Julie Wolf

Julie Wolf

ASM Communications Social Media Specialist Julie Wolf spent her research career focused on medical mycology and infectious disease. Broadly interested in microbiology and scientific communication, she has taught at Long Island University and the community biolab Genspace and has written for the Scientista Foundation and Scholastic’s Science World magazine. Follow her on Twitter for more ASM and Microbiology highlights at @JulieMarieWolf.

There’s no way to avoid the news of a growing concern for drug-resistant infections. In both life-threatening and relatively superficial infections, the ability to successfully treat microbial infections with antimicrobials is decreasing. Our only recourse is to use the drugs we have carefully while researchers hunt for new drugs that must pass the stringent FDA guidelines before they can be used clinically. But here comes a bit of good news among all the doom-and-gloom: meticulous drug management programs can have a positive effect on drug-resistant infections.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has caused such a profound drop in honeybee populations that even the U.S. Congress is addressing the issue: Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) has proposed the Pollinator Recovery Act to preserve pollinator habitat. The rapid decline in these important pollinators affects the economy and agriculture of bee-deprived regions. Hive disappearances have been described by beekeepers before, but the large number of countries affected, and the duration of the phenomenon, have motivated scientists to concentrate on this apiary anomaly.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it can also be the easiest way to make a buck. That’s the primary motivation for camouflaging within an already-established brand: Sunbucks, McDowell’s, and Mountain Lightening all rely on brand recognition – of a brand that isn’t their own. While ASM Journals are by no means the only imitated journals, the well-established credibility of the journals published by ASM makes them an easy target for unscrupulous publishers.

Although the Gram-negative bacterium Vibrio cholerae (right) is normally associated with human pathogenic disease, most V. cholerae cells spend their lives in an aquatic environment, and only a few of the many serotypes are able to cause disease. When strains acquire the right genetic makeup – such as the cholera toxin and toxin coregulated pilus associated with pathogenesis - they can cause cholera outbreaks through contamination of human food and water sources. The pandemic O1/O139 serogroups are the best-known of this species, responsible for worldwide pandemic cholera outbreaks (including the recent outbreak in Haiti), but non-O1/O139 serogroups can cause smaller outbreaks of diarrheal disease. These strains coexist in acquatic environments with other, nonpathogenic strains; what does this coexistence mean for population structure?

Just like you and me, bacteria have ‘favorite’ foods – though in the case of bacteria, 'favorite' translates to those which are energetically favorable or most accessible. Different bacteria have different preferences, based on their environments and the neighboring microbes that compete for or complement energy sources. Given a niche where many different carbohydrate resources are available, how do bacteria regulate their preferential food source? New research published in the Journal of Bacteriology shows a system of small RNAs help regulate polysaccharide usage in the human gut-residing Bacteroides genus.

Friday, 24 June 2016 09:34

Dispatches from ASM Microbe

Things have been quiet on mBiosphere lately. We've been busy updating from ASM Microbe, covering some of the fascinating research presented there. The first Microbe meeting, which combines the former general meeting and ICAAC, was a whirlwind of poster presentations, lectures, seminars, book signings, career-building and networking events, Wikipedia editing, microbial sing-a-longs, and, of course, research talks. Many of these events were cataloged on our Facebook page, but these posts don't encapsulate the depth and richness of scientific endeavors discussed over the course of five days.

Last month’s announcement of an mcr1-bearing plasmid in a U.S. patient isolate caused quite a stir, and for good reason. This gene confers resistance to colistin, an antibiotic of last resistance, and its existence on a plasmid means relatively easy transfer between bacterial types. The possibility (or probability, given drug-resistant infection history) of colistin resistance spreading among other bacteria is one of the reasons this story received so much attention.

How do chronic infections change over time? This is the broad question addressed in recent research published in the Journal of Virology. In their study, a team of scientists headed by Fabio Luciani investigated a hepatitis B virus infection over a course of 15 years.

Thursday, 02 June 2016 16:43

New tools to detect new virus

In fall 2015, a new human hepegivirus (HHpgV-1) was identified by using a novel, high throughput sequencing technique. Concerns were raised that this virus was found in blood to be used for transfusions, potentially passing on the infection. But without tools to test for its presence, there was no way to know how widespread HHpgV-1 infection is, or whether it is associated with human disease.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 16:35

ASM holds Zika press conference

Tomorrow begins a Special President’s Edition ASM Conference, hosted by the American Society for Microbiology in collaboration with the American Society for Virology. The conference, “What Does the Biology of Flaviviruses Tell Us About Zika: The Importance of Fundamental Virus Biology” highlights the value of fundamental virology. In this evening prior to the one-day conference, a panel of flavivirus experts convened before members of the press to briefly outline their research, its application to Zika virus and disease, and then opened the floor to questions related to recent research developments.