Pathogens and Disease, 1 year later


A year has passed since the relaunch of FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology (FEMSIM) under the new name Pathogens and Disease (PAD), along with a new image, new format, new editors, new Editorial Board, and renewed energy. The reasons behind the relaunch were multiple but can be distilled to two distinct objectives. There was first a strong desire shared by all involved to update the journal by embracing the most current research in infectious disease microbiology, and to become readily adaptable to future developments. This simply could not be achieved in FEMSIM. It meant redefining the scope of the journal, and recruiting new editors and a new Editorial Board whose members are active participants of the emerging new era in pathogenesis research. A second objective was to produce a high quality scientific publication that significantly upgraded the image of FEMSIM, starting with the retiring of its dysfunctional name. The team included first and foremost the FEMS Publications Manager, Prof. Jim Prosser, Dr Goda Sporn and Ms Gillian van Beest at the FEMS editorial office in Delft, The Netherlands, Ms Vicky Johnson and her team at Wiley, Oxford, UK, each of the journal's 13 editors in eight countries on four continents, with the strong support of the FEMS Council and its president, Prof. Bernard Schink.

Have we succeeded on either count? All early signs are positive. Already we know that visits to the Pathogens and Disease home page have risen to over 12 000 individual visits per month. Even more impressive are the total numbers of full article downloads which, for the last 3 months of 2013 for which data are available, have increased by 79% when compared to FEMSIM for the same period of 2012, and are expected to top 350,000 full text downloads in 2013, when December figures are finalised (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Pathogens and Disease full text downloads Jan-Nov 2013.

And it only takes a quick look at the table of contents of any PAD issue and at a sampling of the research articles and reviews to appreciate the quantum leap in quality that has occurred.

However, it is too early to measure progress as a journal lives and dies by the number of people who read it and eventually cite its articles, which takes time – about 2 years post-publication. Thus, a reliable appreciation of readership and citations will only begin to emerge in a year or so when various metrics (including the dreaded impact factor) will quantify PAD's progress since the relaunch on 1 January 2013.

The scope of the journal has been transformed from FEMSIM's hodgepodge of often disparate studies ranging from basic immunology to case reports, to an overarching theme focused on the host-pathogen interaction and its host and microbial correlates. These include microbial, poly-microbial, innate, immune, pathogenic, cellular and molecular correlates by any method that furthers knowledge of the host-pathogen interaction, from ‘omics to biomathematics. Pathogens (viral and all prokaryotes and unicellular eukaryotes) that cause disease in humans usually have relatives in animals and Pathogens and Disease welcomes submissions of articles pertaining to veterinary pathogens that model infection in humans as well as zoonotic pathogens. Inasmuch as the research is aimed at acquiring knowledge on infectious microbes so as to better fight them, experimental translational research is also an integral part of the revised scope.

Research in microbiology is an ever-changing landscape to which the scope of Pathogens and Disease is committed to adapt continuously. The past few decades have witnessed amazing advances in our knowledge of many of the more notorious pathogens, from Salmonella to influenza, owing to experimental approaches at the interface of genetics, molecular and cell biology, and immunology. For bacterial pathogens, this approach was best encapsulated in postulates enunciated by Stanley Falkow that he cleverly likened to molecular versions of the Koch postulates [Falkow, S, 1988, ‘Molecular Koch's postulates applied to microbial pathogenicity.’ Rev Infect Dis 10(suppl 2):S274–S276]. Research in infectious disease microbiology is now in need of new postulates to reflect the emergence of new-generation and next-generation methodologies that permit affordable, highly sensitive analyses of the pathogens, the local microbiota and infected host tissues at the site of infection that could only been dreamed of before. These include the vast array of modern ‘omics, and new-age modeling by systems biologists assisted by powerful computers to store and analyze terabyte-size datasets. Specimens from humans can now be directly interrogated using these methods and testable hypotheses that once emerged from in vivo and in vitro models, are now emerging from in situ and in silico analyses. Pathogens and Disease acknowledges this new dimension in pathogenesis research and will endeavor to publish and promote studies that utilize in-depth analyses of human specimens as the basis for research in infectious diseases that will directly benefit human health.