WASHINGTON, DC - March 3, 2015 - The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has received a $161,460 multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help support the research being presented at ASM’s Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC). Through their Global Health Division, the foundation will not only partner with ASM to host joint sessions during the conference, they are also providing a travel award for scientists through The Gates Travel Award program.

The ICAAC Program Committee will partner with the Gates Foundation Directors to determine areas of interest for the joint sessions and assist in organizing these sessions.  ICAAC 2015 will include four joint sessions focused on tuberculosis, HIV, pneumonia, and enteric and diarrheal diseases.

Additionally, the Gates Travel Award program will help developing world scientists attend ICAAC.  The ICAAC Program will review and accept abstract submissions from scientists in developing countries that are unable to attend the meeting due to financial constraints. The award is aimed at those individuals who are working in areas that have a high-burden of disease and would benefit professionally from the scientific content presented at the meeting. Recipients of the award will receive support for travel and hotel expenses.

 ICAAC addresses the global needs of the infectious disease community.  It provides the opportunity for scientists from around the world to share their latest research, collaborate on areas of mutual interest, expand their network and learn from others successes and challenges.  The goal of this valuable exchange is to enhance and accelerate the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases around the world.  ICAAC 2015 will be held on September 17-21, 2015 in San Diego, California (www.icaac.org).

The Global Health Division of the Gates Foundation leads the foundation’s efforts in research and development of health solutions, including vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics to address major global health challenges in the developing world.  This Division oversees the foundation’s strategies in HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, enteric and diarrheal diseases, and neglected infectious diseases, with the ultimate goal of accelerating development of global health solutions.

To learn more about the travel award, please visit: http://www.icaac.org/index.php/component/content/article/94-icaac-2015/373-bill-and-melinda-gates-foundation-bmgf-icaac-icc-travel-award-for-scientists-from-low-income-countries

In January of 2015, the American Academy of Microbiology elected 79 new Fellows.

Fellows of the Academy are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

There are over 2,400 Fellows. They represent all subspecialties of microbiology, including basic and applied research, teaching, public health, industry, and government service. In addition, Fellows hail from all around the globe. The “class of 2015” includes Fellows from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Sweden, Australia, China, Japan, Chile, Ireland, France, the U.K., Italy, and South Africa.


The 2015 Academy Fellows are: 

James Alfano, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

John Archibald, Ph.D., Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Walter Atwood, Ph.D., Brown University, Providence, R.I.

Francois Baneyx, Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.

Patrik Bavoil, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park, Md.

Steve Bell, Ph.D., Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, Ind.

Steven Blanke, Ph.D., University of Illinois , Urbana, Ill.

Antje Boetius, Ph.D., University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Erhard Bremer, Ph.D., Philipps-Universität Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Eric Brown, Ph.D., US Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Md.

Vernon Carruthers, Ph.D., University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Ph.D., Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany

Diane Citron, B.Sc., R.M. Alden Reseach Laboratory, Culver City, Calif.

Oliver Cornely, M.D., University of Köln, Köln, Germany 

Juan Carlos De La Torre, Ph.D., The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.

Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.

Sabine Ehrt, Ph.D., Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

JoAnne Flynn, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Katrina Forest, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis.

Pina Fratamico, Ph.D., USDA, Wyndmoor, Pa.

George Gao, Ph.D., Chinese Academy of Sciences/Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China

Myron Goodman, Ph.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.

Patrick Hearing, Ph.D., Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y.

Birgitta Henriques-Normark, M.D., Ph.D., Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Russell Hill, Ph.D., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Baltimore, Md.

David Holmes, Ph.D., Fundación Ciencia y Vida & Universidad de Andrés Bello, Santiago, Chile

Andrew Jackson, Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.

Yoichi Kamagata, Ph.D., National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Hokkaido, Japan

James Karlowsky, Ph.D., D (ABMM), University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

Michael Katze, Ph.D., University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Wash.

David Kehoe, Ph.D., Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, Ind.

Paul Kellam, Ph.D., Sanger Institute and MRC Centre for Medical Molecular Virology, Cambridge and London, United Kingdom

Hans-Peter Klenk, Ph.D., Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Karl Klose, Ph.D., University of Texas-San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

Rob Knight, Ph.D., University of California-San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

Paul Lambert, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wis.

Marc Lipsitch, D.Phil., Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Mass.

Yi Liu, Ph.D., The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

John Mascola, M.D., National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Ivan Matic, Ph.D., Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France

Beth McCormick, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Mass.

Geoffrey McFadden, Ph.D., FAA, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

James McInerney, Ph.D., D.Sc., University of Ireland-Maynooth, Maynooth, Ireland

Stephen McSorley, Ph.D., University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif.

Joachim Messing, Ph.D., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

David Mills, Ph.D., University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif.

Denise Monack, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.

Karl Munger, Ph.D., Tufts University School of Medicine, Medford, Mass.

