Thursday, 1 March 2012

Happy Birthday JAMS!

I woke up feeling a little fragile this morning. Yesterday we celebrated the first birthday of JAMS (Joint Academic Microbial Seminars). This is a monthly microbiology seminar series held at the Australiam Museum in Sydney. Its sort of modeled on the San Diego Microbiology group meeting, and provides a venue for the microbiologists scattered around Sydney to meet each other and chat about science. It all came about from a meeting in a pub in Surrey Hills in 2010, where Federico Lauro, myself, Mike Manefield and Andy Holmes decided over a few beers that starting JAMS would be a good idea. Federico has done a heroic job turning JAMS into a reality, and we usually have 30-50 microbiologists turning up every month for JAMS.

To celebrate the first birthday of JAMS, yesterday we had five excellent talks from interstate or international speakers. Thanks to Tim Stinnear, I now know what the bizarre link between Point Lonsdale (Victoria) and Western Africa is (hints- Mycobacterium ulcerans, mosquitos and ringtail possums). Afterwards we had dinner and copious volumes of wine in the dinosaur room of the museum. It was slightly disconcerting to have a video loop showing dinosaurs devouring each other in Triassic era, while we were eating slowly braised beef cheek.

Nevertheless, we had 79 people at the dinner, which would seem to be an encouraging sign for the future health of JAMS.

Dinosaur video- moments before one of these guys had an unfortunate meeting with a larger relative


  1. Knock, knock. What DO Mycobacterium ulcerans, mosquitoes and ringtail possums have in common?

  2. This was from an interesting talk by Tim Stinnear from the University of Melbourne. Mycobacterium ulcerans causes a disease called Buruli Ulcer, which is endemic in various tropical parts of the world such as West Africa. There has been an outbreak in Point Lonsdale, with maybe 100 cases over the last few years. All in Point Lonsdale, but not in the surrounding suburbs. For those who don't know Victoria, one would scarcely call Point Lonsdale tropical. Anyway, there is now evidence that this bacterium is found in the local ringtail possum community, who shed it copiously in their faeces. The current theory that Tim's team is working on, is that mosquitoes breed in pools of water in a nearby nature reserve, the water contains possum faeces with the bacteria, and then the mosquitos disseminate the bacteria to the local humans. Of course, West Africa wouldn't have ringtail possums, but presumably have plenty of mosquitoes and some other animal reservoir.
    Great microbiological story to help build one's appetite for dinner!