Best blog posts of 2016

Posted on December 19, 2016   by Anand Jagatia

2016 is almost coming to a close, and what a year it’s been. Bowie, Prince, Trump, Brexit… Pokemon Go. It’s been momentous to say the least. Before 2017 rolls around, it’s time again to look back at the top ten most viewed articles from the blog this year, in classic reverse order.

10. On the Horizon: Nipah virus

This year, we began a series of articles about emerging infectious diseases called On the Horizon. One of the most interesting was this story about Nipah virus, which has caused several disease outbreaks in Bangladesh and India. Getting to the bottom of what caused these outbreaks required some detective work from researchers, involving palm sap, night vision cameras, and some guilty nocturnal creatures…

9. Spotlight on Grants: The motility of Staphylococcus aureus

It was great this year to be able to showcase some of the work being done by our grant recipients. This article from Megan Davies and Dr Eric Pollitt was particularly popular – be sure to take a look at their time lapse video of ‘comet formation’ in S. aureus bacteria moving over a plate. Find the rest of our Spotlight on Grants series here.

8. An emerging fungal disease is killing snakes in the US

We first heard about this strange disease in April – and things weren’t looking good for snake populations. This fungal pathogen causes skin infections, but also has some strange effects on snake behaviour…

7. Microbe Machines: How ‘souped-up’ bacterial motors produce more torque

Pound for pound, a bacterial motor produces as much power as a turboprop aeroplane engine. Some species use these miniature machines to power their flagella – corkscrew shaped tails that let them swim through the environment. Scientists can now view the protein components of bacterial motors in unprecedented detail, and gain new insights into how they work. We spoke to researcher Morgan Beeby about how these motors produce so much torque.

6. Microbial diversity and ‘unique’ cheeses

This was far and away our most popular article from the Annual Conference. Microbiologists from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London presented a talk on traditional cheese-making with raw milk – utilising bacteria from the local environment. Yufan Chen found out more about how modern molecular microbiology is helping artisan cheesemakers to make new and delicious products.

5. Mapping the microbes in your mouth

In this article, we looked at new ways to visualise the communities of bacteria living inside the human mouth. Researchers can use this technique to produce beautiful images like the one here, but also to better understand the “biogeography” of this microbial environment, which is influenced by the physical properties of the tooth surface and concentration gradients of nutrients and oxygen.

4. These are the Champions: Sagar Aryal

The Society has a number of Champions around the world, who highlight the work we do and run their own local microbiology-related events. We caught up with one of champions from Nepal, Sagar Aryal, about his career, his research, and communicating microbiology.

3. Do hand dryers spread viruses in public bathrooms?

This post was one of my personal favourites from this year, which saw us look into research about hand dryers. Often touted as being a hygienic solution, a study from this year suggests that paper towels might be a safer bet. Some of the findings in this article are enough to make your stomach turn…

2. Vaccines: From the cowshed to the clinic

In the 1700s, smallpox was one of the world’s biggest killers, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. About a third of the survivors went blind, and most were left with horrific, disfiguring scars. But that all changed with the discovery of vaccination,  eventually leading to the elimination of smallpox.

In this feature, we explore the story of this disease, and how the work of scientists like Edward Jenner paved the way for modern public health.

1. What is Zika virus?

The outbreak of Zika has been the biggest news of the year in microbiology, so it’s no surprise that our primer on the virus was the most read article. We interviewed Derek Gatherer for this piece when the outbreak began hitting the headlines, and we also made a film with him about the spread of Zika across the globe.

We’ll be back next year with more fascinating research and cool stories from the world of microbiology. Thanks for your support in 2016, see you in 2017!