Linda Bruslind, Oregon State University
Pub Date: 2017
Publisher: Open Oregon State
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First off, I enjoyed the tome. It was a pleasant read and it covers most areas pertinent to microbiology. I give it reasonably high marks for comprehensiveness, though there are some holes. I also like its straightforward style (though there... read more
First off, I enjoyed the tome. It was a pleasant read and it covers most areas pertinent to microbiology. I give it reasonably high marks for comprehensiveness, though there are some holes. I also like its straightforward style (though there are some concerns regarding approach) that reduced the essentials to understandable information; this is particularly relevant to today's undergraduates who appreciate direct approaches and the distillation of difficult concepts translated into simple-to-grasp words. I believe Dr. Bruslind accomplishes the creation of a textbook that students would enjoy as a guide through a lower level microbiology course (say 100 to 300 level). That said, I felt at times that some of the text was a tad glossy, and that at other times the topics were quickly broached but void of their broader significance. I do not find this any form of substantive negative, in that I expect students to refer to other sources, including websites, databases, etc.; however, it is clear that in this day, many students want the spoon-feeding approach towards learning in which the meal has all the essentials needed to navigate to and beyond testing time (my opinion). In any event, this is generally a well-written and clear offering, though there are some areas to possibly expand upon in the future, and I offer these for consideration. Here are a few concerns: One area I found a bit lacking was Mycobacteria and intracellular parasitism. There is ample evidence that the use of fire in enclosed settings may have promoted the virulence of these bugs in human lungs. Then, there is also leprosy to consider.. Another area I found absent was how microbes have positively selected for many human alleles, i.e., have provided pressures ranging from the overdominant selection of delta 508 for CFTR to other alleles in balancing selection mode (HLA). There is no discussion of evolution and microbes' impact on human diversification/evolution in response to virulence, and no mention of Lenski and long-term evolution experimentation (citrate, glyoxylate intersections relevant to the TCA cycle and carbon source selection). And.....no protists: Plasmodium, trypanosomiasis, leishmania, etc. and their diseases. And.....no discussion of the homing of human innate immunity on microbial molecules recognized through toll-reception. LPS is a great opportunity to discuss bacterial impact on the patient (see the amoebocyte lysate test), as was G-C content. And.....no antibiotic discussion, their overuse, and their rapid evolution. And.....no mention of restriction/modification systems and CRISPR. And.....no operons. I fully realize the book already tackles a panoply of topics, though the above are of importance, some growing rapidly in their popularity.
Generally, I found few concepts/information/ideas, etc., that were off-base with respect to their accuracy. The information was well-presented with few errors or gaffs. I give high marks for the conveyance of many difficult concepts in a straightforward and understandable fashion, which students should find fully palatable and rewarding in the study of micro-organisms. In Ch 4, does the author mean to use antibiotics under Gram Negative Cell Walls, but instead is referring to antibodies? This may be the 9th, or so, sentence. In the same chapter, I believe Braun's proteins attach to the membrane via their own hydrophobic moieties, maybe fatty acids, not a polar head--check this. The statement that lactams attack the cell wall could be misleading: they inhibit synthesis, so this may be a grammatical consideration needing redress. Ch 6, the lipid figure shows phosphate as the terminal moiety of the membrane elements: why not include the polar heads, and introduce them in the text. It is not clear as to whom the intended audience is--some of the material is challenging, other discussions are a bit superficial. Later, there is no mention of Next-Generation Sequencing and the concomitant technological advances associated with these forms of analysis. If memory serves, microarray technology is included; what about discussing the elements of Sanger sequencing, or is the author expecting students to already have this knowledge?
It is my opinion that the topics are contemporary and will readily stand the 'test of scientific time.' The quantum nature (for want of a better term; i.e., the sub-chapter, paragraph parceling) in which the material is presented (and which I find generally helpful), will allow rapid updates and addenda to be accreted down the road without any upheaval.. The topics/chapters constitute traditional, important elements of the field and they are relatively cemented in temporal place with respect to their relevance and value. Overall, fine from my vantage point, and supportive of reasonable longevity of the e-text.
