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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 3

Vertical Transmission, July 2003

I am pleased to report that the Extraordinary General Meeting held in Adelaide on Tuesday 13 May 2003 voted unanimously to approve the establishment of a Senior Associate membership category. The postal vote results were 368 votes in favour verses 51 votes against. The National Qualifications Committee will now assess applications for Senior Associate membership. Associate members shall be eligible to apply for Senior Associate Membership if they have (a) completed the requirements of an academic qualification in microbiology at diploma level o...

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Fungal friends and foes

The Australian Society for Microbiology does not have a strong representation of non-medical mycologists within its membership, although mycology has always been well represented in the clinical arena. Mycologists interested in plant pathology are more likely to be active in the Australasian Plant Pathology Society, those whose interests lie in natural ecosystems are members of the Australasian Mycological Society, and those interested in the compounds produced by fungi may belong to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. There is, perhaps, s...

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Current mycotoxin issues in Australia and Southeast Asia

Problems associated with the potential or actual occurrence of mycotoxins in food are a significant element in food safety worldwide and our local region is no exception.

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Fusarium wilt of cotton: a fatal fungal affliction?

Fusarium wilt is one of those uncommon phenomena where something so small does so much and motivates so many. It is a virulent, new fungal pathogen which is afflicting a vibrant modern industry in the Australian rural landscape. In this review, we examine the appearance of Fusarium wilt of cotton and the substantial response by the researchers and farming communities behind Australia?s third biggest rural export commodity.

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Fluorophores from fungi

Fluorescence has many advantages over traditional colour and radioactive labels, and is playing an increasingly important role in the most powerful analytical techniques. For example, fluorescence is at the heart of many nucleic acid based diagnostics (e.g. DNA microarray, real time-PCR, fluorescence in situ hybridisation, etc), immunofluorescence assays, defined substrate technologies and differential display proteomics and is gradually replacing or complementing other techniques based on colour or radiolabels.

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Ochratoxin A: a new challenge for Australia?s grape products industries?

Ochratoxin A (OA) was first isolated from Aspergillus ochraceus in 1965 in a laboratory study searching for new toxic metabolites from moulds. At the time, there was no connection with any animal or human disease. OA was found as a natural contaminant of maize in 1969 in the USA and, about the same time, studies were being conducted in Scandinavia on a kidney disease in pigs which appeared to be related to mouldy feed. These studies showed that OA was the cause of the disease now known as porcine nephropathy.

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Biocontrol of aflatoxins in peanuts

Aflatoxins remain the most important mycotoxin problem in the world, and peanuts are a major source of these toxins. Control of aflatoxin levels in peanuts on a commercial scale is possible by colour sorting and aflatoxin assays on shelled peanuts, and this is widely practised in developed countries. However, this procedure is expensive.

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Powdery mildew and wine quality

Powdery mildew, caused by the fungus Uncinula necator, is a widespread and economically important disease of grapevines. The fungus grows superficially on green tissues of grapevines and other members of the Vitaceae. Powdery mildew costs the Australian grape and wine industry approximately A$30 million per year in terms of lost yield, reduced quality and disease management.

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Armillaria root rot

Armillaria luteobubalina is a fungal phytopathogen endemic to Australia. First described by Podger et al, this species affects a wide range of plants in horticultural and native environments of temperate regions within Australia, colonising root and trunk tissue. This colonisation causes tissue necrosis and ultimately death of the host, giving it the disease name of Armillaria root rot. This disease has brought about considerable economic loss to horticultural, forestry and amenity plantings. To date, control options are limited, with removal o...

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Mycorrhizas and revegetation

Much of Australia has extremely impoverished soil. Phosphate is particularly deficient. The major difficulty in revegetating these soils after severe disturbance is that plant survival and growth is unpredictable. Mycorrhizas are associations between soilborne fungi and the roots of plants. Of particular interest are the arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) whose fungi form an internal colony in the roots of some 70% of all plant species. In AM, the fungi function as extensions of the root system, enabling the plant to increase uptake of non-labile miner...

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Secondary metabolites: The focus of biodiscovery and perhaps the key to unlocking new depths in taxonomy

Drug discovery is driven, either directly or indirectly, by biodiversity. Over half of the new chemical entities approved by regulatory authorities over the past decade are from natural sources. Australia?s natural resources contain unique, diverse and geographically distinct pools of biodiversity that have been only superficially utilised.

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Yeasts: an underestimated role in cheese production

The microbiology, biochemistry and molecular biology of milk fermentation have been researched to enormous depth. But this fermentation represents only a fragment of the science of cheese production. While most cheeses start with milk fermentation as the basic operation, their unique and distinguishing characters only develop with further processing of the curd. Generally, this involves heating, cutting, pressing, salting (brining) and, finally, maturation. During maturation, the curd is stored under conditions of controlled temperature and hum...

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Restoration of Australia?s native fungi: For improved commercial environmental forestry, farm revegetation and sustainability in the Australian wheatbelt region

There is currently much effort being put into methods of harnessing Australia?s plant biodiversity for profitable farming systems with multiple environmental benefits. However, less attention has been given to significant components of natural ecosystems other than plants. One such component is Australia?s diverse and unique native fungi, and the range of largely ignored, out of sight, ecosystem functions provided by fungi. Though poorly recognised to date, management and restoration of Australia?s native fungi and other soil organisms in tande...

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Phosphorus solubilising Penicillium spp. for agriculture

Many Penicillium species found in soil provide vital ecosystem services such as turnover of organic matter and mineral weathering. Recently, some such species have been shown to increase the growth of plants, particularly on soils that bind phosphorus tightly. There is now interest in the exploitation of this group of Penicillium as a means to increase agricultural production. Could this be the next chapter in our exploitation of this genus?

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Endophytic fungi add to plant defences

Plants have a battery of physical and chemical defences that enable them to be resistant to herbivores and pathogens. Least understood and probably most effective are the induced compounds that act systemically within the plant. The induced resistance may be long- or short-lived. Some compounds appear to be highly specific, while others have a broad capacity to decrease colonisation by viral, bacterial and fungal invaders. At the same time, apparently benign fungi, known as endophytes, can be isolated from healthy tissues of most plants.

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ASM Affairs, July 2003

Young Bugs Banter; PhD scholarship; 13th International Symposium on the Biology of Actinomycetes, Melbourne, Australia: 1-5 December, 2003; NSW branch report

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