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.

Bacteriophage are viruses that target a bacterial host for infection. Their specificity is often constrained not only by a particular species, but can also be restricted to infect only a specific strain of that particular species.

Inflammation is a normal part of the host response to bacterial infection. Activation of pathogen recognition receptors leads to cytokine release and the influx of immune cells. Eradicating microbes via inflammation can result in collateral damage: healthy tissues can be damaged by the immune response, but at least the microbial infection is also eliminated. Right?

Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a scary disease. Not only a scary disease to contract and experience, but also a scary disease to survive: news this week has covered the deteriorating condition of the Scottish nurse who survived acute Ebola infection in 2014. Stories of survivors with sudden onset of complications have highlighted how little we know about this disease and those who survive it.

Monday, 12 October 2015 15:50

Slo-ing down Streptococcus mutans

One of my favorite diseases is dental caries. I remember learning, as a wee microbiologist, that cavities were an infectious disease. The idea seemed revolutionary to me at the time. This idea is fairly routine in the world of dentistry nowadays, but it wasn’t always that way.

Global warming (or climate change, if you prefer) doesn't only mean bad things for polar bears. Some immediate implications will hit much closer to readers’ homes (assuming you don’t live at the north pole) and involve much smaller animals.

When a foreign object (such as a microbe) first invades our bodies, there are two broad niches it may land on: wet or dry. The dry option, our skin, allows direct microbial interaction with our cells, though the outermost layer is dead or dying cells that will be lost by desquamation. The wet option, our mucous membranes, is covered by a layer of viscous mucins, glycoproteins, and water (namely, mucus), which acts as a barrier between invading microbes and the underlying cells. Almost anything that isn’t skin – eyes, oral cavity, GI tract, genital tract, lungs – is part of this more hydrated environment. And like skin, it is sloughed off and constantly replenished: the human body makes 1 liter of mucus each day.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 15:36

Microbiology at the iGEM competition

How do new scientists learn important skills and concepts? The traditional didactic lecture has fallen out of favor, with students passively listening (or texting in the back) in a top-down knowledge dissemination model. Current curricula utilize several teaching methodologies to engage students both in the classroom and in teaching labs, and there’s no substitute for research as a learning experience. This past weekend, I had the pleasure to attend the 2015 iGEM Giant Jamboree, a team-based molecular cloning biotechnology competition. As a team mentor for several years, I highly recommend this experience as a learning technique for students and team members. During the Jamboree, I observed students in command of their complex projects, further serving as a testament to the competition as a means to learn and implement important research- and microbiology-related ideas.

Friday, 25 September 2015 15:32

Battling boring beer: new diversity for lagers

Have you ever brewed beer at home? As a trained yeast geneticist, I felt compelled to at least experience home brewing, and have made dozens of one-gallon brews – amber ales are my favorite. Unfortunately (but probably fortunately for my liver), my small apartment doesn’t facilitate the five-gallon set up that many home-brewers use. But even a gallon’s worth of beer has allowed me to utilize the microbial metabolisms involved in taking a sugar source and turning it into ethanol and other palatable molecules. Brewing is truly one of the best ways to appreciate microbial growth, biochemistry, and a good sterile technique. (For non-beer drinkers, you can also use microbes to make kombucha, but in full disclosure, I think kombucha is gross.)

Monday, 21 September 2015 15:18

When too much of a good thing is a bad thing

We’ve discussed the role of cyclic-di-GMP (c-di-GMP) in Pseudomonas biofilm formation on this blog recently. This type of modified nucleotide molecule acts as a second messenger (an amplified product that influences  phenotypes in response to stimuli) in many varied types of bacteria. Cyclic mono- and dinucleotides, such as cyclic AMP (cAMP) and c-di-GMP, are common secondary messengers.

Thursday, 17 September 2015 15:16

Small compound, big implications

When walking by a pride of lions, I wouldn’t want to wear eau de antelope. Yes, the lions might decide to eat me anyway, but smelling like their favorite food wouldn’t do me any favors. This delicious type of camouflage is what the malaria parasite does after infecting its human hosts: it makes them smell more appealing to nearby mosquitos. The research behind this discovery was published in mBio by Megan Kelly and Dr. Audrey Odom this past spring.

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