Best of the blog 2014

Posted on December 23, 2014   by Benjamin Thompson

It’s almost time for us to say goodbye to 2014 and wave a big hello to 2015. Before we do, it seems like the right moment to reflect on the amazing year we’ve had here on Microbe Post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the articles and listening to the podcasts and are as excited as we are for next year – it’s going to be a big one for us!

© DrawnKeeper/Thinkstock

Before we disappear off for our Christmas holidays, I thought I’d round up the ten most popular new blog posts we had this year, based upon their page views.

So, in classic reverse order:

10. A mind-altering microbe?

This post, taken from the series we wrote for our Annual Conference, saw Ruth Paget interview Professor Joanne Webster, from Imperial College London. Professor Webster explained how Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite commonly found in cats, might have an important role in human behavioural change and mental illness.

9. Funders focus on lack of microbiology skills

In March, UK research leaders – including Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, and Professor Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust – presented evidence to Parliamentarians and civil servants during the House of Commons Select Committee hearing on antimicrobial resistance. We went along to hear what they had to say.

8. Opinion: The Longitude Prize and antibiotic research funding

The Longitude prize is now open, offering a prize of £10 million to anyone who can develop a rapid diagnostic kit that will help clinicians distinguish between bacterial and viral infections. Our Chief Executive, Dr Peter Cotgreave, gave us his thoughts on the prize shortly after it was announced.

7. 86th Anniversary of Fleming’s Discovery of Penicillin, the first antibiotic

An 86th anniversary is a bit of an odd one to mark, but we love Sir Alexander and his discovery of penicillin is simply too important not to remind people about. Jon Fuhrmann told us some more about the man and the history of the first antibiotic.

6. Chief Medical Officer names new programmes for antimicrobial research

Another story from the House of Commons Select Committee hearing on antimicrobial resistance saw us report the announcement of two new government programmes intended to coordinate antimicrobial research by Professor Dame Sally Davies – the Government’s Chief Medical Officer.

5. Nitrososphaera viennensis: a new species, genus, family, order and class of soil-dwelling archaea

In August, we reported on the discovery a new species of archaea, isolated from garden soil in Vienna. Not only is Nitrososphaera viennensis a new species, it is also the first member of the new genus Nitrososphaera.

4. Cold comfort

Winter ‘tis the season when many of us will experience the ‘joys’ of a rotten cold. During our Annual Conference, I spoke to Professor Ron Eccles from Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre, to find out how the common cold causes our body to do some seriously weird things. Ever wondered why your nostrils block up one at time during a cold? Wonder no longer…

3. The microbial mystery at the Hungarian power plant

This is probably my favourite blog title of the year. Staff at a Hungarian power plant were confused as to what was contaminating the plant’s ultrapure water purification system. After eliminating the possibility of physical and chemical contaminants, the staff turned to Dr Erika Tóth, of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, who, along with her colleagues, isolated three new species of bacteria, living in the water.

2. Learning more about the Chikungunya virus

Chikungunya is a strange virus whose name means “that which bends up” in the language of the Makonde people of Tanzania and Malawi. Chikungunya is transmitted by the tiger mosquito and has seen several large-scale outbreaks in the Caribbean this year. We found out about the disease and the research that is going on to better understand it.

1. Ebola in West Africa

It can come as no surprise that our story about Ebola, written earlier in the outbreak, is the most read of 2014. We spoke to Dr Derek Gatherer, a bioinformaticist at Lancaster University who documented the data from the first six months of the outbreak. In the article, we also explained what the Ebola virus is, and about efforts to control the virus.

A huge thank you from all of us here at the Society for General Microbiology for reading our posts. We’ve already got lots of great ones planned for next year, so join us back here then! In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast (you can do it on iTunes, Soundcloud or Stitcher) and follow us on Twitter.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!