Best of ASM Articles 2019

Dec. 16, 2019

Each week, features new articles that cover all aspects of the microbial sciences. Here are some of our most popular articles from 2019. Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments—or tell us which was your favorite!
The Frozen Potential of Microbial Collections
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-32-03-PM.pngWhy do we collect? Collections are based on a conviction that, even beyond a human lifetime, they will provide value to the next generation. This is especially true when an entire field of science bands together to amass organisms of interest for posterity. Brian Lovett discusses what microbial collections are, how they are maintained, and what their role is to the greater scientific community.
Microbiomes: An Origin Story
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-07-16-PM.pngA popular assumption is that Nobel Laureate and Microbiologist, Joshua Lederberg, first coined the term “microbiome” in 2001 but Janet Goins, Ph.D., demonstrates that the term had been published years earlier. Microbial ecologists have encouraged the study of microbial interactions in their natural environment since the time of Sergei Winogradsky, one of the first to build natural environment culturing devices. Goins explains Winogradsky’s work, its inspiration for the Winogradsky column, and how the history of microbiome research continues to influence today’s scientists.
The 7 Viruses That Cause Human Cancers
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-35-03-PM.pngCompared to other viruses, human tumor viruses are unusual because they infect, but do not kill, their host cells. Viruses can lead to cancer by a number of mechanisms; human tumor viruses account for an estimated 12% to 20% of cancers worldwide. Jennifer Brubaker, M.S., summarizes the seven known oncogenic viruses, and the major cancers associated with each.
Snow Is Coming – What’s That Have to Do with Microbes?
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-37-41-PM.pngDo bacteria help form clouds? How would a scientific team demonstrate this? How long would this take? Jennifer Tsang, Ph.D., tells the story of David Sands’ decades-long research on Pseudomonas syingae in cloud and precipitation formation, and the ice-nucleating protein whose mechanism wasn’t discovered until 20 years later.
Paleomicrobiology and Microbial Ancient DNA Get to the Root of Disease Mysteries
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-37-49-PM.pngPaleomicrobiology is a fascinating branch of science borne from multiple disciplines including microbiology, anthropology, history, paleontology, and archaeology. The field relies heavily on the analysis of microbial ancient DNA to diagnose past infectious diseases and analyze the virulence, evolution, and lifestyles of ancient pathogens. Ashley Hagen, M.S., explains what ancient DNA is, where it is found, and some of the mysteries microbial ancient DNA has helped solve.
C. diff Diagnosis versus Detection: Why Tests Remain Ambiguous
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-38-07-PM.pngThere is significant confusion regarding clinical interpretation and the distinction between colonization and true infection with Clostridioides difficile. This confusion results from the multitude of tests available for C. difficile diagnosis. Rose Lee, M.D., expertly breaks down the diagnostic strategies and limitations of toxin detection, culture, glutamate dehydrogenase detection, nucleic acid amplification tests, and algorithm-based multistep testing for C. difficile infection. 
Who Are the HACEK Organisms?
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-38-19-PM.pngAlthough most notable for causing infective endocarditis, the HACEK organisms (Haemophilus, Aggregatibacter, Cardiobacterium, Eikenella, and Kingella) are significant causes of other diseases including periodontitis, abscesses, and septic arthritis. All HACEK members are fastidious Gram-negative bacteria that comprise commensal organisms of the human oropharynx. K.P. Smith, Ph.D., provides the historical significance and modern diagnostic techniques used for these difficult-to-identify organisms.
Notorious C.R.E.: Promising Mass Spectrometry Diagnostics for Detecting Antimicrobial Resistance
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) has revolutionized clinical microbiology diagnostics with its ability to identify microbial organisms in a matter of seconds. Lisa Leung, Ph.D., summarizes the current state of MALDI-TOF research for detecting antibiotic resistance as well as organism ID, plus what the future holds for this technology.
Poop, Pus and Positive Results: Cultural Oddities from the Clinical Microbiology Lab
Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-4-38-34-PM.pngWhile clinical microbiologists can laugh about the unusual things that occur during specimen collection or result interpretation, the proper execution of both components of the diagnostic process is critical to quality patient care. It is the job of a clinical microbiologist to ensure they happen correctly. Andrea Prinzi, SM(ASCP), MPH, CPH, shares humorous (and sometimes horrific) stories of unusual sampling protocols with educational tips to apply to the next time these situations arise.
Measles Vaccination and Infection: Questions and Misconceptions
The recent measles outbreaks in the United States are different from those that occurred regularly in the pre-vaccine area, because they are happening within a highly-vaccinated population. This results in potential confusion for the public and in complications for physicians, epidemiologists, and clinical microbiology labs working to identify infected patients and to track and control the outbreak. Thea Brennan-Krohn, M.D., D(ABMM), explores some common sources of confusion and misconceptions about the current measles outbreak in the United States and similar epidemics in populations where most people have been vaccinated.
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Author: Julie Wolf, Ph.D.

Julie Wolf, Ph.D.
Dr. Julie Wolf is in science communications at Indie Bio, and is a former ASM employee.