Peter Murray, Ph.D., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.

Shigetou Namba, Ph.D., The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Victoria Orphan, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

Karen Ottemann, Ph.D., University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Tracy Palmer, Ph.D., University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom

James Paton, Ph.D., University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Africa

Marta Perego, Ph.D., The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.

Mariagrazia Pizza, Ph.D., Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy

Bibadi Prasad, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

Jack Pronk, Ph.D., Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands

Oliver Rando, M.D., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Mass.

Emmanuel Roilides, M.D., Ph.D., Aristotle University School of Medicine, Thessaloniki, Greece

Edward Ryan, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass.

Mark Schembri, Ph.D., University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Celia Schiffer, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Mass.

Raymond Schinazi, Ph.D., Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga.

Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.

Maria Schumacher, Ph.D., Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.

Kellogg Schwab, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Julie Segre, Ph.D., National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Md.

Pradeep Singh, M.D., University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.

Eric Skaar, Ph.D., M.P.H., Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville Tenn.

Gerald Smith, Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash.

Boris Striepen, Ph.D., University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

David Watkins, Ph.D., University of Miami Medical School, Miami, Fla.

Scott Weaver, Ph.D., University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

Richard Webby, Ph.D., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.

Bryan White, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Ill.

Fitnat Yildiz, Ph.D., University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Qjing Zhang, Ph.D., Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Susan Zolla-Pazner, Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.



WASHINGTON, DC - January 13, 2015 - Treating surfaces with cold atmospheric pressure plasma (CAPP) may reduce the risk of transmitting norovirus, a contagious virus leading to stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea, according to a new study.

The work, published this week in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, showed that CAPP significantly reduced the number of virus particles in norovirus samples. CAPP, which actually is close to room temperature, is a type of gas used to kill bacteria without harming surfaces or human tissues. It is being used in some medical applications like wound healing. Some scientists also are investigating its potential to remove bacteria from fruits, vegetables and meats.

The finding is exciting because noroviruses typically are very stable in the environment, resisting treatment by detergents or chlorine, freezing or heating, said senior study author Günter Klein, head of the Institute of Food Quality and Food Safety at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover in Germany. Noroviruses are the most frequent cause of epidemic nonbacterial acute gastroenteritis worldwide, he said, causing over 19 million cases of illness in the United States each year.

"CAPP is an environmentally friendly, low energy method that decreases the microbial load on surfaces," Klein said. "The technology is effective against viruses with a high tenacity, like noroviruses. Its successful application in medical therapy should be transferred to other areas."

To investigate CAPP's impact on norovirus, Klein and colleagues prepared on sterile petri dishes three dilutions of a 2011 stool sample from a German soldier infected with norovirus. They treated the samples with CAPP for varying lengths of time, up to 15 minutes, in a plasma chamber.

After treatment, the scientists observed that samples treated for the longest time had the lowest viral load. CAPP reduced the number of potentially infectious virus particles from 22,000 (similar to what would be found on a surface touched by someone infected with norovirus) to 1,400 after 10 minutes, and to 500 after 15 minutes. Some reductions in viral load were seen in as little as one to two minutes of treatment.

"Cold plasma was able to inactivate the virus on the tested surfaces, suggesting that this method could be used for continuous disinfection of contaminated surfaces," Klein said. Although plasma could not eliminate the virus completely, he said, "a reduction is still important to lower the infectious dose and exposure for humans."

In future studies, Klein's team will test plasma's disinfection properties on additional surfaces and types of norovirus, and use electron microscopes to examine the structure of the virus before and after CAPP treatment.


Study coauthors were from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, and the Central Institute of the Bundeswehr Medical Service Kiel in Kronshagen, Germany. Three coauthors participated in the research while employed by the Max Planck Society; all are now founding members of a private company (terraplasma GmbH) engaged in cold plasma developments. There is no conflict of interest in connection with this publication. The article can be found online at http://bit.ly/asmtip010805.

mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mbio.asm.org.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

WASHINGTON, DC--January 20, 2015--Researchers have tracked the genetic mutations that have occurred in the Ebola virus during the last four decades. Their findings, published inmBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, identified changes in the current West African outbreak strain that could potentially interfere with experimental, sequence-based therapeutics.

"We wanted to highlight an area where genomic drift, the natural process of evolution on this RNA virus genome, could affect the development of therapeutic countermeasures," says Gustavo Palacios, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Genome Sciences at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Maryland.

Many of the most promising drugs being developed to fight Ebola are therapeutics that bind to and target a piece of the virus's genetic sequence or a protein sequence derived from that genetic sequence. If that sequence changes due to genetic drift, the natural evolution of the virus over time, then the drugs may not work effectively.

"Our work highlights the genetic changes that could affect these sequence-based drugs that were originally designed in the early 2000's based on virus strains from outbreaks in 1976 and 1995," says Palacios.

