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WIRED whisky fungus story wins prestigious Kavli Science Journalism Award

Published: November 17th, 2011

Revised: November 17th, 2011

We congratulate Adam Rogers, senior science editor at WIRED magazine, for receiving the 2011 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for best magazine article for “The Angel’s Share”, in which he recounted Dr. Scott’s work on the whisky fungus, Baudoinia compniacensis. The Kavli awards are administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes Science, the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, along with numerous other publications and programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide. The AAAS has administered these awards to professional journalists for distinguished reporting for a general audience since their inception in 1945.

”The [Angel’s Share] story skillfully slips the spinach of science into the reader as smoothly as a shot of fine whiskey,” said science reporter Dan Vergano of USA Today. Laura Helmuth, a senior editor for Smithsonian magazine, called it “a charming story—unexpected, vivid, dramatic.” She added that Rogers “deftly explains the relevant history, chemistry, evolutionary biology, taxonomy, and mycology. ”Rogers said he became fascinated with what makes a fungus grow outside distillery warehouses. “And then it turned out that a scientist-detective was looking into the mystery, and he was in love with it,” Rogers said. “I think that kind of passion always makes for a good story.”

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First report of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’ (group 16SrVI) infecting Sauropus androgynus

Published: November 11th, 2011

Revised: October 27th, 2013

Sauropus androgynus,also known as sweet leaf, cekur manis, asin-asin and pak waan, is a shrub grown in some tropical regions as a leaf vegetable.It is one of the most popular leaf vegetables in South and Southeast Asia and is notable for high yields and palatability. During October 2010, plants of S. androgynus growing in small plots in the area of Poring Springs, Sabah, Malaysia, were noted showing proliferations of miniature leaves (reduced laminar and petiole length) at the apex of the plant emerging from cut stems where the plants had previously been harvested. Symptoms were observed in around 50% of the S. androgynus plants surveyed. Plants showing these symptoms were tested for phytoplasma.
Leaf samples from S. androgynus (from five plants with and two plants without symptoms) were collected, and total DNA extracted (FastDNA Spin Kit, MP Biomedicals, USA). Phytoplasma universal primers specific for 16S rDNA (R16mF2/R1 and R16F2n/R2; Gundersen & Lee, 1996) were used in a nested PCR assay. Nested PCR products of expected size (~1250 bp) were obtained for all the S. androgynus plants showing symptoms. Symptomless plants yielded no PCR products. Amplicons were purified (Wizard PCR Clean-up, Promega) and sequenced bi-directionally (University of Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada). The partial 16S rDNA sequence obtained was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. HQ721242). BLAST analysis showed that the16S rDNA sequence of S. androgynus phytoplasma was 99% identical to those of the group 16SrVI, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis (RFLP) of amplicons using AluI and RsaI yielded profiles similar to those of the 16SrVI-A phytoplasma subgroup. Phytoplasmas of group 16SrVI have mainly been reported in North America and Europe (IRPCM, 2004; Přibylová et al., 2008). In South Asia, 16SrVI phytoplasmas have been recently associated with diseases in other perennial herbaceous hosts, including Calotropis gigantean and Portulaca grandiflora (Priya et al., 2010). However, to our knowledge, this is the first world report of a 16SrVI-related phytoplasma infecting S. androgynus, which may represent a phytosanitary risk for other herbaceous perennial crops in the region.The National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of Malaysia has been notified of these matters.

  • Gundersen DE, Lee IM, 1996. Ultrasensitive detection of phytoplasmas by nested-PCR assays using two universal primer pairs. Phytopathologia Mediterranea 35, 144-151.
  • IRPCM Phytoplasma/Spiroplasma Working Team – Phytoplasma Taxonomy Group, 2004. ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’, a taxon for the wall-less, non-helical prokaryotes that colonize plant phloem and insects. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 54, 1243-1255. [doi:10.1099/ijs.0.02854-0]
  • Přibylová J, Petrzik K, Špak J, 2008. The first detection of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’ in Rhododendron hybridum. European Journal of Plant Pathology 124, 181-185. [doi:10.1007/s10658-008-9391-1]
  • Priya M, Chaturvedi Y, Rao GP, Raj SK, 2010. First report of phytoplasma ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’ (16Sr VI) group associated with leaf yellows of Calotropis gigantea in India. New Disease Reports [] Volume 22]. [doi:10.5197/j.2044-0588.2010.022.029]
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