ASM 2008: Therapeutic nihilism

I’ve snuck into a quiet little room with big comfortable chairs and more than one sleeping microbiologist. (With ‘sunrise sessions’ starting at 6.30 AM, who can blame them!) So, as I listen to the gentle snoring of one of my companions, here are a few highlights from a press conference on the human microbiome.  Read more

ASM 2008: Biosafety stats

Richard Henkel of the Centers for Disease Control gave a talk yesterday about biosafety in the lab. It was primarily a nitty-gritty run-down of which forms to fill out if there’s a theft, loss, or release of potentially harmful microbes or toxins that are on the US ‘select agent’ list. In case you’re wondering, you may need to file a ‘Form 3’ in that event. And he gave a few interesting statistics on how many Form 3’s have been filed over the years:  … Read more

ASM 2008: Around the world in 3000 presentations

Between the talks and the poster presentations, researchers here have been studying microbes in just about every environment you can imagine. Here’s a quick run down of what microbes call home: the crook of your elbow, 26,500 year old Antarctic algal mats, the space shuttle assembly platform, a tar pond, hospital room drains, stored space shuttle food waste, the guts of the medicinal leech Hirudo verbana, ready-to-use fresh salad in Vienna, infant formula production facilities, Chihuahua cheese, uranium contaminated groundwater, sea turtle tumours, the ‘dead zone’ off the coast of Oregon, and of course the usual deep sea thermal vents and acid mine drainage pools.  Read more

ASM 2008: Microbes do the darndest things

Hello and welcome to the American Society for Microbiology’s annual microbial extravaganza! This year’s shindig is in Boston, and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has literally laid out a red carpet to welcome the glitterati of the microbiology world. (I was amused to see that they’ve also placed the pressroom right next to the children’s daycare center. A subtle comment on our maturity level? Perhaps.)  … Read more

AACR: Seeds, soils, and rapid autopsies

In 1889 Stephen Paget came up with the ‘seed to soil’ theory to explain why some cancers seem to spread to specific organs, rather than just invading the body at random. He said that perhaps there were features of the soil (the organ) that determined whether the seed (the cancer) took root there. Some soils simply aren’t hospitable to some seeds (having gardened in the heavy red clay of North Carolina, I can attest to that…)  … Read more