The “Big Tent” of Microbiology is the idea, put forward by former ASM President Lynn Enquist, that the microbial sciences represent far more than the conventional practices of microbiology. Many fields not traditionally associated with microbiology do use microbial techniques or concepts. The interdisciplinary nature of most research studies, combined with the division of science into subfields, means that finding one’s niche at a large, international meeting like Microbe can be overwhelming. How can you pinpoint the related presentations and poster sessions among the amazing basic, applied, and clinical microbial science research represented at the conference?
The Scientific Tracks at Microbe are designed to help organize the amazing science presented at the meeting. These Scientific Tracks divide the many subfields associated with the microbial sciences into six broad categories, along with a track dedicated to professional development. We spoke to each Track Leader, who highlighted some of the exciting discoveries, technologies, and processes that will be covered under each Track.
Molecular Biology and Physiology:
The Molecular Biology and Physiology (MBP) Track is a broad track that covers the full spectrum of molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie microbiological phenomena. Included in MBP are signaling mechanisms that bacteria use to detect changes in their environment and how cells regulate transcription to respond to these changes; mechanisms of how bacteria and viruses assemble large structures; how genetic material is transferred and inherited; structural and enzymatic studies of how specific proteins function; cell and developmental biology of microbes; how phages interact with microbes and propagate; and newly developed computational and experimental tools to help researchers investigate these processes. The shared emphasis in the various MBP subtracks is to achieve a detailed mechanistic understanding of microbial life at the cellular and molecular level.
Applied and Environmental Science:
Applied and Environmental Science is well covered in the program of Microbe 2017 and many of the most exciting findings in this field during the last years will be presented at the meeting. Symposia will highlight recent, game-changing discoveries of microbial players and physiologies in the major biogeochemical cycles (sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon) and will present hot news from electromicrobiology and synthetic microbiology. Another focus area within this track will be microbial interactions with sessions dealing with bacterial predators, viral manipulation of plants and insects, gut microbioms of endangered animals and microbial interactions in the oceans. Major progress has been made in the understanding of the biology of biofilms, the structure and function of microbial communities dealing with wastewater treatment and bioremediation, and in optimizing microbial communities for producing chemicals and these novel insights will be discussed in sessions devoted to these topics. Genomics and microbiome research is also transforming food microbiology and a symposium will focus on this important field of research. And last but not least, new techniques like long read DNA sequencing technologies boost applied and environmental microbiology research and experts of these methods will present the newest developments at the meeting.
Antimicrobial Agents and Infectious Disease:
The Antimicrobial Agents and Infectious Disease (AAID) Track will cover a range of important topics relevant to infectious diseases and their impact on human health. One of the major challenges today is the rising tide of antimicrobial resistance, with the emergence of “untreatable” microbes causing diseases that were once readily treatable. Drug resistance is emerging not only in bacteria, but also in fungi, viruses and parasites. ASM Microbe is the best place to find information regarding new antimicrobial agent discovery, preclinical investigations of new antimicrobials in the pipeline, and first-look data of human clinical trials using new antimicrobial agents. New insights into the mechanism of antimicrobial resistance will also be presented, shedding new light on the ways by which pathogens escape our therapeutic options. This year’s meeting will also feature the latest information on common healthcare-associated infections (such as Clostridium difficile, catheter-related bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and complicated urinary tract infections). ASM Microbe brings together angstrom-level discovery and clinical research to reduce the burden of infectious diseases around the globe.
Ecological and Environmental Science:
Ecological and Environmental Science encompasses many aspects of microbial and phage ecology and the roles of microbes in their natural environments. The polymicrobial interactions of microbes in biofilms and other systems of ecological and evolutionary significance will be covered. EES includes roles of microbes in carbon & energy flux and nutrient cycling in marine, aquatic and terrestrial environments. Advances in ‘omics and modeling approaches to study ecosystem function, ecological and evolutionary processes will be covered. Climate change affects microbial communities and is in turn affected by activities of microbes in diverse environments. Our rapidly advancing knowledge of the complexity, immense diversity, and important roles of natural microbial communities will be highlighted in many of the exciting EES sessions.
This year at Microbe, the breadth of host-microbe biology is represented in its full glory. We are featuring a couple of really interesting morning colloquia, one on the enormous scale of knowledge that comes from studying phages, and another on conflict and resolution in evolution. Our afternoons will include symposia on the biogeography of host-microbe interactions, how bacterial pathogenicity islands contribute to their pathogenicity, and the mechanisms by which antibiotic resistant pathogens colonize the gut. Sessions around how organoids are being used to study host-microbe biology, and on bacterial warfare within the host will cover cutting edge biology in our field. We have outstanding speakers reflecting the diversity of research and researchers in our fields. To name a few, these include Denise Monack, Mary Kay Estes, Renee Tsolis, Kristin Parent (recipient of the ASM 2017 Young Investigator Award), Harald Brüssow, Paul Turner, Karen Maxwell, Fidelma Boyd, Jay Solnick, Vince Young and others.
Our afternoon symposia will also highlight excellent young investigators whose work - selected from abstract submissions - is the foundation for the future of our field. Hundreds of posters over three days will cover the range of host-microbe biology, from how the microbiome influences health and disease, to virulence regulatory mechanisms, toxins and other secreted factors, animal models of disease, and symbioses between microbes and higher organisms. Track Hubs - an exciting new feature of our program this year- will present highly interactive sessions updating attendees about an important NIAID program to assign function to unknown genes in pathogens, cutting edge approaches such as ChIP Seq, single cell methods. We will also have a unique ‘hot papers’ journal club as one of our Track Hubs.
Clinical and Public Health Microbiology:
Clinical and Public Health Microbiology (CPHM) was well represented at the former General Meeting, and with the merger of the GM and ICAAC, there is the additional benefit of more physician scientists attending Microbe. Organizing the accepted abstracts was difficult this year, says CPHM Track Leader Barbara Robinson-Dunn, because “so many caught my eye!” There will be thorough coverage of the science of antibiotic susceptibility testing: new protocols, new drug panels, new drugs in the pipeline, and new organisms to test. Another well-covered area will be testing and treatment of Clostridium difficile, a clinically important microbe with growing incidence.
Diagnostics is an important part of the CPHM track. Application of matrix-assisted laser-desorption/ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry technology is an active area of diagnostic research and will be well-represented in the poster sessions, as will total lab automation (TLA) studies, the growing field of machine automation for routine procedures such as dilution suspension and plating for bacterial isolates. The international nature of Microbe helps scientists from all countries learn the best practices for surveillance, prevention, and reaction to the spread of infectious disease.
Profession Of Microbiology:
“Profession Of Microbiology is everybody’s track – no matter what area of microbiology you work in and what stage in your career you’re at, the topics we cover in POM are things you can use right away in your own practice, from improving your communication and teaching skills to getting out there and being an advocate for the microbial sciences! We’ve got in-depth workshops on everything from taking your first steps in bioinformatics to getting out in the community and leading outreach activities, and our short POM Professional Development Zone sessions throughout the meeting look at topics from social media to telling your science as a story for attendees who want a quick hit of inspiration and learning. POM symposia cover hot topics in education, from the latest in teaching resources to increasing diversity in higher education, in career development, in mentoring and advocacy, and in other aspects of microbiology, from the history of our profession through to current funding opportunities. We’ve also got some fun early evening programming planned to get attendees networking and sharing their science!”