The team compared the entire genomic sequence of the current outbreak strain, called EBOV/Mak, with two other Ebola virus variants--one from an outbreak in Yambuku, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1976 called EBOV/Yam-May, and one from an outbreak in Kikwit, Zaire in 1995 called EBOV/Kik-9510621. They found changes, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, in more than 600 spots, or about 3% of the genome.

The sequence-based drugs currently offer the best hope for future treatment of Ebola outbreaks, but have not yet been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or any other regulatory agency. Because the World Health Organization adopted emergency containment measures for the ongoing West African outbreak, these drugs are currently being used to treat a few handfuls of patients in experimental testing. A clinical trial for one of the therapies will begin in Sierra Leone in the coming months.

The team, which included researchers from USAMRIID and Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then narrowed their search to only those mutations that changed the genetic sequences targeted by the various drugs. Of those, they found 10 new mutations that might interfere with the actions of monoclonal antibody, siRNA (small-interfering RNA), or PMO (phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer) drugs currently being tested.

The authors conclude that drug developers should check whether these mutations affect the efficacy of the therapeutic drug.

"The virus has not only changed since these therapies were designed, but it's continuing to change," says US Army Captain Jeffrey Kugelman, lead author and a viral geneticist at USAMRIID. Three of the mutations the team found appeared during the ongoing West African epidemic. "Ebola researchers need to assess drug efficacy in a timely manner to make sure that valuable resources are not spent developing therapies that no longer work."

Kugelman is currently in Charlesville, Liberia at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, working with the local government to set up onsite genomics sequencing of Ebola patient samples to get a real-time picture of how the virus changes as it is transmitted from human to human. He'll be analyzing whether the virus's genetic sequences that are key for diagnostic tests and drug interventions change over time. "The virus mutates rapidly and it's an ongoing concern."

WASHINGTON, DC - February 10, 2015 - An experimental medication that targets a protein in Ebola virus called VP24 protected 75% of a group of monkeys that were studied from Ebola virus infection, according to new research conducted by the U.S. Army, in collaboration with Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc. The study was published this week in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology

The research compared drugs called phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs) --- synthetic "antisense" molecules that target the genetic code within Ebola and similar viruses, preventing their ability to reproduce. While previous work by the authors showed that a combination PMO targeting the genes that code for proteins called VP35 and VP24 protected rhesus monkeys from Ebola virus infection, the current study revealed that targeting VP24 alone was sufficient to confer protection from Ebola virus, whereas an agent targeting VP35 alone resulted in no protection.

The majority of monkeys treated with a medication called AVI-7537, which targets VP24, survived infection with Ebola virus and showed substantial reduction of virus in their bloodstreams within eight days of treatment, compared to animals receiving a placebo.

"The study demonstrates that we can protect non-human primates from Ebola virus, using only a single antisense agent," said lead study author Travis K. Warren, PhD, a principal investigator in the Molecular and Translational Sciences Division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md.

Response in these animals is generally considered a gold standard to predicting similar response in humans, he said. Many of the products that are being used by doctors to treat patients infected with Ebola virus in West Africa have not been tested in any animal model or in non-human primates, he said. Despite many efforts to develop vaccines and antiviral medicines against filoviruses like Ebola, there are currently no licensed medical countermeasures against these viruses.

During the study, researchers gave Ebola virus-infected rhesus monkeys one of three medications: AVI-7537; AVI-7539, which targets VP35; or a combination treatment that included both AVI-7537 and AVI-7539, called AVI-6002. A fourth group of monkeys received just saline and served as the control group. The animals received these treatments intravenously, once a day for up to 14 days.

Seventy-five percent of animals treated with AVI-7537 and 62 percent of animals receiving the combination treatment, AVI-6002, survived until the end of the study. By contrast, animals receiving saline developed progressive signs of Ebola disease and succumbed within an average of eight days following infection, and animals treated with AVI-7539 succumbed within 10 days of infection.

Additional tests showed that AVI-6002 and AVI-7537 were similar in their ability to reduce viral load, substantially reducing or eliminating infectious virus and viral RNA in the animals' bloodstreams. Animals treated with AVI-6002 and AVI-7537 also had less liver and kidney damage, a common complication of filovirus infection, than those treated with placebo or AVI-7539.

"The work demonstrates that impairment of VP24 alone is enough to protect against Ebola virus infection and that targeting VP24 may lead to the development of more effective countermeasures against this important viral pathogen," said senior study author Sina Bavari, PhD, Science Director for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The study appears online at http://mbio.asm.org/content/6/1/e02344-14


AVI-7537 has been tested for safety in phase Ia clinical trials but is on hold because of funding issues, he said. Additional studies are pending.

Study coauthors were from Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc., Cambridge, Mass.; the University of Washington, Seattle; and Oregon State University in Corvallis. The work was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Project Manager -- Medical Countermeasure Systems.

mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mbio.asm.org.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.