ASM President's Bimonthly Newsletter -- January 2012

ASM - Members Bimonthly Newsletter
  January 2012  

Dear ASM Members:

You are undoubtedly aware of the controversy and discussion regarding the recent recommendation of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity that methodological details be redacted from papers submitted to Science and Nature describing research that genetically modified the H5N1 virus to increase its aerosol transmissibilityamong mammals. On January 20, researchers working in this particular field declared a 60-day moratoriumon such research and are organizing an international forum in which issues of concern can be discussed and debated.

Prior to this moratorium, several ASM members responded to media enquiries on this subject.Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Virology Lynn Enquist was interviewed on NPR. Ron Atlas, chair of ASM’s Biodefense Committee, was interviewed in the New York Times. ASM is maintaining a continuously updated resource center of media reports and commentary on this issue.

ASM has long had a procedure in place for identifying and reviewing submitted manuscripts that may present biosecurity or biosafety concerns and all submitted manuscripts that deal with select agents. As a result of this review, a very small number of manuscripts have been modified but none has been redacted. An upcoming editorial in the Journal of Virology provides more information on ASM's process and a perspective on the concerns about this research. ASM's online journal mBio will shortly be publishing additional opinions and commentary as we deal with this difficult issue. At the upcoming ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting, a newly added session on Wednesday, Feb. 29 at 7:15 a.m. will review the NSABB's recommendations for the publication of the controversial H5N1 research. This session will also provide an open forum for attendees to give their feedback on such policy issues as the appropriate mechanisms to allay public concerns about the safety of dual use research.

Please see other items of interest below.

Bonnie Bassler

David Hooper

   This Week in Microbiology

Four new episodes of This Week in Microbiology were released in November and December.

TWiM #19: Your microbiome is what you eat: the genome sequence of Y. pestis from victims of the Black Death and the effect of diet on gut microbial enterotypes.

TWiM #20: Facebook for bacteria: follow up on the outbreaks of E. coli in Germany and cholera in Haiti and genes that confer self-identity to Proteus mirabilis.

TWiM #21: Symbiotic margheritas:an ancient symbiosis between Alphaproteobacteria and catenulid flatworms, and a toxin from Helicobacter pylori that engages the mitochondrial fission machinery to induce host cell death.

TWiM #22: Microbiology 911: microbial infections encountered in the emergency room.

   New Clinical Microbiology Portal

In December ASM's Professional Practice Committee launched a new resource for clinical microbiologists The new CM Portal contains a question and answer feature with content from AskIt (formerly available on along with new questions and answers. One of the portal's most dynamic features is the monthly chat, a live on-line interactive discussion about a hot topic, a current event or controversial issue. An expert will post an opinion on the topic to the portal one week before the live event. Visitors are encouraged to read it and submit questions either before or during the live event. The expert will respond to questions during the live event and those who are logged on can join the discussion. Materials and the discussion will be archived on the portal. The first chat, "Testing for Respiratory Illness During Flu Season," will be on February 2.

   Academy Releases Colloquia Reports

The report on the mini-colloquium entitled: E. coli - the good, the bad, and the deadly, held on September 1, is now available. 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. The report can be read in full and downloaded here.

Incorporating Microbial Processes into Climate Change Models, based on a February 2011colloquium, examines our current understanding of how microbes influence climate and identifies key biogeochemical processes, heavily influenced by microbes, which offer attractive starting points to begin collaborations in integrating microbiological processes and climate models.

   ASM in India

ASM was well represented at the Association of Microbiologists of India (AMI) 52nd Annual Conference on 3-6 November 2011 in Chandigarh, India, attended by more than 1400. ASM members Larry McDaniel and Dhan Kalvakolanu delivered an AMI-ASM workshop on "Scientific Writing and Publishing" to a select group of post-doctoral students and young faculty. The workshop was extremely well received and several academic leaders from across India requested that ASM repeat the program at their institution. During the conference, 90 attendees joined ASM.

   ASM Launches eventSocial

ASM eStore users now have access to eventSocial, a program that allows users who have signed up for or renewed their ASM membership or made a purchase through ASM Press to share this information with all of their social networking or e-mail contacts. This new feature allows users to

  • Log into your social network (via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) or e-mail account (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or Microsoft Office Outlook, etc.)
  • Identify your contacts in your existing network
  • Post ASM-related updates to your social media channels
  • Send recommendations to your contacts
  • Get connected with ASM's social media groups

Visit ASM's eStore today to get started!

The ASM Community site has been closed. ASM members will continue to have the ability to search the ASM Member Directory, to update their ASM member profile and to add to the ASM Calendar of Events via the ASM homepage. As you may know, ASM also has a presence on several social media platforms including a Facebook page and a group on LinkedIn. You are invited to join these existing communities and contribute to the discussions already in progress.



ASM Press