Article series

An Article Series is a special series of articles that explores a specific theme in microbiology and comprises Reviews and Perspectives that are published consecutively over a period of time.


April 2015

One of the most revolutionary advances in the biological sciences in recent years has been the realization that microbial communities occupy virtually every environment and have central roles in human health and disease, as well as in the biogeochemical processes that sustain life on our planet. Moving beyond cataloguing the species and genes that are present in these diverse environments, the microbiome field is now focusing on defining the mechanisms underpinning the interactions between microorganisms and their environment. One of the main goals is to elucidate how the composition and functions of the human microbiota influence the initiation and progression of important human diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, with a view towards improving their diagnosis and treatment. Progress in the field has been driven by multi'omic technologies, combined with new computational tools and models to interpret the vast complexity of this fascinating research area.

In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology explores the latest developments in the study of environmental and host-associated microbiomes, highlighting the tools and methods that are propelling the field forward, the novel mechanistic insights into the composition and functions of these microbial communities, and the complex interplay between the microbiota and its surroundings.

Microbial biofilms

April 2015

In most natural, clinical and industrial settings, microorganisms exist in biofilms that associate with biotic and abiotic surfaces. These three-dimensional single-species or polymicrobial communities are embedded in a self-produced matrix that enables the intercellular exchange of metabolites, genetic material and signalling molecules. In addition, these microbial consortia provide protection against predators and antimicrobial agents, and they are widely studied owing to their clinical relevance, their ubiquitous nature and the functional insights that they provide into microbial ecology. Although most natural biofilms are polymicrobial, much has been learned about the basic biology of these communities through the study of single-species biofilms using model bacteria; however, the field is currently experiencing a paradigm shift and is moving towards the study of multi-species communities in an effort to learn more about competitive and cooperative microbial behaviour.

In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology explores the fascinating insights into biofilm ecology, the molecular mechanisms and regulation of biofilm formation, and the emerging physiological properties of this universal microbial lifestyle.

Microbiology pioneers

October 2013

Nature Reviews Microbiology turned 10 in October 2013. To mark the occasion of our 10th anniversary, we have commissioned a special Essay series entitled Microbiology Pioneers. We asked leading scientists across the different disciplines within microbiology to contribute an Essay on the individual or individuals who they feel have been the pioneers in their field. Each Essay in the series will have a different slant, with some focusing purely on the science and others being more personal, but we hope that each will be a fascinating read, providing an insight into the contributions of some unsung heroes.

The image shows Escherichia coli expressing the DsRed-Express2 fluorescent protein. Image courtesy of Sanna Koskiniemi, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

New technologies: methods and applications

May 2013

The study of microbiology is undergoing a renaissance owing to the development and application of a diverse range of new technologies. A little more than a decade ago, the visualization of fundamental subcellular structures and processes was almost impossible; now, following the successful marriage of biophysics and microbiology, the number of single-molecule studies in living cells is growing at a rapid pace. Increasingly sophisticated sequencing approaches, coupled with improved analytical and computational tools, allow us to rapidly indentify pathogens, track infectious disease outbreaks and identify links between microorganisms and disease. Furthermore, innovative micro-scale engineering has facilitated the simulation of microbial environments with remarkable precision and has opened the door to understanding microbial heterogeneity at an unprecedented level of detail. In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology explores some of the most recent technological developments and their applications, highlighting the ways in which this powerful toolkit is changing the face of modern-day microbiology.

Antibiotic alternatives

February 2013

The twentieth century was without doubt 'the age of the antibiotic'; all the known major antibiotic drug classes were identified, and the widespread use of antibiotics saw a substantial decrease in mortality and morbidity from common bacterial infections. However, that age is now well and truly over; the emergence of resistance to most commonly used antibiotics and the dwindling number of new antibiotics making it through the drug discovery pipeline pose a double threat to our continued protection from bacterial pathogens. In addition to limiting the spread of resistance through more prudent use of our current arsenal, it will become increasingly important to identify new classes of antibiotics and to develop alternative antimicrobial strategies that can replace antibiotics as they become ineffective. In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology highlights a number of alternative antimicrobial approaches that are currently being developed.

Vector-borne diseases

Starting December 2012

Many of the world's most important pathogens use an arthropod vector to transmit between humans. Such vector-borne pathogens, which include Plasmodium falciparum and dengue virus, cause significant morbidity and mortality in the developing world, and many, such as West Nile virus, have recently emerged in Western countries. Because they have such distinctive lifestyles, studying the pathogens alone is not sufficient to devise treatments and preventative strategies; additional factors, such as the biology of the vector itself and the ways in which it is affected by variables such as geography and climate, must also be considered.

In this article series, Nature Reviews Microbiology highlights the distinct features of a range of vector-borne pathogens and the diseases they cause, as well as how the host responds to these infections.

Applied and Industrial Microbiology

Starting July 2010

Fermentation processes used in the ancient world to make wine and bread demonstrate how applied microbiology is intertwined with human history. In the modern era, the potential applications for microorganisms and their products are vast and include the generation of high-value products such as drugs, chemicals, fuels and even electricity. Furthermore, recent advances in systems biology and synthetic biology now make it possible to engineer desirable characteristics in a microorganism, allowing them to be tailored to a specific task. In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology explores the latest developments in the field of applied and industrial microbiology.

Systems Microbiology

Starting July 2008

Systems microbiology aims to integrate basic biological information with genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, glycomics, proteomics and other data to create an integrated model of how a microbial cell or community functions. Microorganisms are ideal for systems biology studies because they are easy to manipulate and have crucial roles in the biosphere and human health. This series examines some of the latest developments in this fast-moving field.

Food Microbiology

Starting February 2004

An abundant and safe food supply is the minimum expectation from our agricultural industry. Fulfilling this demand is a complex process involving plant cultivation, soil and water management, animal husbandry, harvesting, processing, storage and transport. The impact of microorganisms permeate every stage of this process — both positively and negatively — and understanding their role will be crucial to sustaining and improving food production, quality and safety. In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology explores the latest developments in the field of food microbiology.

Tropical Infectious Diseases

Starting November 2003

Infectious diseases kill more than 14 million people each year, 90% of whom live in the developing world. In this series of articles we focus on the biology of infectious diseases that disproportionally affect poor and marginalized populations. This series will also examine the strategies being developed to contain and, ultimately, eradicate these diseases. The 'Tropical Infectious Disease' article series has been developed in collaboration with the WHO/TDR.


Starting October 2003

When antibiotics were first introduced into widespread clinical use in the 1950s, it was generally believed that bacterial diseases no longer constituted a public health threat. With the emergence of new infectious diseases, the re-emergence of old diseases, and the rise of antibiotic resistance, this early optimism has long since eroded. In this series of articles, we explore important issues relevant to the development and use of anti-infectives, including discussions on new approaches to regain the upper hand over infectious diseases.


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