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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 2

Vertical Transmission, May 2009

Our Golden Jubilee annual meeting is very near and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Perth. As I mentioned in my last VT, we have a number of special events planned and a particularly stellar cast of international speakers. One event of note is that Australia Post will be releasing a Golden Jubilee ASM pre-stamped envelope on our behalf. The first day of release will be 1 July, timed to coincide with our annual meeting. I would like to thank the National Office and the Microbiology Australia Editorial Board for providing va...

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The global climate is changing. It’s true! How do we know it’s happening? What has it got to do with microbes

This issue of Microbiology Australia is mostly dedicated to global climate change (GCC), the effects of climate change on disease agents and ecosystems, and the role that microbes play and potentially can play in the production and mitigation of GCC.

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A changing climate: evidence and consequences

Global climate is changing rapidly as a consequence of human activities increasing the concentration of ‘greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere. The natural mix of these gases allows incoming solar radiation to warm the earth’s surface and prevents a proportion of the outgoing long-wave radiation from escaping to space. Without these radiative controls provided by our atmosphere, the earth would be about 30oC cooler and life as we know it would not have developed. Human activities, primarily burning of fossil fuels and land-use changes, have signi...

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The effect of climate change on Australian arboviruses

Since it was first raised more than 20 years ago, there has been increasing concern about the potential impacts of climate change on mosquito-borne viral diseases in Australia. This has generated a number of predictions and projections on the effect of global warming on the incidence and spread of Australian arboviruses. These have been discussed recently by Russell and Jacobs & colleagues and thus need not be repeated in detail here. In addition, it was also the topic of a previous ‘In Focus’ article. This paper will briefly focus on the compl...

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Zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium, Dinophyceae) symbioses on coral reefs

The large three-dimensional structures that make up coral reefs are primarily the product of calcium carbonate deposition by zooxanthellate scleractinian corals, i.e., stony corals living in symbiosis with dinoflagellate algae of the genus Symbiodinium (a.k.a. zooxanthellae). This photosymbiosis permits fast nutrient cycling in the generally oligotrophic tropical waters.

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Effects of climate change on polar microbes

It is a glaring fact that climate, and in particular global warming and associated climate change, is having a major impact on life on Earth, and will continue to do so into the forseeable future. The photographs of starving polar bears swimming between broken slabs of melting sea ice in search of food, and Great Barrier Reef coral destroyed by bleaching and cyclonic winds (e.g. Cyclone Hamish down the Great Barrier Reef in 2009), provide graphic and worrying images that clearly document the consequences of human activity. However, what is far ...

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Global changes: Bacterial populations, environmental pressures and the future of predicting antimicrobial resistance and pathogenicity

Robert Koch quickly recognised that there was no universal environmental condition which would support the growth of all bacteria. Bacterial cells within clonal populations can show phenotypic variation due to internal stochastic processes. Variation between individual cells can be beneficial as well as detrimental to the survival of a population exposed to stress such as change in environmental conditions and many other variables such as selective antibiotic pressure. Variation in the level of proteins relevant for growth or survival among ind...

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Impact of global climate change on marine bacterial symbioses and disease

Microbes constitute the largest diversity and biomass of all marine organisms, yet they are often ignored during discussions about the impacts of environmental change. This is despite the fact that, of all the organisms on the planet, it is the microbes that will play the largest fundamental role in either mitigating or exacerbating the effects of global climate change. Microbes will also be the first and fastest to shift their metabolic capabilities, host range, function and community dynamics as a result of climate change. Therefore, an under...

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Microbial contribution to and amelioration of enteric methane emissions from domestic herbivores

Global climate change is a major issue currently facing the international community. The primary cause of climate change arises from the human-induced increase in emission of the ‘greenhouse’ gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). In animal agriculture, CH4 and N2O emissions predominate, especially CH4. The largest source of CH4 in the world is enteric methane from livestock (cattle and sheep), with enteric CH4 accounting for 28% of total methane emissions. In countries reliant on agriculture for export e...

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Mitigation of global climate change – control of greenhouse gas flux by microbes

The role of microbes in ecosystems is generally underappreciated. In any ecosystem microbial biomass represents a large fraction of the macronutrients (C, N, P and S), microbial biochemical activity often dominates transformations of key compounds, and microbial behaviour and physiological activity influence translocation of chemical species. However, perhaps most importantly of all, their rapid growth rates give them a fast feedback response time. Microbes have a greater capacity to participate in ecological feedback mechanisms that contribute...

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From wastewater treatment to biorefining

Wastewater, whether it is domestic or industrial, represents a great opportunity to recover water, energy or chemicals, and nutrients. Today, wastewater treatment is energy-consuming, and does not recover the resources from the wastewater. Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs), which have recently been developed, allow for adequate harvesting of the energy or for the production of high quality chemicals. In this article, the basic principles and opportunities of BESs in the context of wastewater treatment are explained.

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Microalgal biofuel systems: Climate change, fuel supply and economic opportunities for sustainable development

The development of carbon neutral fuels for the future is one of the most urgent challenges facing our society for three reasons – to minimise the effects of climate change, to protect against fuel price shocks and to provide a secure basis for economic growth.

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Infections of cats attributable to slow growing or ‘non-culturable’ mycobacteria

Cats are susceptible to a range of different mycobacterial infections. Tuberculosis has not been seen in domestic species living in Australia (including the cat) for decades. Mycobacterial infections most commonly develop in cats subsequent to penetrating injuries (typically inflicted by other cats) that become contaminated with soil or dirt. Most of these infections are caused by rapidly growing mycobacteria, especially Mycobacterium smegmatis and related species, although occasionally other species such as Mycobacterium avium and Mycobacteriu...

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Identification of novel drug targets using model organisms

Antibiotic resistance is an endemic problem within hospitals worldwide, and is becoming an increasing problem within the general community. Traditionally, physicians and the public have relied on the belief that as bacteria acquired resistance to one antibiotic, new drugs would be made available that could be used to combat those infections. The appearance of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) infections in the 1990s, combined with the withdrawal of funding for antimicrobial drug discovery and development by big Pharma, has led to the real...

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Environmental isolation of Scedosporium species from the greater Sydney region: a link to the emergence of infections in Australia?

Scedosporium species are emerging fungal pathogens in Australia and elsewhere. The reason for this increase in infections is unclear. Since it is assumed that the infections are caused by inhalation of fungal spores, we sampled the urban and rural environment of the greater Sydney region for the presence of the human pathogenic species. Our findings indicate that there may be species-specific associations with areas of high human activity, hinting of a possible link between the environment and the emergence of infections.

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ASM Affairs, May 2009

Joint ASM/ACTM Parasitology Masterclass, 6-7 March 2009; Teachers’ microbiology workshop 18 February 2009

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