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18 March 2013

978 0 41560 770 4
Taylor & Francis
GBP 20.00

BIOS Instant Notes in Microbiology (4th edn)

Simon Baker, Caroline Griffiths and Jane Nicklin

Quite a long time ago, it is believed that a single progenitor cell evolved into three distinct lineages which today are categorized as the Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya. This defining categorization is based on the absence of a nucleus in Bacteria and Archaea and the presence of one in Eukarya. This latter group includes not only microbial fungi, chlorophyta and protists, but also macro-organisms such as higher plants and animals. The remaining Bacteria and Archaea are classified as prokaryotes and, while being distinctly annucleate, they differ in several other respects: surviving by cytoplasmic substrate-level phosphorylation and oxidative phosphorylation across cell membranes. Typically, Eukarya will employ the mitochondria and chloroplasts for this energy generation. With basic definitions in place, BIOS Instant Notes in Microbiology lays down the foundations of an in-depth revision of microbiology.

As is the case with a revision compendium, basic tenets are introduced first. In laboratory-based chapters, the reader is introduced to methods of culturing and enumerating micro-organisms and storage for future use. Some micro-organisms can be incredibly fussy and will only grow on certain selective media. Ideal for discriminating one micro-organism from another, this method works well when the selection criteria are known. However, it is generally accepted that up to 99% of all micro-organisms cannot be cultured in the laboratory, meaning a huge array still remain to be classified. Molecular biology plays a vital role in the identification of these viable, but non-culturable (VBNC), micro-organisms with the advent of 16S rRNA sequencing. This highly sensitive method can distinguish between discrete species barriers and place sequences in the context of phylogenetic relationships with other sequences. Indeed, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) is also Biochemist APR13.indb 24 15/03/2013 10:31:30employed to help identification and is used on microbial genomic DNA in conjunction with synthesized fluorescent DNA probes. These analytical techniques contribute to the analysis of mixed and pure cultures and have helped to inaugurate the novel field of environmental genomics as a distinct subsection of microbiology.

When micro-organisms can be cultured, the Notes offer insights on interpreting growth curves from either batch or large-scale or continuous cultures. This latter technique allows the culture of micro-organisms with continuous control of essential parameters, such as temperature, oxygen, pH and nutrients. With the application of some complex mathematical formulae, a steady flow rate of micro-organisms and nutrients can be optimally calculated. A chapter on types of microbial growth exemplifies the unrivalled success of micro-organisms in their ability to use different energy sources. From phototrophs (light) to lithotrophs (electrons from inorganic compounds) to mixotrophs (heterotrophic and autotrophic growth mechanisms), the energy sources employed by these organisms is astounding and the likelihood is that we do not comprehend the complexities of energy sources used by these energy innovators.

Sections on food microbiology and biotechnology are regrettably small and offer the briefest glimpse of how micro-organisms exploit us for their own gains and how we as a society exploit them for ours. The quid pro quo is objective: poor food hygiene and spoilage lead to considerable misery (financial, economic and human); however, this is counterbalanced by the production of medicines such as interferon, erythropoietin and urokinase. These clinical and medical themes are continued in the biggest section of the book: the viruses. This is comprehensive and covers areas such as mechanisms of action of antiviral drugs, clinical trials and the different types of vaccine available to modern-day medicine.

As mentioned in a recent review of another series title, these notes do not present anything novel to academia. They simply represent a comprehensive and in-depth guide for the undergraduate/postgraduate student embarking on studies on the subject. I found some sections too brief and would have wanted more, but I imagine the authors had the same dilemma; in the preface, they mention several omissions that are covered elsewhere. Notwithstanding this minor criticism, the Notes are reasonably priced at £20 and make an indispensable companion to the science/medicine undergraduate.

John P. Phelan (Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland)

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