More than 100 international scientists have gathered in London today to learn more about two hot topics in microbiology: Probiotics and Anaerobic Microbes1 at the annual Winter Meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology, the UK’s oldest microbiology society.
The bacterium which causes acne (Propionibacterium acnes) will be the topic of the Denver Russell Memorial Lecture, presented by Professor Peter Lambert of Aston University. As well as acne, this bacterium is responsible for a vast array of infections, yet is often ignored at diagnosis. Why are we not more aware of this versatile bug?
Probiotics can reduce the length of stomach upsets and boost the immune system:
* Probiotics can also be used to control bacterial infections which are passed from animals to humans (zoonotic bacterial pathogens). This could reduce the transmission of food-poisoning bugs such as E. coli and Salmonella to humans (Professor Roberto La Ragione, Veterinary Laboratories Agency).
* What are the safety implications of probiotics with vulnerable groups, including in-patients such as the elderly and very young? (Dr Kevin Whelan, King’s College London).
* Prebiotics will selectively feed friendly bacteria (bifidobacteria and lactobaccilli) in the colon. This is considered a health benefit, but how do these dietary supplements work? (Professor Bob Rastall, University of Reading).
* What do we know about the effects of pre- and probiotics on neonatal development? (Professor Christine Edwards, University of Glasgow).
* Dietary probiotics can decrease the duration of infections, such as the common cold, in those over the age of 65. They can also enhance the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in the older population (Ian Rowland, University of Reading).
Clostridium and other anaerobic microbes1 can be used for our benefit and our detriment - from treating cancer, to use as bioterror weapons:
* Studying clostridia species has led to advances in medicine and biotechnology. Developments range from the therapeutic use of various clostridial products to treat human disorders, including potentially cancer, to the industrial scale production of biofuels, such as ethanol and butanol (Professor Nigel Minton, University of Nottingham).
* Clostridium difficile is well known as a cause of antibiotic associated diarrhoea (AAD) but there are other species of clostridia which should not be ignored. From Clostridium tetani, the reason we are vaccinated against tetanus, to Clostridium perfringens, which can cause food poisoning and even gangrene (Professor Ian Poxton, University of Edinburgh).
The Society for Applied Microbiology Winter Meeting is taking today at the Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG.