Battling antimicrobial resistance at ASM Microbe 2017

BMC Microbiology recently attended ASM Microbe 2017, held by the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, USA. This annual meeting attracted almost 12,000 attendees from 104 countries and offered more than 500 sessions spanning the whole spectrum of microbiology! Below we offer a mere glimpse into the meeting’s highlights.

ASM Microbe 2017 kicked off with an exciting opening session featuring Julie Theriot, Lalita Ramakrishnan, and ASM Microbe Lecturer, Nick Lane, who were engaging and thought-provoking! It was a great chance to learn more about how the physical and the mechanical properties of bacteria can impact their behaviour (link), about how the zebrafish model can be used to study tuberculosis pathogenesis (link) and about the distinctions between the three domains of life: bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes, from a bioenergetics basis (link).

AMR, AMR… oh and AMR

The single most central theme on ASM Microbe 2017 was antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – and rightly so. This was evident first from the address by ASM President Susan Sharp, who spoke about the urgency for a global “one health” solution on AMR. She discussed her representation of ASM at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly focused on AMR, where world leaders expressed concerns ranging from the basic needs of clean water and sanitation, access to effective antibiotics in lower income nations, to overutilization and misutilization of antibiotics in developed countries. ASM has established a multi-stakeholder initiative convening key experts to share and analyse the current status of AMR. We look forward to seeing how this unfolds in the medium term.

However the address on AMR did not end there. A session with the theme “Global response to antimicrobial resistance: can humans win this war?” offered further insight into the dissemination and control of AMR. Teresa Coque from the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital gave a thorough talk on the environmental dimension of AMR. She spoke about antimicrobial use, the absence of official legislation, about how the farm can affect hospitals and about the factors that influence antibiotic effects. Michihico Goto from the University of Iowa presented a high level strategy on how to control transmission of AMR in humans. Naturally, the talk focused heavily on hand hygiene and environmental/hospital cleanliness and really made us wonder: “how clean is clean enough?”. Finally, we attended a fantastic talk on positive stewardship interventions to reverse AMR and hospital acquired infections (HAIs) by Ian Gould from the University of Aberdeen. His talk ended with him presenting an interesting re-make of the song ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ by Bob Dylan. Jump to the end of this blog to read the lyrics!

BMC Microbiology recognises the trend on AMR and plans to respond soon with a new special issue on a very relevant and important topic – stay tuned!

A keynote address… out of this world!

NASA astronaut and virologist Dr. Kate Rubins delivered an inspiring keynote address about her journey through space. Her story about how it all started never seizes to amaze:

“I was procrastinating while applying for a grant when one of my friends found a federal government job posting for astronaut applications and encouraged me to apply for fun.”

She ended up being selected by NASA in 2009 between 18,000 applications. She then participated on an intense three year training course, which involved survival training in water and land, flying a T-38 supersonic fighter jet trainer (!), as well as learning how to do a spacewalk. Dr. Rubins completed her first spaceflight on Expedition 48/49, where she became the first person to sequence DNA in space. She spent 115 days in space and conducted two spacewalks.


Her stories about her time sequencing DNA at the International Space Station in the absence of gravity, paired with her knowledge on real-time data analysis, the importance of microbial environments in orbit, and emerging technologies, was a fascinating look into the power of the microbial sciences.

Dr. Rubins also spoke about the international nature of the team of astronauts and cosmonauts with which she spent countless hours training and working tirelessly as a unit, before and during their space trip. She sent a clear message against discrimination and she promoted unity, values that should rightly be elevated, especially in our times. It was very well received.

You can find some photos of her time in space here.

Great turnout at our Springer Nature exhibition booths!

2017 marks the first year where Nature, BioMed Central and Springer joined forces in ASM Microbe and exhibited together as Springer Nature; and this was very well received! We were delighted to interact with authors from all over the world and across disciplines, with funders and with government officials.

We wish we had brought more copies of BMC Microbiology’s latest review by Section Editor Prof. Raffaele Zarrilli and Associate Editor Dr. Asad Khan on the New Delhi Metallo-β-lactamase and of Microbiome’s article by Section Editor Prof. Marco Ventura and Associate Editors Dr. Christian Milani and Dr. Francesca Turroni on the ancient bacteria of the Ötzi’s microbiome.

We were excited to experience first-hand the impact that Open Access is having on the publishing industry. BMC Microbiology strives to fulfil BioMed Central’s values by being open and inclusive and it motivates us to see that the research community is endorsing our efforts.

The Springer Nature team and BMC Microbiology can’t wait for ASM Microbe 2018 in Atlanta!


‘Knocking on the pharmacist’s door’

Nebot and Lawes (21/01/2016), presented by Ian Gould at ASM Microbe 2017.


“Mama, take the old cephalosporins off me

‘Cause I can’t use them anymore

There’s ESBL in every pee

Colonizing every corridor


Knock, knock, knocking on the pharmacist’s door

Knocking on the microbiologist’s door

Knocking the infectious disease specialist’s door

Infection prevention and control team door


Mama, put the quinolones in the ground

‘Cause they’re not useful anymore

SAPG is coming down

Lock the carbapenems in the store


Mama, take clindamycin off me

And take the co-amoxiclav too

‘Cause there is C diff everywhere I see

And MRSA is nothing new


Mama, put the macrolides in the ground

It’s a viral illness anyway

You know your judgement is really sound

So send you patients on their way


Mama, take ciprofloxacin off of me

‘Cause it is always over-kill

Not much from GSK or Eli-Lilly

If we can’t save them, then no-one will”


Related blogs:

Our human destiny in the post-antibiotic era

Assessing real-time Zika risk in the United States

Will my children survive antimicrobial resistance?

Looking for the needle in a haystack – or how to find mycobacterial DNA in animal tissue samples

View the latest posts on the BMC Series blog homepage