Dyer Scientific and Technical Translations
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1. Introduction

2. Names

3. Microorganisms

4. Lab Procedures

5. Resources

Microbiology - Names


Microorganisms, like other organisms, are given Latinized family, genus, and species names. In most cases, those are the only names, as there are no “common”names. Unlike other organisms, their names change rather rapidly, and translators will quite probably see the organism which causes typhoid fever called Bacterium typhi, Eberthella typhi, and Salmonella typhosa. The names are supposedly defined, in the US, by Bergey´s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology. However, a recent article (H. Gest and J. Favinger, ASM News 64, No. 8, pp. 434-435 (1998)) states “. . . taxonomy committees meet occasionally to discuss name changes of bacteria and generate “proposals” for changes which in fact enter the literature as faits accomplis.” Do not attempt to modernize the names you find. If for no other reason, you may have missed the last change or two. Readers who need to know the names will probably recognize the old ones.

Although Latin is standard for genus and species names, names are often stated in the source language, and it may be difficult to know which language is being used. For instance, members of the family Lactobacillaceae, the “tribe” Lactobacilleae, or the genus Lactobacillus may be referred to as “lactobacillaceae” or “lactobacilli”, not italicized and usually not capitalized. Those names, too, are usually best left untouched unless you are quite sure of modifications of spellings or endings to fit the target language. Worse, some writers ignore the convention that the Latin names are italicized. Should they be “corrected”? I can only suggest that this is a matter to be decided between translators and clients.

Microorganisms (especially bacteria) are often found to have small variations within species. Those variants are named in several different ways, such as:
Bacillus macerans Schardinger (named for the person who first described the variant) Penicillium chrysogenum Q176 (essentially an arbitrary number)
Acetobacter rancens var. pasteuranium (a variety or variant)
Bacillus stearothermophilus NCA 2184 (a species isolated at the National Canners Association) and, most important,
Streptococcus faecalis ATCC 8043. This designates the variant grown from a “type culture” which a microbiologist has described in detail and deposited at the American Type Culture Collection where it was given serial number 8043. Microbiologists can purchase subcultures from ATCC. The advantage of this is that everyone can work with a “standard” culture which has the same properties in every laboratory (until and unless it mutates or becomes contaminated).

Genus names may be abbreviated; e. g., Bacillus cereus becomes B. cereus, and Escherichia coli becomes E. coli. In general, do not attempt to convert the abbreviations back to the full names, because an author might have used B. to mean Bacterioides, Bdellovibrio, Bordetella, . . . . Of course, the authors should have specified that, but as we all know, we cannot rely on them. Use of Latin names, or names derived from Latin, occasionally has strange effects, especially in formation of plurals. Gender and case are, fortunately, ignored.

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