A video podcast documentary by the American Society for Microbiology explores the microbial world and how life has evolved over Earth’s 3.8 billion-year history. Composed of over 42,000 scientists and health professionals, the mission of ASM is to advance the microbial sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide. For information about ASM, visit the society on the web at www.asm.org. For more information about the video podcast of Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth visit www.microbeworld.org.
2012 saw a surge of West Nile Virus infections, particularly in the central United States. What exactly is West Nile Virus and why do outbreaks occur?
Join us at ASM headquarters to learn more about the biology of this fascinating virus - how it moves between hosts, how the disease is diagnosed and treated, and how outbreaks can potentially be prevented.
West Nile virus was first detected in North America until 1999 when an outbreak occurred in New York City. In the next five years, West Nile virus swept across the continent, reaching the Pacific shore in 2004. Like other Flaviviruses, West Nile is an "arthropod-borne virus" or "arbovirus". Its transmission and the completion of its life cycle critically depends on the feeding activities of mosquitos, who transmit the virus as they feed on the blood of infected animals Despite the incidence of infection among humans, however, Homo sapiens are actually dead-end hosts for the West Nile virus. Indeed, birds are the primary amplifying hosts and their migratory patterns are thought to have promoted the rapid spread of the virus to new habitats.
Guest speakers include:
Dr. Lyle Petersen
Lyle R. Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., has served as the director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases since 2004. Dr. Petersen began his training at the University of California, San Diego where he received an undergraduate degree in biology. He then studied medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. After medical school, Dr. Petersen completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Stanford University, CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) applied epidemiology training program, CDC's Preventive Medicine Residency Program, and a masters of public health program at Emory University. He served in several positions at CDC before joining the Division of Vector-borne Diseases, first as Deputy Director for Science and then Director. He is the author of more than 175 scientific publications and has received a number of scientific awards. His current research focuses on the epidemiology of arboviral and bacterial vector-borne zoonoses.
Dr. Roberta DeBiasi
Roberta Lynn DeBiasi, MD, FIDSA, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine, Acting Chief and Attending Physician in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children's National Medical Center, and investigator at Children's Research Institute in the Center for Translational Science in Washington, D.C. A fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and a member of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), she is also a past recipient of IDSA's Young Investigator Award.
Dr. DeBiasi's research expertise includes basic science as well as clinical/translational research in several areas. She is currently the Principal Investigator for several clinical research projects and trials, focusing on improved treatments for viral encephalitis, influenza, neonatal herpes simplex virus, congenital cytomegalovirus, and adenovirus in normal and immunocompromised children. An active investigator in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Collaborative Antiviral Study Group, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she also performs research on community acquired pneumonia and hospital acquired infections with multiple drug resistant organisms. Her basic research focused on mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and the development of new treatments for viral myocarditis. She is the author of original research, review articles, and book chapters focusing on severe viral infections, including viral myocarditis, encephalitis, meningitis, West Nile Virus, and adenovirus in patients with compromised immune systems.
Dr. DeBiasi also treats immunocompetent and immunocompromised children hospitalized with severe infections at Children's National Medical Center in Washington.
Richard Cogdell is the Director of the Institute for Molecular Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Glasglow, Scotland.
Richard was led to a career in studying bacterial photosynthesis by a desire to learn and understand basic photosynthesis, he "wanted to know how natured worked."
In 1995, Richard's research group, in collaboration with others, used protein crystallography to determine the three dimensional structure of a light-harvesting complex from the purple bacterium, Rhodospsedomas acidophilia.
This breakthrough led to two key elements in the understanding of bacterial photosynthesis. One, once you have established the structure you can understand its function. Two, this view of a light-harvesting complex attracted an interdisciplinary group of scientists from the fields such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology.
Richard's current challenge is to take the process of photosynthesis (using solar energy to make a fuel) and apply it to the world's energy needs in a sustainable manner.
To do this, Richard says "you must break photosynthesis down to it's four most basics steps", absorb solar energy, concentrate it, break it apart and make a fuel. These are the steps that must be duplicated if they are going to be successful at creating sustainable, renewable energy.
