Authors: David Smith (CABI, Egham, Surrey, UK)
Importance of microbiology
The threat of misuse of microorganisms is real and is evidenced by the threat of biological warfare and by the events of 2001 with the use of Bacillus anthracis. The latter continued to be reported in the New York Times right up to February 2010.
There may be few organisms that can be harnessed and used in such a way but researchers and particularly suppliers of microorganisms must be vigilant and control access to them. However, this potential must not be used to prevent or impede legitimate research. Microorganisms are pioneers and could be regarded as potentially the greatest chemists on earth – finding ways and means of breaking down complicated molecules or manufacturing metabolites that humankind have harnessed such as antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals and industrial enzymes [1,2].