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Welcome to microBEnet News
March 2013 

Resource of the Month 

Focusing on resources found on microBE.net


This month we would like to draw attention to our event calendar.   Here we keep track of conferences and events relating to the microbiology of the built environment. Additional suggestions are more than welcome!
MicroBEnet Blogs

A brief summary of the recent topics posted on microBE.net  


This month we have branched out a bit with the blog (no Legionella stories!).


Various researchers have conducted and then posted Google Hangouts discussing:

In a similar vein, Adam Altrichter allowed us to post some suggestions for troubleshooting 16S PCR.  

The single biggest topic was posts relating to Project MERCCURI (also known as "Microbes in Spaaaace!").

Other topics included:

MicroBEnet is always seeking new blogs relevant to microbiology and the built environment. Your suggestions are always welcome.  

Highlighted Project
People Behind the Science


This month we are highlighting a new project designed primarily to increase public awareness of microbes in built environments.   This is Project MERCCURI, also known as "Microbes in Spaaaace!" This research is being conducted in collaboration with The Science Cheerleaders, Scistarter.com, Nanoracks, and Space Florida. There are three components to this project:


The Space Station (ISS) Microbiome

Just like it sounds, the astronauts on the ISS will take surface samples for a 16S analysis of who is living on the space station.


Swabbing Sports and Space Events

This portion of the project, largely managed by Science Cheerleaders, will involve collecting 2000 samples from sport and space fans around the country. The cheerleaders will lead collections of cell phone and shoe samples which will be processed by the Earth Microbiome Project and related to a previous work, Home Microbiome Study.


Microbial Playoffs

A microbial growth competition will take place on the ISS.   A subset of samples collected at public events will be cultured at UC Davis and the "best" microbe from each environment will be sent to the ISS for a "microbial playoffs" competition. A duplicate of this experiment will be conducted on earth and the results compared.



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Featured Article


by   Hal Levin

March 13, 2013


Just out in today's edition


of PLoS Medicine: Adapting Standards: Ethical Oversight of Participant-Led Health Research. The article

raises questions (in my mind) about the ethics related to human genome sequencing projects. We ask, what is "informed consent" when you have your genome sequence published? What about your children's interests, your siblings', your descendants' and any other genetically-related family or others?


Summary Points (from the article)


- Online social media and digital technologies have facilitated formation of communities of individuals engaged in establishing and conducting health research projects. The results of such participant-led research (PLR) have already appeared in leading biomedical journals.


- These projects involve research with human participants. Hence, what are the requirements for ethical oversight? To what extent is standard ethics review also suitable for PLR?


- A comparison of PLR with standard research reveals six areas that are of potential relevance to ethical oversight: institutionalization, state recognition and support, incentive structures, openness, bottom-up approach, and self-experimentation.


- The distinctive nature of PLR requires adaptation of ethical oversight standards to the character of such research. These should strike a balance between protecting interests of research participants and achieving promised benefits of PLR.



- The appropriate form of ethical oversight for PLR projects depends on which of three categories they fall into. If they meet the "institution-plus" criterion, standard ethics review applies. If not, then the appropriate form of oversight depends on the application of a minimal risk criterion.


Could these questions have any relevance to the genetic information about the microbes in your house, bedroom, pillow case, water, or kitchen counter? What if one of "your microbes" affects (infects?) someone visiting your home or office?

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