The first two steps, says Cogdell, are like a solar battery (easy to recreate). The hard part is finding ways to use renewable energy to drive the chemistry. That's the process Richard spends most of his time working on and he uses the concept of an artificial leaf to help explain this complex process to the public.
According to Cogdell, if the current rate of investment continues, it will be approximately five to six years before we see a small pilot system that demonstrates the feasibility of the process.
Richard emphasizes that if mankind wants to survive, we must find a way to convert solar energy into fuel because when fossil fuels run out so do we.
Constructed in 2009 in the highly populated South End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) facility contains labs that operate at biosafety levels 2, 3 and 4. Due to its location the NEIDL has faced a raft of legal and regulatory hurdles that have prevented BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs from becoming functional.
“Threading the NEIDL,” is a 1-hour documentary narrated by Vincent Racaniello, PhD, Higgins Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University, which explores how the NEDIL is secured from unauthorized entry, what's like to wear a BSL-4 level safety suit, how the facility is constructed to make it safe, and how workers carry out experiments with highly dangerous viruses such as Ebola virus and Lassa virus without jeopardizing their health or that of the surrounding community.
This is a never before seen look at how one of America's state of the art biodefense research facilities operates and the security measures put in place to keep it safe, even in the heart of a major urban center.
This documentary was filmed in conjunction with the popular science podcast This Week in Virology, which is also hosted by Vincent Racaniello.
No bacterium lives alone – it is constantly encountering members of its own species as well as other kinds of bacteria and diverse organisms like viruses, fungi, plants and animals. To navigate a complex world, microbes use chemical signals to sense and communicate with one another.
Filmed live on January 28th, 2013, at ASM's headquarters, catch a glimpse into the fascinating language of bacteria with discussions by Bonnie Bassler, Princeton University, and Steven Lindow, University of California, Berkley.
Dr. Bonnie Bassler, Princeton University
Bonnie Bassler Ph.D. is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. The research in her laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms that bacteria use for intercellular communication. This process is called quorum sensing. Bassler’s research is paving the way to the development of novel therapies for combating bacteria by disrupting quorum-sensing-mediated communication. Dr. Bassler was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2002. She was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2002 and made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2004. Dr. Bassler was the President of the American Society for Microbiology in 2010-2011; she is currently the Chair of the American Academy of Microbiology Board of Governors. She is also a member of the National Science Board and was nominated to that position by President Barak Obama. The Board oversees the NSF and prioritizes the nation’s research and educational priorities in science, math and engineering.
Dr. Steven Lindow, University of California, Berkeley
Steven Lindow Ph.D. is a Professor at the University of California, Berkley where his research focuses on various aspects of the interaction of bacteria with the surface and interior of plants. Dr. Lindow’ s lab uses a variety of molecular and microscopy-based methods to study the ecology of bacterial epiphytes that live on the surface of plants as well as certain bacteria that are vascular pathogens of plants. They also study bacteria that live in and on plants that are fostered by consumption of the alkaloids produced by endophytic fungi. The longer-term goal of their research is to improve plants’ productivity by achieving control of plant diseases through altering the microbial communities in and on plants. Dr. Lindow is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and was elected to fellowship in both the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999.
In MicrobeWorld Video episode 66 Dr. Stan Maloy talks with Curtis Suttle, Professor of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Microbiology & Immunology, and Botany, and Associate Dean of Science University of British Columbia.
Dr. Suttle is one of the World's leading marine virologists, and is among a small group of researchers that is credited with launching the field of marine virology. Dr. Maloy talks with Dr. Suttle about the incredible diversity of the ocean's microscopic inhabitants that have long been overlooked.
The oceans are mostly microbial, 98% by weight, which means most of what is going on in the oceans is unseen and until recently largely unknown. Dr. Suttle explains the large role that ocean viruses play in keeping our planet alive. In fact, Dr. Suttle points out that viruses do more to create life than take it away. If you were to take the viruses out of the ocean much of the planet's life-cycle would stop, there would be no more photosynthesis. Viral replication drives the major bio-geochemical cycles on Earth.
Dr. Suttle also discusses transposons, "the world's first immune system," phage and using genomic sequencing to do ecology outside of the lab environment.
This episode was recorded at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia on February 17, 2012.