Emerging diseases

28 February 2021 - By: Sabina Baba

Human activity, climate change and population density are all having dramatic effects on life on Earth. Alongside these, the emergence of new diseases- plant, animal, human- provide new threats.

The past year has been an unusual and difficult one for us all. And while we are all now familiar with the impact of Covid-19 on humans, in the plant and animal kingdoms emerging diseases continue to be a serious threat to food security and biodiversity.

How are Experimental Biologists addressing these challenges? In this issue of the magazine, we highlight some of the ways in which SEB members are contributing to the global challenge these diseases present.


The “Dealing with Disease” feature (page xx) looks at some of the diseases affecting animals such as chytridiomycosis which is believed to play a major role in the global decline of amphibians. Many bee species are facing global decline and one of smallest but deadliest foes of the European honey bee is the Varroa destructor - an ectoparasitic mite of bees currently regarded as one of the biggest contributors to bee colony deaths in the western world. We also look at one of the most pressing infectious diseases in the animal kingdom - the white-nose syndrome (WNS) – which is responsible for widespread bat losses across North America.

In the plant kingdom, the “Protecting our Plants” feature (page xx) looks at some of the pathogens that affect food security and the innovative work of our members in helping to fight these diseases. Sarah Gurr’s work (Exeter university) helped develop a predictive model of how particular fungi respond to climate change, where particular pathogens should be found, and how this is likely to change. The work of Ernesto San-Blas (The Centre of Science and Technology for Sustainable Development, La Serena, Chile) identifies innovative ways to help diagnose Nematode worms, a highly destructive parasite that infects plant roots. We also look at the lock-down mechanism plant cells have in dealing with disease and the latest developments in controlling citrus canker, “the second most important citrus disease worldwide and affects most citrus-producing countries”.


Meet the new team behind the SEB’s newly launched Outreach, Education and Diversity (OED) area and find out all about the exciting initiatives underway.

Last year the SEB held a public engagement workshop – if you missed this, members can still access a recording of it via the SEB member’s area. The “Public engagement 101” article also provides you with advice and tips for engaging the public from our workshop attendees (page xx)  

As part of our commitment to supporting diversity in science in this issue we highlight some of the influential Black scientists from across history who have greatly advanced their field.


We are delighted to introduce you the PhD students in Sumeet Pal Sigh’s Lab at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels. We caught up with them on their experience working in a newly established laboratory and how the pandemic has impacted their day-to-day life and work. We also introduce Corina Vlot who leads the Inducible Resistance Signalling group at the Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health in Munich.

Our member news article highlights our members’ achievements, and we would like to congratulate them all for their hard work!


Finally as the pandemic has affected us all greatly, we wanted to let our members know about all the funding opportunities available with SEB (page xx) and opportunities for raising your profile by organising a meeting ( page xx)

We hope you enjoy this issue and if you have any news, research or career advice to share with the SEB community please get in touch on b.danois@sebology.org .