn Kennedy, American Journal of Nursing, April 7, 2008
Valley Fever and Norovirus outbreaks may not get as much attention in the media as other infectious diseases, but the incidence of both diseases has increased dramatically since the 1990s. Find out why the number of cases is on the rise and learn about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of these emerging infectious diseases.
43. They Came from Above, Brendan Borrell, The Scientist, December 2008, vol. 22
Join microbiologists as they find new strains of the infectious yeast Cryptococcus in surprising places. This opportunistic pathogen has made its way through air currents to find a home in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists believe that global warming will contribute to the increased incidence and distribution of this fungal pathogen.
UNIT 7: Microbes and Food: Friend and Foe
44. Toxic Salad, Josie Glausiusz, Discover, April 2007
What do wild boars have to do with your fresh spinach salad? It turns out that the E. coli O157: H7 outbreak in bagged spinach originated in the feces of wild pigs. Find out how these toxic bacteria traveled from boar to salad bowl in the 2006 food poisoning outbreak.
45. Fear of Fresh: How to Avoid Foodborne Illness from Fruits & Vegetables, Robert Tauxe, Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2006, vol. 33
If your fear of contamination is keeping you from piling on the fruits and veggies on your plate, look no further. This article lists common bacterial pathogens in food, their sources, and how to prevent foodborne illness from spoiling your meals.
46. Protecting Ourselves from Shellfish Poisoning, Mary Wilcox Silver, American Scientist, July/August 2006, vol. 94
This excellent overview describes the history of humans protecting themselves from marine toxins derived from varied microbial sources—viruses, bacteria, and algae. Fortunately, both older and newer methods for toxin detection have kept these foes at bay.
47. Better Safe than Sorry, Nancy Shute, U.S. News and World Report, May 28, 2007, vol. 142
Does the risk of microbial contamination decrease if you buy locally grown food? What about organic produce? How can you keep your kitchen safe? Learn how to reduce the risk of foodborne illness by taking simple precautions.
48. Detecting Mad Cow Disease, Stanley B. Prusiner, Scientific American, July 2004, vol. 291
Prions are infectious protein particles responsible for "Mad Cow" disease. The world's foremost expert on prions, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, describes research on prions and new methods of detecting these strange pathogenic agents.
49. Yeasts in Foods and Beverages: Impact on Product Quality and Safety, Graham H. Fleet, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, April 2007, vol. 18
Advances in molecular biology have enabled the detailed study of the metabolic activities of yeasts used in many types of food and beverage production. The use of yeasts as probiotics is also briefly discussed.
50. The Microbiology of Cocoa Fermentation and Its Role in Chocolate Quality, Rosane F. Schwan and Alan E. Wheals, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, July/August 2004, vol. 44
Did you know that microbes are essential for making chocolate? Learn all about the process of cocoa fermentation and the microbial balance necessary for good taste!
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