Microbes and the Bioeconomy: Greasing the Gears of Sustainability

Microbes and the Bioeconomy: Greasing the Gears of Sustainability

Microbes have long greased the gears of the bioeconomy. But the story of how microbiology drives vital processes that support the bioeconomy often goes untold. The Spring 2024 issue of Microcosm takes an in-depth look at the critical role of microbes in creating sustainable fuel alternatives, remediating wastewater, fighting foodborne pathogens and beyond.

Bioeconomy 101: Making Microbial Connections

What is the bioeconomy? What is the relationship between microbiology and the bioeconomy? And why is the bioeconomy relevant to One Health? We aim to answer these questions.

How the Bioeconomy Sustains People and the Planet 

Does money really make the world go round, or is it the microbes that are responsible for some of the most fundamental processes in human and environmental health? Where do they fit in the economy?

Fueling the Future: How Microbes Will Power the Bioeconomy 

The world runs on chemicals, many of which are unsustainable and environmentally destructive. To generate alternatives, scientists are harnessing (and engineering) microbial metabolism.

A Call for Microbiologists to Influence Bioeconomy Policy

As we gain awareness of bio-based technologies and products, it is incumbent upon microbiologists to define the bioeconomy, influence policies and communicate the fundamental role of microbes.

Fighting Foodborne Pathogens With Natural Antimicrobials

Foodborne illness is a serious public health concern. Natural antimicrobials from plants (essential oils) and bacteria (bacteriocins) can help ward off foodborne pathogens and spoilage microbes.

Ruminant Methanogens as a Climate Change Target

The feed additive 3-nitrooxypropanol targets a key methanogenesis enzyme to reduce methane emissions from cattle. Methanogen diversity and feed management pose challenges for sustained mitigation.

How Microbes Help Us Reclaim Our Wastewater

If it weren't for microbes, we would be swimming in our own sewage. In fact, microbial digestion underlies the bulk of modern wastewater management.

Boosting Bee Health With Probiotics and Vaccines

From probiotics to prevent deformed wing virus to the first honeybee vaccine to treat American foulbrood, research and conservation efforts pertaining to bee health are all the buzz.

What’s That Smell? The Role of Microbes in the Scented World

Microbes are adept at creating non-native flavors and scents that are utilized in the industrial production of scent and flavor compounds for food and cosmetic enhancement.

Are Bacteria the Next Big Thing in Fashion?

Producing clothes is a resource-intensive process. How can the fashion industry advance toward a sustainable (yet still fashionable) future? Bacterial cellulose could be just the thing.

Read more groundbreaking research and cutting-edge scientific articles in previous issues of Microcosm, ASM's flagship, members-only magazine. Microcosm is available in digital format and as downloadable PDFs.

Read Previous Microcosm Issues

Explore the latest groundbreaking research in the microbial sciences, stay up to date with what's happening at ASM and read cutting-edge scientific articles in Microcosm, ASM's flagship, members-only magazine.

Managing Editor

Aleea Khan

Production Editor

Leah Potter, M.S.


Madeline Barron, Ph.D.

Mary Ann Bruns, Ph.D.

Amalia Corby, M.S.

Vilhelmiina Haavisto

Ashley Hagen, M.S.

Kanika Khanna, Ph.D.

Brian Lovett, Ph.D.

Elise Phillips, Ph.D.

Leah Potter, M.S.

Emily Ready


Virginia L. Miller, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Theresa M. Koehler, Ph.D.
McGovern Medical School, University of Texas


Robin Patel, M.D.
Mayo Clinic


Victor DiRita, Ph.D.
Michigan State University


Stefano Bertuzzi, Ph.D.