ASM 2019 Adelaide: Day three

Our plenary speaker Noah Fierer from University of Colorado Boulder spoke on the microbial ecology of our homes - specifically, that from the top of around 1500 door trims in the US. He found an average of 1400 fungal and 4700 bacterial species per sample. Fungal taxa provided insight into the geographical location of the sample, as the fungi inside homes tend to be the same as outside of the home (soil). While bacteria provided insight into who resided in the home; males, females or pets.

By looking at air filters from college dorm rooms can identify the sex of the occupants. Mostly from the lactobacillus found in the room. Goes to show that humans are a important source of bacteria found in the home #2019ASM - Belinda Fabian

Noah wrapped up by describing a citizen science project investigating the biofilms from shower heads. Samples from the US and EU identified mycobacterial pathogens and identified the geographical distributions correlated with that of non-tuberculosis mycobacterium disease prevalence.

One of the common microbes in shower heads is mycobacterium. These are important as they can cause pulmonary non-tuberculosis mycobacterial disease, multiple strains have been linked to disease. It’s hard to treat and it’s on the rise. ~1500 cases in QLD each year #2019ASM - Belinda Fabian

Sarah Gurr from the University of Exeter delivered a fascinating plenary on the movement of fungal pathogens. The threat of fungal infection of crops outstrips that of bacterial and viral diseases, and climate change poses a threat to ecosystem resilience that may lead to severe agricultural and economic losses. Sarah provided extensive global examples, and spoke on the local situation in Australia. As an island with strong border biosecurity we have done well to protect against fungal pathogens. However, we do have them - from Jarrah dieback (Phytophthora cinnamomi - a threat to our Jarrah forests and >40% of native plants in WA) to powdery mildew affecting the wine industry (Uncinula necator causes an 8% loss in grape yield in our 1.8 million tonne harvest).

Afternoon streamed sessions were shared on social media by our ASM ambassadors, before the evening Rubbo Oration commenced. The Rubbo honour was given to Tilman Ruff AO, a physician in the areas of public health and infectious disease. In addition to this, he is dedicated to advocating for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds, in part through his involvement in the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War organisation, and his establishment and role as founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Tilman stunned us as he communicated the current state of global nuclear arsenal, which is so powerful that dropping a Hiroshima-size bomb every two hours for 70 years would not have exhausted its destructive capacity.

“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act” - Albert Einstein

In 2017, Tilman led a delegation in the United Nationals general assembly that culminated in the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. For these efforts, the ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.


The orations was followed by a superb Rubbo celebration organised by the Adelaide 2019 local organising committee, where delegates ate, drank, and danced to the beats of DJ Driller Armstrong.

Rebecca LeBardComment