Our most downloaded articles from 2020

Posted on December 4, 2020   by Laura Cox

In this blog, we will look back at the some of the most popular research published in the Microbiology Society’s journals this year.


In our flagship journal Microbiology, popular articles included an interesting pedagogic project and a review of the 2019 advances in actinomycete research. Jeffery Errington and Lizah T van der Aart reflect on the history and applications of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. An undergraduate biology class published a research article exploring the gut microbiome and its role in health. The class of 94 students examined the reciprocal relationships between the host and microbiome. ActinoBase is a community resource developed by actinomycete researchers to share knowledge, research findings and techniques. In June, a research group reviewed the most discussed topics on ActinoBase in 2019 and discussed the value of this resource.

As expected, much of the most popular research published in the Journal of General Virology this year focused on SARS-CoV-2. The most downloaded article in any of the Microbiology Society’s journals this year was a review into the human immune response to coronaviruses by Professor Wendy Barclay and Professor Paul Kellam. Another article on SARS-CoV-2, published in June, discussed how the virus behaved when cultured in Vero E6 cells – an important cell culture model used to study viruses. Researchers also reported their finding that curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, has antiviral properties.

Microbial Genomics included articles on a variety of topics ranging from new software to predicting antimicrobial resistance.  An international collaboration explored using bioinformatics to predict whether bacterial isolates are resistant to antibiotics. Researchers in the UK developed a software named Coinfinder. This computer programme allows researchers to identify gene patterns to understand which genes associate with or avoid one another. A popular review article discussed the different ways whole genome sequencing is used to study microbial diversity and evolution. The authors compare different approaches and applications of metagenomics and the current challenges in the field.

Our newest journal, Access Microbiology, has continued to be a great success in 2020. A popular case report in the journal reported a case of sepsis caused by probiotics; a scenario which the authors described as good bacteria behaving badly. In February, an article comparing the methods used to identify the deadly bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae in Sudan was published. The article assessed the accuracy of conventional, biochemical and genotypic tests, and what this could mean for disease reporting in the country. Meanwhile, another article also involved the comparison of different scientific methods to avoid the use of a cancer-causing chemical. Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire assessed a new, safer technique to stain arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which are common symbionts of crop plants.

Like JGV, the Journal of Medical Microbiology had a lot of popular articles discussing SARS-CoV-2 this year. Dr Tim Inglis’ editorial Logic in the time of coronavirus – which launched the popular Coronastream blog series – provided an overview of how scientists can help navigate a way out of the pandemic. In May, a research group based at Florida International University used computer modelling to identify target sites for antiviral drugs against SARS-CoV-2. They then compared the shape and structure of these target sites with current medicines, to see whether any known drugs might be effective in treating COVID-19. Another article in the journal discussed a 20-minute test for COVID-19 diagnosis. The findings showed the rapid molecular test called N1-STOP-LAMP, was able to diagnose samples containing SARS-CoV-2 at high loads.

The International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) published a list of prokaryotic Candidatus taxa, which are the bacteria which have been characterised but not yet cultured; a resource that proved extremely popular amongst the taxonomy community. In another article in IJSEM, researchers re-classified many probiotic bacteria from the genus formerly known as Lactobacillus into 23 new genera. And, in February, Sudip Patel and Radhey Gupta published an article discussing the evolutionary development of the bacterial genus Bacillus. Their investigation into Bacillus’ history led to them proposing six new genera of bacteria.

Thank you to everyone that has contributed to our journals in 2020, whether by submitting their research, being on an Editorial Board or peer reviewing articles.
Remember, all journals income is invested back into the Society be it through funding grants, scientific meetings or helping to fund our policy activities. Learn more about our journals or submit a paper on the website