I have a few suggestions to make, which may aid the author, certainly the student readers may benefit though some of my observations may be minor in scope. I present my feel of the read with respect to areas that I thought a bit rushed. 1. The scale discussion was fine and well-placed, but emphasis should be made on understanding the physical nature of the meter, centimeter and millimeter before going smaller, i.e., give the students a real starting point from which to better comprehend the physical aspects of these distances (they already know foot and inch, etc.). I felt the discussion proceeded too quickly. The Learning Genetics website inclusion was good, and maybe this will substitute for what I found lacking in the 'scale' narrative--this may be minor. 2. I would like a bit more clarity on the surface/volume constrictions, which seem left to the student to draw conclusions. Small is good, big problematic, but where is any sort of cellular line crossed? 3. The membrane fatty acid elements contribute to the fluid mosaic nature of membranes. Why not include the Singer/Nicolson paper reference and discuss lateral mobility related to saturated/unsaturated fats and their melting temps. 4. It was mentioned that the cell wall exists outside the membrane, then later the author proceeds to discuss the Gram -'s and the periplasmic space. A bit illogical. Then, it is mentioned that some bacteria do not have cell walls at all. How many (number) peptidoglycan layers do each Gram type possess? 5. In many instances, it would be advisable to develop tables which will help organize and make the material much clearer and better integrated/related. 6. State what a spore does and how it is important up front. As they say in the military, BLUF, for bottom-line up front. 7. Emphasize why enzymes are physically juxtaposed within the cell--i.e., to bring them together for a common catalysis in the various 'somes--in eukaryotes, you have scaffolding proteins to facilitate metabolite/substrate handoffs (I'm referring to proximity effects). 8. Ch 7 and taxa, a table would greatly help. In the phylogenetic tree in Ch 1, T. celer is used, no genus name. Be consistent. 9. In the surface structure chapter, explain up front how the environment needs to be surveyed and explored related to mobility/chemotaxis, receptors and metabolite transport, etc., by microbes. Maybe minor again, but it seems sometimes that topics are not introduced with respect to broader significance, but one finds, rather, that the material is quickly broached without lead-in. 10. Why have a very general chapter on viruses midway through the book, and then pick things up again in the last chapter. Combine these or juxtapose them. Also, give examples of relevant viruses, like SV40, EBV, hepatitis, flu, etc. I found that much information is presented without the provision of examples, both viruses and bacteria, and their contribution to human health and society. 11. You mention lysogeny in chapter 8, what about random insertions in the human genome by lentiviruses (one need wait until the end of the book as mentioned) and insertional mutagenesis; there is no use of the word tropism. 12. Ch 9 mentions antibiotics, what about colicins? 13. Is cryophile a more apt word for cold-attuned bacteria? Also, 'Bacteria' are given as a domain, what about 'Eubacteria' (I am not fully aware as to the correct terminology, but have been using eubacteria in class--am I wrong?). 14. A question related to pH adaptation is intriguing--would you consider challenging students to consider protein side groups and catalysis as a potential advanced query related to extremophiles (low and high pH dwelling species? 15. Iron is glossed over--what about iron-sulfur centers; what about Mycobacterial need for iron in their intracellular sights, and what about the wonderful, if controversial story of NRAMP1 and iron? Maybe expand on this and include some molecular biology. 16. Electron transport is varied, but a better figure, with clearly marked protein complexes, cytochromes, and their Eo's, would have helped. 17. What makes RNA the prime biochemical moiety considered to be relevant to the first steps in genome replication? This is not broached. 18. What is the relevance of jumping genes to bacteria? Can the students answer this question without a discussion of their relevance to humans (retroviruses and cDNA and random insertion mediated by functional, activated LINE's). Just a thought. 19. The discussion of PCR is the perfect place to discuss the value of thermophiles to this molecular technology. 20. Cytokine production in bacterial systems may be better replaced by the production of insulin, of great medical value. 21. It may be worthwhile to mention genome/protein databases students can access, NCBI, COSMIC, Uniprot, etc. 22. Explain the molecular conversion of lactate to ethanol in fermentation. Structures? 23. While many students may appreciate the lack of molecular structures, some may be of value in appropriate chapters. Undergraduates destined for health professions like the MD and PhD, to name but a few, may find this somewhat of a deficit, though they can look them up (granted). 24. Tables, tables, tables throughout the book. These would help much (sorry to be repetitive about their inclusion), for instance, cloning vectors related to origin and usefulness (how big of an insert can they handle) would have been helpful, as would virulence factors/diseases, etc. These are some areas in which the author might consider expansion for clarity's sake, although none of these represent the redress of any deal-breakers in the text.
The consistency doesn't create any major problem. Acronyms are consistently used. The discussion of genus and species were appropriate. I would do the same for genes (wildtype and mutants) and proteins. A few sentences have varied capitalization, like early on with respect to Domain and domain, check this. Some of the charge values, like -2, +1, etc., were juxtaposed to the element number, like NO31-, with no distinction in their subscript/superscript positioning. A few scientist names are mentioned (e.g., McClintock); what about Margulies, Temin, Varmus, Bishop. Importance is also given to the oncoviruses, why not mention papilloma viruses, SV40, EBV, etc. The absence of Peyton Rous's virus and Src in the transducing avian leukosis virus, deserves inclusion in my opinion.
