News & Comment

  • News & Views |

    Geographic mapping of pathogen emergence risk, as recently done for viral haemorrhagic fever in Africa, provides an important tool for targeting interventions. More comprehensive preparedness and prediction systems that increase surveillance and forecast infectious disease outbreak growth and spread in real time are also needed.

    • Jeffrey Shaman
  • News & Views |

    CRISPR immunity begins with the acquisition of sequences from invading nucleic acids through spacer integration into a CRISPR locus. Off-target integration of spacers into other parts of the genome is now implicated as a spontaneous source of new CRISPR loci.

    • Alireza Edraki
    •  & Erik J. Sontheimer
  • Comment |

    Antimicrobial resistance is one of the great challenges for twenty-first century healthcare. While new therapeutics are undoubtedly required, there are major challenges in rapidly identifying resistant infections and tailoring therapy accordingly; and in how we deploy antimicrobials with suppression of resistance in mind.

    • Gavin Barlow
  • News & Views |

    Effective treatment and eradication of tuberculosis requires highly sensitive and specific, easy-to-use detection methods. New advances in molecular tools and technology are driving improved tuberculosis diagnostics, including ways to rapidly identify highly drug-resistant infections.

    • Eric J. Rubin
  • News & Views |

    An alternative nitrogenase enzyme that only utilizes iron as its cofactor is shown to reduce carbon dioxide while actively fixing dinitrogen, so that it simultaneously produces ammonium, hydrogen and methane.

    • Oliver Einsle
  • Editorial |

    Fittingly for a bacterium whose slow growth rate has frustrated researchers for decades, progress towards ending the TB epidemic has built only at a snail’s pace. 2018 should see a much needed stimulus, with increased political awareness of the scale of the problems faced, and the adoption of a coordinated global response.

  • News & Views |

    Detailed biochemical, structural and growth studies reveal how Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron coordinates a complex enzymatic response to deconstruct pectins — complex dietary components that comprise a tremendous diversity of monosaccharide units and glycosidic linkage combinations.

    • Roderick I. Mackie
    •  & Isaac Cann
  • News & Views |

    APOBEC3G is an antiviral protein that has long been known to inhibit retrovirus replication by hypermutating viral DNA. An additional mechanism is now identified, in which APOBEC3G binds to the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, inhibiting viral DNA synthesis.

    • Paul D. Bieniasz
  • Editorial |

    By sparking imagination and interest during childhood, and by finding and supporting champions to nurture microbial fascination through to adulthood, the fundamental importance of microorganisms can attain a justified and necessary place in the public psyche, but more on-screen time will be needed.

  • News & Views |

    In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation of the role metabolism plays in controlling nearly all aspects of cellular function. Three recent articles explore how host metabolic cues influence different aspects of Plasmodium biology during infection, including parasite growth and sexual differentiation.

    • Kim C. Williamson
    • , Rodney L. Levine
    •  & Louis H. Miller
  • News & Views |

    Functional and structural studies highlight the remarkable evolution and features of the typhoid toxin from Salmonella Typhi. This reveals that attachment of the toxin to specific N-glycan chains accounts for its tropism for selected human tissues.

    • Sandrine Bourdoulous
    •  & Emmanuel Lemichez
  • News & Views |

    The mechanisms involved in controlling Candida albicans at mucosal sites are not fully understood. Recent work identifies the EphA2 on epithelial cells as a fungal β-glucan receptor that is critical for mediating protective immunity during oral candidiasis.

    • Ivy M. Dambuza
    •  & Gordon D. Brown
  • Editorial |

    Despite regular claims to the contrary, our peer review systems are not fundamentally broken, but they do suffer from stresses and strains that require journals to undertake ongoing maintenance, by trialling and adopting new practices while ensuring continued rigor.

  • News & Views |

    Bacterial biofilms fabricate an extracellular amyloid fibre network that intimately links cells together and inhibits the ability of bacteriophages to penetrate the biofilm.

    • Janet E. Price
    •  & Matthew R. Chapman
  • News & Views |

    The development of tools to accelerate identification of causal microorganisms is crucial, and advances in microbial culture, bioinformatics and animal experimentation are currently driving these discoveries.

    • Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck
  • News & Views |

    Recent work finds that reactive oxygen species are generated in cells starved for the nucleobase thymine and contribute to DNA-destructive “thymineless death” mechanisms, which underlie the activities of many drugs, including trimethoprim and sulfa-based antibiotics. Such mechanisms may also apply to cells across the tree of life.

    • Philip J. Hastings
    •  & Susan M. Rosenberg
  • News & Views |

    The incorporation of additional gene circuits into hosts can often lead to unpredicted and undesirable behaviours. Recent work has developed a modelling framework that accounts for host–circuit interactions and can predict a variety of phenotypes at both single-cell and population levels.

    • Sandra J. Aedo
    • , Grant Gelderman
    •  & Mark P. Brynildsen
  • Editorial |

    Increasing research on microbial communities has resulted in massive amounts of data being generated and shared, yet data accessibility, accuracy and thoroughness remain problematic and can be a substantial obstacle for scientists looking to explore existing datasets.

  • Comment |

    The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Richard Henderson and Joachim Frank for the development of cryo-electron microscopy, a technique for high-resolution structural determination of biomolecules in solution that has provided unprecedented insight into the biology of microorganisms.

    • Catherine M. Oikonomou
    •  & Grant J. Jensen
  • News & Views |

    The use of levulinic acid in bioconversion strategies has been limited by the lack of information on the pathways used by microorganisms to degrade it. Now, functional genomics reveals the essential steps for utilization of levulinic acid in Pseudomonas putida.

    • Kristina Haslinger
    •  & Kristala L. J. Prather
  • News & Views |

    The Uncultivated Bacteria and Archaea dataset is a foundational collection of 7,903 genomes from uncultivated microorganisms. It highlights how microbial diversity is readily recovered using current tools and existing metagenomic datasets to help piece together the tree of life.

    • Lindsey M. Solden
    •  & Kelly C. Wrighton
  • Editorial |

    An increased focus on identifying disease hotspots and pre-emptive intervention will be key to halting outbreaks before they become established, but political and economic obstacles cannot be ignored if ambitious new targets to reduce global cholera mortality tenfold are to be achieved.