I Got the Flu Shot, So Why Did I Still Get the Flu?

The short answer is that viruses mutate really, really fast. For living creatures, such as bacteria, and especially for higher animals, the risk of mutating fast is high--the wrong mutation will literally kill them. Consequently, when a bacterium or higher creature's cell replicates, it proofreads the copied DNA to eliminate as many errors as possible. … Continue reading I Got the Flu Shot, So Why Did I Still Get the Flu?

Our Body is a Community (of bacteria)

We may very well be more microbe than human. Inside and on the surface of our bodies, we share space and nutrients with bacteria and viruses as well as other microbes. To be sure, our bodies are not overly hospitable to bacteria; our eyes have an enzyme called lysozyme which breaks open bacteria, killing them, while … Continue reading Our Body is a Community (of bacteria)

What Should a Future Medical Professional Understand About Microbiology?

I have the privilege of teaching microbiology to a group of 22 future medical professionals (mostly nurses) this summer. As the instructor for their one microbiology course, I have the ability to tweak what they learn in addition to the defined course basics. I also have the ability profoundly influence their view of the microbial … Continue reading What Should a Future Medical Professional Understand About Microbiology?

Superbugs–What Are They, Where Do They Come From, and What Can We Do?

It's not really a bug, and whether it's "super" depends on your point of view. Yet superbugs have been in and out of the news fairly consistently over the last half-dozen years or so. Have you read an article about someone dying of an untreatable bacterial infection after traveling to India or an article about how we'll … Continue reading Superbugs–What Are They, Where Do They Come From, and What Can We Do?

Listeria and the Pregnant Lady

Listeria monocytogenes is one of my favorite bacteria because it is extraordinarily adaptable and extremely stress tolerant, surviving acidic pH, cold, salt, freezing, and many other stresses with aplomb. Personally, I would give a lot to have similar levels of stress tolerance and adaptability, but LM, as we'll call it, uses its abilities for nefarious purposes. … Continue reading Listeria and the Pregnant Lady

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Preservatives (in Deli meat)

Edited 5/16 9:21 pm to reflect additional information (at end of post) If you go to a grocery store in the Pacific Northwest, you can find packaged, sliced, deli meats advertised as being free of preservatives. Natural foods advocates love it--no preservatives, yay!--but I wince. See, I study a bacterium which thrives in deli meats--Listeria … Continue reading How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Preservatives (in Deli meat)

Foodborne Outbreak–the Process of Epidemiology

Since we're in the middle of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak (which unfortunately means I need to toss my freshly-purchased Romaine lettuce), it seems appropriate to write about how the government solves foodborne outbreaks. As discussed in the last post, the USDA is responsible for meat and poultry safety, while the FDA regulates everything else. However, … Continue reading Foodborne Outbreak–the Process of Epidemiology

“My sour milk will give me food poisoning, right?” or Food Spoilage vs Food Safety

The milk is a little past its expiration date, but we need some for our coffee or cereal, so we sniff the gallon to decide whether it's still "good". If it smells sour, we make a face and toss it down the drain, preferably with water running to wash it away as quickly as possible. We dodged … Continue reading “My sour milk will give me food poisoning, right?” or Food Spoilage vs Food Safety

Raw milk–healthier or just plain dangerous?

Confession--I grew up drinking raw milk, and as far as I know, I never got sick off it. I also like the taste of raw milk better than home-pasteurized milk, which tends to get overcooked and taste gross. However, I also remember straining straw, dust, and occasionally dried manure out of the milk (stuff falls … Continue reading Raw milk–healthier or just plain dangerous?