This is reasonable. The pace if fine, the breaks between major elements allows for reshuffling/reorganization. There is a tidiness within each chapter with minimal reference to others, though I am not sure this is fully a beneficial thing. I would, nevertheless, move some of the material around a bit. The bacterial disease chapter (and virulence) needs to be brought forward, perhaps, as does the final viral chapter. I would group the uses of, and impact by, bacteria on humankind into a section and would include (1) fermentation/food, (2) molecular biology/cloning, (3) health/disease, (4) weaponization (consider this), and maybe others into a section, as I would microbial genomes, genetics and gene expression/control (include a discussion of operons, Jacob and Monod) into another, leaving taxa and biochemistry for the opening of the book.
See above, this needs some revamping. I would begin with discussing structure and function of the archea, bacteria and viruses, with focus on morphology and genomes. This might then segue into taxa, phylogeny and move on to biochemistry and energy production (trophisms) with a discussion of glycolysis, electron transport and terminal electron acceptors, with a branching off to phototrophy. I would next talk about microbes' intersection with Homo sapiens, both positive and negative (utility in the food realm, molecular biology and health/microbiome/disease] and end with a discussion of evolutionary considerations (like intracellular parasitism) and environmental/ecological aspects. Maybe earlier I would also talk about microbe discovery, microscopes (which I liked in toto), and later, the history of the microbial world and its intersection with human existence (pandemics, emerging pathogens etc.). There are many ways to organize the topics, but I believe some novelty is required and some modification is appropriate. It would not be too big of a chore.
This is excellent--there were no issues. All of the websites were quickly accessed and of value to the text. I would add some databases, including the possibility of having students access microbial genomes within the NCBI and actually consider a blast exercise. Uniprot will help with understanding domains of some interesting bacterial sequences. Those sites I went to were crisp, clear and relevant to the discussion. I am wondering if videos exist to complement the fine microscope images early on. I would build on the interface elements that already exist as these were good.
Ch 1: Under Hooke, third sentence, drawing should be plural. A few of the sentences were awkward and inverted; for instance, it was stated that: "The Eukarya Domain includes many non-microbes, such as animals and plants, but there are numerous microbial examples as well, such as fungi, protists, slime molds, and water molds." Why not state that the eukarya domain contains numerous microbial species such as fungi, protists, slime molds and water molds in addition to the larger animal and plant species. A few sentences existed as above. "But numbers, that is something." Or, but numbers are something, or a comparable subject-verb association. There are some inconsistencies and a bit closer review/editing needs to be undertaken. Overall, though, the grammar doesn't significantly distract from the text's message.
There is nothing major here, but I would argue against the very personable style of the author. It's homey and not untoward, though some may find it distracting (I did). The thought of a 'midlife crisis, not my taxes, E. coli, anyone,' etc., etc. is okay if spoken in the classroom, but these parenthetical phrases detracted from the subject matter and 'authority' of the author (maybe this is a bit severe, but my view). Some of the middle to later chapters take on a more serious overall tenor; however, I would eliminate this sort of friendly/funny dialogue and stick with the science--save it for didactic sessions. Again, this is style-related, and I could be fully wrong. I didn't find anything to be controversial and exclusive with respect to any groups. This latter observation is a plus.
Again, I liked the book, and would give it a high 3 as it stands. I believe it could use a bit of tweaking in order to improve the content, to make things more flowing and clear, and to focus on a few topical addenda that would improve the breadth of the content and provide some slightly greater contemporary relevance. This shouldn't take much effort. I feel the e-textbook is close to becoming very useful to undergraduate students, and I am generally favorably disposed to the book, its current organization and its content. I feel that it can use some polishing and maybe a small change in the style, things which would enhance the quality of a book with a significant scaffold and much potential.
Table of Contents
- Introduction to Microbiology
- Cell Structure
- Bacteria: Cell Walls
- Bacteria: Internal Components
- Bacteria: Surface Structures
- Introduction to Viruses
- Microbial Growth
- Environmental Factors
- Microbial Nutrition
- Energetics & Redox Reactions
- Chemolithotrophy & Nitrogen Metabolism
- Taxonomy & Evolution
- Microbial Genetics
- Genetic Engineering
- Microbial Symbioses
- Bacterial Pathogenicity
- The Viruses
About the Book
In this textbook the focus will be on the bacteria and archaea (traditionally known as the “prokaryotes,”) and the viruses and other acellular agents.
About the Contributors
Linda Bruslind is a microbiology professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR.