When pathogenic viruses pass from their animal reservoir into humans – known as ‘spillover events’ – the consequences can be severe. For example, it is thought that the West African Ebola outbreak began with an 18-month-old child in Guinea contracting the virus from a wild animal.
To prevent future disease epidemics, we need a better understanding of the nature of spillover events, and the viruses involved in them. In this month’s podcast, we spoke to Professor Jonna Mazet, Director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis. Jonna is also the Global Director of PREDICT, an ambitious project that is trying to identify any pathogens that might pose a threat to human health, and working to build capacity in areas of the world that are at risk of disease emergence.
Image credit: UCDavis
Music: Velella Velella - That's a terrible name for a song
The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) building in Boston is a high-tech facility for the study of emerging, and re-emerging, microbial diseases of humans and animals. The building, part of Boston University, is equipped up to Biosafety level 4 (BSL-4), allowing the researchers there to safely study dangerous viruses like Ebola or Nipah.
In this episode, we got special access to the facility to have a look round, guided by Professor Paul Duprex, a Microbiology Society member and an Editor of our Journal of General Virology.
On the tour we got to meet the NEIDL’s Director, Professor Ron Corley, who told us about the building’s architecture and function, and talked with Dr Nahid Bhadelia who runs the facility’s back-up medical programme.
Music: Ryan Cross – Out
Image credit: Tim Llewellyn for Boston University Photography
The threat of antibiotic resistance is large and looming. Drugs that once worked miracles are now failing to work at all as bacteria become resistant to them.
This could mean a future where a simple operation, a minor infection, or even a scratch could kill.
In this month's podcast, we bring you a recording from a panel event at New Scientist Live. The discussion is fantastic primer on the issue of antibacterial resistance, why it’s so important that we act now, and what we can all do to prevent it.
Laura Bowater – senior lecturer at Norwich Medical School
Caroline Barker – clinician at University of East Anglia
Anthony McDonnell – head of economic research for the Prime Minister’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance
Tamar Ghosh – lead on the Longitude Prize to solve antibiotic resistance
The event was organised by the Microbiology Society and the Biochemical Society.
"Every one of us is a zoo in our own right – a colony enclosed within a single body. A multi-species collective. An entire world."
In this episode, we chat to science writer Ed Yong about his upcoming book and The New York Times Bestseller, 'I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life'.
It's a book about the trillions of microbes that live on us and within us; microbes that build our bodies and organs, protect us from disease, shape our behaviour and drive the processes for life on earth.
Every year, hundreds of millions of patients across the world are affected by Healthcare-associated Infections, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). These infections can result from a surgery, or from the use of a medical device like a catheter, for example, and cause significant mortality and economic losses.
One of the things that hospital staff can do to prevent these infections is effective handwashing. In this podcast we spoke to Professor Didier Pittet, who has been leading a WHO campaign to promote the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser in hospitals and clinics across the globe.
Image credit: Bananastock/Thinkstock
Fungal diseases cause an estimated 1.5 million deaths each year – more than malaria. Despite this, fungi are often overlooked compared to other pathogens like bacteria and viruses.
In this extra edition of the podcast, we sent Anand Jagatia along to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition to find out more about the dangers of killer fungi, and the world's biggest Petri dish...
On 6 July, the spacecraft Soyuz MS-01 is scheduled to blast-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, headed for the International Space Station (ISS). On board, will be Dr Kate Rubins, who, along with Anatoli Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi, will be part of the 48th expedition to the ISS, due to return in November this year.
Before training with NASA, Kate worked as a microbiologist, most recently at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where she worked on emerging viruses such as the Ebola and Lassa viruses.
For this month's podcast, we caught up with Kate as she prepared for her mission, and chatted about the experiments she'll be undertaking in space, what it's like to train to be an astronaut, and whether a pipette works in microgravity...
Image credit: NASA, public domain
Podington Bear – Bountiful
Alex Fitch – Ronny
Dengue is one of the world's most devastating infectious diseases.
Around half of the entire planet's population is at risk from dengue infection, which can lead to excruciating joint pain, haemorrhaging and, eventually, death.
There is no vaccine for dengue, so current efforts to stop its spread involve trying to control the mosquito that transmits it, Aedes aegypti. But this is by no means easy – Aedes aeygpti is notoriously resilient and extremely well adapted to urban environments.
Which is why scientists in Australia are currently testing a new method of preventing dengue that could be revolutionary – using a strange group of bacteria called Wolbachia.
We spoke to Professor Scott O'Neill, leader of the Eliminate Dengue programme, to find out more.
Music: Karl Yates (Precog18 on SoundCloud)
Image credit: Penn State
In 2010, a medical case report was published about a man with inflammatory bowel disease. The man had a serious case of a condition called ulcerative colitis, and was facing the prospect of having a section of his intestine completely removed.
But remarkably, the man was able to cure himself and achieve almost complete remission – by infecting himself with parasitic worms.
This month's episode is about new research which may shed light on how a parasite can end up curing disease, rather than causing it.
Ryan Cross – Inso
Keinzweiter – Mircoobee
Asthmatic Astronaut – Body Language
Jahazzar – sketch (vlad)
Asthmatic Astronaut – UP
This week has seen the Society decamp to Liverpool for our Annual Conference 2016. It’s been a fantastic event with over 1,400 delegates in attendance and more than 300 scientific presentations and posters.
For this month’s edition of Microbe Talk, Anand and I got to speak to a few researchers about the work they were presenting at the Conference.
Up first is Dr Lucy Gilbert from the James Hutton Institute, who told Anand about her work investigating how climate change will affect tick distribution and disease risk.
Next up is an excerpt from an on-stage interview I did with Professor Philippe Sansonetti, this year’s Prize Medal winner. Philippe has had a long and distinguished career, and has published hundreds of research papers. I asked him to describe a key experiment that stood out to him throughout his work.
Finally in this month’s edition of the podcast, I spoke with Professor George Weinstock, one of the first researchers to use genomic sequencing to better understand microbial processes. We talked about the early days of modern DNA technology, and the direction that current microbiome research is taking.