Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The joy of handling peer review of 200 articles

Below is my 200th editorial assignment at PLoS ONE which went live recently. On this occasion, I am grateful to the management, in house editors and staff of PLoS ONE for entrusting and reposing their confidence in me, and for the authors who did not loose patience, and for hundreds of colleagues who reviewed these manuscripts on more than one occasion and assisted me in keeping to the time frames. All the articles handled by me at ONE can be accessed here. Below is the 200th article signed off by me as an Academic Editor.

Molecular Analysis of Microbial Communities in Endotracheal Tube Biofilms

Cairns S, Thomas JG, Hooper SJ, Wise MP, Frost PJ, et al. (2011) Molecular Analysis of Microbial Communities in Endotracheal Tube Biofilms. PLoS ONE 6(3): e14759. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014759


Ventilator-associated pneumonia is the most prevalent acquired infection of patients on intensive care units and is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. Evidence suggests that an improved understanding of the composition of the biofilm communities that form on endotracheal tubes may result in the development of improved preventative strategies for ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Methodology/Principal Findings

The aim of this study was to characterise microbial biofilms on the inner luminal surface of extubated endotracheal tubes from ICU patients using PCR and molecular profiling. Twenty-four endotracheal tubes were obtained from twenty mechanically ventilated patients. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) profiling of 16S rRNA gene amplicons was used to assess the diversity of the bacterial population, together with species specific PCR of key marker oral microorganisms and a quantitative assessment of culturable aerobic bacteria. Analysis of culturable aerobic bacteria revealed a range of colonisation from no growth to 2.1×108 colony forming units (cfu)/cm2 of endotracheal tube (mean 1.4×107 cfu/cm2). PCR targeting of specific bacterial species detected the oral bacteria Streptococcus mutans (n = 5) and Porphyromonas gingivalis (n = 5). DGGE profiling of the endotracheal biofilms revealed complex banding patterns containing between 3 and 22 (mean 6) bands per tube, thus demonstrating the marked complexity of the constituent biofilms. Significant inter-patient diversity was evident. The number of DGGE bands detected was not related to total viable microbial counts or the duration of intubation.


Molecular profiling using DGGE demonstrated considerable biofilm compositional complexity and inter-patient diversity and provides a rapid method for the further study of biofilm composition in longitudinal and interventional studies. The presence of oral microorganisms in endotracheal tube biofilms suggests that these may be important in biofilm development and may provide a therapeutic target for the prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The PLoS ONE tale of a Phantom limb!

Arvid Guterstam, Valeria I. Petkova and H. Henrik Ehrsson recently published a paper entitled, The Illusion of Owning a Third Arm. Their manuscript received media attention from: NPR, New York Times, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Times of India, and Scientific American.

Article summary:

Could it be possible that, in the not-so-distant future, we will be able to reshape the human body so as to have extra limbs? A third arm helping us out with the weekly shopping in the local grocery store, or an extra artificial limb assisting a paralysed person? Here we report a perceptual illusion in which a rubber right hand, placed beside the real hand in full view of the participant, is perceived as a supernumerary limb belonging to the participant's own body. This effect was supported by questionnaire data in conjunction with physiological evidence obtained from skin conductance responses when physically threatening either the rubber hand or the real one. In four well-controlled experiments, we demonstrate the minimal required conditions for the elicitation of this "supernumerary hand illusion". In the fifth, and final experiment, we show that the illusion reported here is qualitatively different from the traditional rubber hand illusion as it is characterised by less disownership of the real hand and a stronger feeling of having two right hands. These results suggest that the artificial hand 'borrows' some of the multisensory processes that represent the real hand, leading to duplication of touch and ownership of two right arms. This work represents a major advance because it challenges the traditional view of the gross morphology of the human body as a fundamental constraint on what we can come to experience as our physical self, by showing that the body representation can easily be updated to incorporate an additional limb.

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