Category: Bacteria

Coming to America: Neglected Tropical Diseases Are Here (To Stay?)

By Rebecca Kreston | June 1, 2013 6:11 pm

Parasites and viruses once thought to make their homes exclusively in exotic locales beyond America’s borders are now gaining a foothold in the country and they are exacting significant economic tolls and placing heavy burdens on health care systems. Neglected tropical diseases such as cysticercosis, echinococcus, toxocariasis, dengue, West Nile virus and Chagas have found their way into the country due to a synergistic combination of factors, including globalization, migration, trade and climate change.

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Today’s Google Doodle Honors the Petri Dish

By Rebecca Kreston | May 31, 2013 1:05 pm

It is the 161th birthday of the German microbiologist Julius Richard Petri, whom we can thank for those low-tech but indispensable tools of the microbiology lab: the petri dish. Google honors Petri‘s birthday today with their lovely Google Doodle riffing on his invaluable discovery.

The Google Doodle for May 31, 2013 in honor of Julius Richard Petri. Image: Google.

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Microbial Misadventures: Exploits in Botulism & Pruno In Our Prison Population

By Rebecca Kreston | May 23, 2013 12:59 pm

Microbial Misadventures is a recurring series on Body Horrors looking at instances and incidents where human meets microbe in novel and unusual circumstances that challenge our assumptions about how infections are spread. 

I am partial to the odd tipple and, as a resident of the licentious, enabling city that is New Orleans, I’m fortunate to be adequately supported in my booze-seeking ways by the high number of bars and restaurants within stumbling distance of my front porch. But what to do for those of us prohibited from indulging in one of the world’s greatest mood modulators, for those of us, say, incarcerated in America’s prison-industrial complex? In that case, American ingenuity and tenacity wins, always: become a smalltime craft brewer and make your own.

A Gram stain of Clostridium botulinum type A. The spore-forming, soil-dwelling bacterium produces a nerve toxin, causing the rare, paralytic illness known as botulism. There are seven types of botulism toxin, classified alphabetically A through G; only types A, B, E and F cause illness in humans. Image: CDC/ Dr. George Lombard.

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Atmospheric Conditions Influence Outbreaks of Disease in Europe

By Rebecca Kreston | May 8, 2013 1:30 pm

A recently published paper in Scientific Reports has found that climate variability in the form of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) has had a significant impact on the occurrence of disease outbreaks in Europe over the past fifty years. Researchers in France and the United Kingdom studied 2,058 outbreaks occurring in 36 countries from 114 infectious diseases from 1950 to 2009 and found that climatic variations and seasonal changes in air pressure across the continent attributed to the NAO influenced the outbreak occurrences of eleven diseases. Every conceivable route of transmission – by air, food, water and vector – was influenced by NAO conditions.

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Microbial Misadventures: Anthrax, Hippies & Drum Circles

By Rebecca Kreston | May 8, 2013 12:00 pm

Everyone has their own collecting quirk. I myself collect animal skulls, inconveniently large earrings and unusual stories of infectious disease cases and outbreaks. To each their own, yes? I’ve decided that, instead of stockpiling these stories away in some recess of my brain, I’ll be sharing them online in a new recurring series on Body Horrors called Microbial Misadventures.

A gram stain of cerebrospinal fluid showing the characteristics rods of B. anthracis. Source: JA Jernigan et al. (2001) Bioterrorism-Related Inhalational Anthrax: The First 10 Cases Reported in the United States. EID. 7(6): 933-44.
Click image for source.

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Call Me Maybe: Social Media & the Spread of STDs

By Rebecca Kreston | April 25, 2013 9:03 am

April! We’ve passed the vernal equinox and spring is springing, flowers are blooming, we’re shedding our sweaters and jackets and all will be warm once again. We can put our winter blues to rest and bask in the knowledge that summer will soon be upon us.

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Suck It: The Ins and Outs of Mouth Pipetting

By Rebecca Kreston | March 20, 2013 12:15 pm

If you ever find yourself working in an infectious disease laboratory, whether it’s of the diagnostic or research variety, the overarching goal is not to put any microbes in your eye, an open wound or your mouth. Easy enough, right? Wear gloves, maybe goggles, work in fume hoods and don’t mouth pipette. When working with pathogenic bacteria and viruses, priority number one is Do Not Self-Inoculate.

Former Centers for Disease Control (CDC) parasitologist, Dr. Mae Melvin (Lt), examines a collection of test tubes while her laboratory assistant mouth pipettes a culture to be added to these test tubes. Source: David Senser/CDC.

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Meet Your Mites

By Rebecca Kreston | March 18, 2013 9:12 pm

Just two months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of acting not as a science scholar but as a research participant. Instead of having my face in a book, I willingly offered it to a woman who diligently scraped my forehead in search of Demodex mites. I know that it’s everyone’s humble dream to contribute their own exquisite arachnological flora to Science with an S and so, yes Reader, I can feel your oozing envy.

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On Equilibrium & Balance in Your Microbial Universe

By Rebecca Kreston | March 17, 2013 2:59 pm

Two recent studies that shed light on the inner workings of our bacterial ecosystems, otherwise known as our microbiota, have me musing on the nature of disease and pathology, of harmony and balance.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Bacteria, Vaccines & drugs

A Nepalese Odysseus: XDR-TB is in South Texas

By Rebecca Kreston | March 7, 2013 1:42 am

The Wall Street Journal has a superb write-up of a Nepalese man infected with extremely drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) who is currently detained at the US border in South Texas. XDR-TB is resistant to four of the major types of antibiotics that are used to treat and control TB infections and this man is the first person with this particularly dangerous strain of TB  to cross the border and be quarantined in this country (1).

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