Microorganisms have been changing the climate, and have been changed by the climate, throughout Earth’s history. Microorganisms respond, adapt, and evolve in their surroundings at higher rates than most other organisms, allowing scientists to study the effects of climate change on microbes to understand and hopefully predict the future effects of climate change on all forms of life. Although scientists have been studying microbial ecosystems for many years, there remains much more to learn and understand about complex microbial functions and their interactions with climate change. The American Academy of Microbiology and American Geophysical Union convened a colloquium on March 3, 2016, bringing together experts from many scientific disciplines to discuss the current understanding of microbes and our changing climate, as well as gaps and priorities for future study.
Built environments are the structures that humans create to shelter from the outdoors and provide spaces for living, working, playing, and getting places. Along with humans, pets, pests, and house plants, built environments house a range of microbes. Preliminary studies indicate that indoor spaces have distinct microbial communities, influenced by building materials, ventilation and airflow, moisture, and human and animal activity. The Academy convened a colloquium on September 9, 2015 to examine the role of complex microbial ecosystems found in built environments, including their effects on building chemistry and human health. Studying the microbiology of built environments can change the ways we design, build, operate, occupy, and clean our indoor spaces.
Disease-causing bacteria called pathogens can make us ill and if not treated and controlled, can lead to organ failure and even death. One such bacterial pathogen is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This organism is capable of causing a range of infections from skin and soft tissue infections to more life threatening illnesses such as pneumonia as well as bloodstream and surgical site infections. The acquisition of MRSA used to be retained to the hospital environment but now, this organism can be acquired from community settings. Proper hand hygiene can help reduce the risk for a MRSA infection in both hospitals and the community. The Academy convened a panel of experts in November 2013 to discuss the clinical significance of MRSA in hospitals, the community, and in livestock populations along with measures that can mitigate the risk of infection with this organism. Please read The Threat of MRSA, a report based on the deliberations of the participants that attended this colloquium.
Are you a cheese connoisseur or interested in knowing more about how cheeses are made? You might be surprised to know that the cheese varieties that we enjoy today are due to the diverse activities of the microorganisms used in the cheese-making process. The unique “eyes” in Swiss cheese is due to the metabolic processes of Propionibacterium freudenreichii and the blue streaks in blue cheeses are due to the mold, Penicillium roqueforti. To discuss the role of microorganisms in cheese production and how they generate the vast array of cheese textures, tastes, colors, and smells that we like in various culinary and snacking situations, the Academy convened a colloquium in June 2014 at ASM Headquarters that brought together scientists from food microbiology, microbial ecology, and the cheese-making industry.
The human microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes living in and on the human body, is not random, and scientists believe that it plays a role in many basic life processes. As science continues to explore and better understand the identities and activities of the microbial species comprising the human microbiome, microbiologists hope to draw connections between microbiome composition, host genetics, and human health. FAQ: Human Microbiome addresses this growing area of research.
Where does the virus come from? How is it spread? Can we predict when and where outbreaks will occur? What factors determine how sick a person will become if they are infected with West Nile virus?
To help answer the many questions people have about this multi-faceted virus, the American Academy of Microbiology has issued a new report entitled FAQ: West Nile Virus. The Academy convened twenty-two of the world’s leading experts on West Nile virus in March, 2013 to consider and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about West Nile virus. The resultant report provides non-technical, science-based answers to questions that people may have about the virus.
Where do new influenza viruses come from? How are they different from the influenza viruses that circulate every year? Why is vaccination so important? To help answer the many questions people have about this multi-faceted virus, the American Academy of Microbiology has issued a new report entitled FAQ: Influenza. The Academy convened twelve of the world’s leading experts on influenza in October, 2012 to consider and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about influenza. The resultant report provides non-technical, science-based answers to questions that people may have about the virus.
What do microbes have to do with beer? Everything! Because the master ingredient in beer is yeast – a microbe – and every step in the brewing process helps the yeast do its job better. A new freely-available report; FAQ: If the yeast ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy: The Microbiology of Beer explores the synergy between microbiology and brewing beer. The American Academy of Microbiology brought together some of the world’s leading experts on yeast, brewing and food science to explain how making great beer depends on creating the perfect conditions for yeast to work its magic. Keeping the yeast happy, it turns out, is what will make or break your beer batch. This report is based on the deliberations of 18 participants who convened for a day to discuss the relationship between microbiology and beer brewing.
Because vaccines have been so successful at controlling diseases like smallpox and polio in the United States, we often take our relatively epidemic-free world for granted. But less than a lifetime ago, these diseases and others were still real threats to health. Despite vaccines’ successes, many people do not know how vaccines work, or that they are not just important for children, but adults too. On December 6th, 2011, the American Academy of Microbiology convened a panel of experts to help explain how vaccines protect us from disease and what vaccination options are available to adults. The report also provides insights into the history of vaccines, why they are so safe, and why adults need to stay up to date on vaccines - to protect their health, and the health of their loved ones.
News headlines often paint E. coli as a vicious bacterium, capable of causing disease and death to those unfortunate enough to ingest it. But that is only a tiny minority of E. coli, and a very small part of the story of this remarkable bacterium; its relationship to human health and the food we eat is much more complex. Not all E. coli are bad - in fact most are not - and some are even beneficial. On September 1st 2011, the American Academy of Microbiology convened an expert panel of microbiologists, food safety experts, and bacteriologists to develop a more accurate picture of this often maligned bacterium. This report, the product of that meeting, tells the larger story of E. coli: its role in human health, in food, and even in our understanding of our own biology.