Who is the father of microbiology?

Answered Dec 12, 2017

Here’s another vote for:

Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek

He was an old-style scientist, who had a day-job, and just studied things because he was curious. If I am ever visiting an area where his original microscopes are on display, I will make a priority to check it out.

Other milestone-type people:

John Snow, who identified a public water pump in London as the source of a cholera outbreak, in 1854.

Robert Koch.

Louis Pasteur.

Alexander Fleming.

Does microbiology include chemistry?

Answered Dec 12, 2017

Don’t worry too much, but, yes, you need to take some chemistry.

After all, microbes (and people) are basically bags of chemicals getting into structures, and having some reactions.

Everything is made out of chemicals.

You don’t need to know anywhere near as much as someone who is actually majoring in chemistry.

I took significantly more chemistry and biochemistry than was required, and still survived (just barely in couple of cases).

What is the future of microbiology?

Answered Dec 12, 2017

Continued work on drug discovery in the long-standing “arms race” with antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is the potentially the largest public health issue in modern history, and in the coming decades. A related concern is finding more ways to get drugs into Gram-negative species.

The worst-case scenario is (no-joke, no-exaggeration) a replay of the medieval plagues, when more then half the population of Europe died. There is actually a real risk that humanity could be brought to its collective knees again. We could be exterminated within a few hundred years. But don’t worry – the microbes will continue to thrive just nicely, on their planet.

CRISPR / Cas9 originated as an immune system that bacteria use to defend themselves from bacteriophages, but may be a viable tool for gene-editing in humans. This has the potential for major ethical and legal implications. Do you have enough money to buy a better genome (for you or your child)?

Phage therapy to treat infections. Lots of technical problems, and not likely for prophylactic use.

Microbiomes, for humans and also other animals. Right across the road from me, people are working on trying to get cows to stop belching so much methane (which is generated by microbes in the cows’ gut).

Pharming, which is using microbes to produce drugs. This is where antibiotics were originally discovered (although that was by accident). Synthetic insulin is already manufactured using microbes, and there will be more drugs in the future, including both peptides and small molecules.

Bioremediation, for things like oil spills. Also, there are microbes that are able to eat a certain kind of plastic.

Plant diseases. This has very large economic implications for agriculture, and human implications involving famines.

Synthetic biology. Some of this is cool, like, “what is the simplest organism that we can make, and it will still be able to survive?” However, there are issues involving efforts to legally patent life forms, along with other ethical and economic risks.

If life is ever found on another planet or moon, it will be a microbe.

Biological weapons. Unfortunately, science isn’t always nice or helpful.

What are the best books on microbiology?

Answered Dec 12, 2017

I’ll add another vote for:

Brock Biology of Microorganisms by Madigan and Martinko

It’s a very good general textbook, and is usually the first place I look for a basic overview of something. I used it all the way through university undergrad.

Other related recommendations:

Biology by Campbell (a different one, not me!)

Biochemistry by Voet and Voet

Chemistry by Blackman

Chemistry by Silberberg

Immunology by Kuby

Medical Microbiology by Murray

Molecular Biology by Weaver

Molecular Cell Biology by Lodish

In microbiology, what is a zone of clearing?

Answered Dec 12, 2017

First, you start with a plate (a petri dish), that has agar with nutrients (food) for bacteria.

Then, you inoculate it with some bacteria. These grow and cover the plate,

Then, you add something, such as a little paper disc that has an antibiotic on it.

Then, the antibiotic diffuses into the media around it.

Then, that antibiotic kills the bacteria around the disc. You can see this by looking. There will be a clear-looking circle around the disc.

This is a way to compare different concentrations of antibiotic, or different antibiotic molecules. You can measure with a ruler or calipers.

If you put a higher concentration of the antibiotic, then the cleared area on the plate will be larger.

What can you use for bacterial selection other than antibiotic resistance?

Answered Dec 11, 2017

It depends on what you mean by “selection”.

Some other commentators are talking about selection to distinguish different species. This is often done by plating your culture onto “selective media” containing ingredients which favour the growth of certain bacteria but not others. Also, there is “differential media” which may turn different colours depending on what is growing.

However, you mention using antibiotic resistance for selection.

That sounds like you are transforming plasmid vectors into the bacteria, and want to select only those where this was successful.

In that situation, the plasmid vector may contain the AmpR gene to resist ampicillin. So, bacteria that were successfully transformed (now have the plasmid) can survive on an ampicillin plate, while everybody else dies. (There are variations using other antibiotics).

A more specific method is “blue-white screening”. This is especially useful if you have spliced a new insert sequence into the plasmid.

The end result will be colour-coded colonies, so you can see which ones have the recombinant plasmid (with your insert).

The catch is that, this screening must be done only after you have already used antibiotic selection (otherwise you would be overloaded with false-positive white colonies).

Some people are working on totally antibiotic-free alternatives, but they are new, complicated, and probably expensive.

Introduction to Blue-White Screening

Plasmids 101: Blue-white Screening

5 Ways To Screen Recombinant Clones

New Generation of Plasmid Backbones Devoid of Antibiotic Resistance Marker for Gene Therapy Trials

Antibiotic-Free Selection in Biotherapeutics: Now and Forever

What if there was a human-sized bacteriophage virus in the same room as me?

Updated Dec 12, 2017

If it was just you and the giant bacteriophage, it couldn’t hurt you, but it would look really cool.

If you wanted to see it actually work, you would also need to find a bacterium the size of a fairly large house.

To show the relative sizes, here is an E. coli being attacked by some T4 phages:

Bacteriophage Ecology and Plants

That would be extremely cool.

If you manage to actually find one or both giant versions, please let me know, so I can come over and watch, too.

I’ll bring a notebook, and write some stuff, because that is the difference between just goofing around, versus doing legit science.

Why is phage (viruses) therapy not used in the western world and it’s just been used in Russia and Poland, even if Bacteria has shown less resistance than antibiotics?

Answered Dec 10, 2017

A few possibilities come to mind.

There was poor communication and poor cooperation between western countries and communist countries.

Western governments and pharmaceutical companies did not yet foresee how serious the antibiotic resistance issue would eventually become.

There may be issues of cost for government funded research.

Pharmaceutical companies (which spend vast sums of money on drug development) may be concerned about whether they could obtain a legal patent based on phages. Patents are used so that a particular company can be the sole supplier of a drug, enabling them to set the price very high (thus recouping development costs plus turning a profit).

There may be issues about delivering the phage during treatment, which are more difficult than just swallowing an antibiotic pill.

There may be a, “that’s too weird” type of feeling in people making decisions, including suspicion towards deliberately putting a virus into a patient (even though phages really can only infect bacterial cells).