The Unsuspecting Culprit

Title and Link:
Extraction, Isolation, Identification, and Testing of a Bacterial Specimen from the Wood Center Door Handle

God only knows where a person’s hands have been before they touch a fomite. I was curious to see just what kinds of creatures dwell on something so simple yet seemingly innocuous that we pay little mind to like a door handle. What I found was shocking since it was the last thing that I would have expected, yet unsurprising because it turned out to have the potential to make people sick.
So wash your hands, everybody.

Les petits bandits

Les petits bandits is an oil pastel piece made to emphasize and appreciate the efforts made by the immune system on a daily basis. It encompasses the rapid response by white blood cells to foreign antigens like protists. In this illustration, a white blood cell is attacking a Plasmodium gametocyte. Plasmodium is a protist and although we did not go too much in detail about them in class, protists are microscopic, unicellular eukaryotes (not to be mistaken with yeasts).

Strangely enough, Plasmodium cells live through alternation of generations that consists of the parasitic sporozoite that invade the body and cause great nuisance to the human red blood cell. Enough sporozoite infiltration in the blood cells can cause lysis which gives rise to the severe symptoms and complications associated with malaria. Sporozoites can then give rise to the larger and harmless gametocytes that in turn will reproduce sexually and restart the cycle.

If it weren’t for the thick, dense chromatin within the gametocytes, one looking on them through a microscope might confuse them with sickle cell anemia. Ironically enough, sickle cells have been observed to show resistance against malaria according to Graham R Serjeant and the British Journal of Hematology.

Arrangement of this work took lots of planning prior to execution. Oil pastels in particular can be tricky to work with. Since they’re a lot thicker than traditional crayons, their color can sit on top of other pigments but coordinating the right combination of colors is a carefully calculated and applied process. A few mistakes can either be covered up through layering or through scraping the pigment off. After applying the right layers, final touches involving blending and outlining were made through smudging with other pastels or by finger.

A2: Microbes in the News(#3)

Ebola Toll Tops 700 in DR Congo

Image result for Ebola in DR Congo

Since last August, the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history (the first being the the epidemic of 2014 that resulted in the deaths of over 10,000 people in Africa and Europe) has pervaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On April 6, the Congolese government confirmed that the deaths due to the most recent outbreak has surpassed 700. Furthermore, 100 of those deaths occurred within the first week of April.

In an attempt to control the spread of the disease, government officials have began vaccinating their citizens on the grand scale. With over 95,000 receiving the newly-developed vaccines by Merck to prevent the spread of the disease, a bright hope looms over the people of Congo.

All is not well for the government of Congo on the contrary; armed insurgency from Guerilla groups as well as rural communities’ resistance to receive medical treatment and vaccines have posed a serious risk to the exacerbated spread of the disease. In fact, because of public distrust for the government, more than a quarter of the people living within the cities of Beni and Butembo believe that Ebola doesn’t even exist!

In class, we learned a lot about pathogenicity, virulence, and even immunity.

Ebola is a pathogen with a high level of virulence. With such a high death rate from previous outbreak data, there is a high priority for such a population like that within the DR Congo to become vaccinated.
Furthermore, the concepts discussed in this article regarding mass vaccinations contributes to the idea of heard immunity. Since the government is stepping in to provide its people with the first ever effective vaccines for the disease, it is in the best interest to vaccinate as many people as possible against the virus for the sake of providing herd immunity and benefiting those who haven’t received the vaccine.

Critical Analysis
While Ebola may be contained within the northern region of DR Congo, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads elsewhere. Even more so, an effective vaccine has been developed for the virus and people within a country affected by multiple outbreaks of the disease are not even interested in what could be a solution to their future Ebola problems.

Although most resentment towards vaccination is stemmed towards distrust of the government of Congo, people should also be informed of the effects of herd immunity and how it could not only protect the people and their loved ones against the spread of diseases not limited to Ebola but potentially other harmful pathogens as well.

Now that there is an effective vaccine against Ebola, should the government of Congo mandate that its people receive it?

Article can be found here.

Et Justice Pour Tous

Alexander Gloger – Lab F01

The artistic intent traces its roots back to a poster concept I designed a few years ago for a band. It translates from French to “And Jus’ ice For All”

This piece was created using Eosin methylene blue (EMB) media which can act as both selective or differential. Furthermore, I inoculated the plate with with an E. coli. strain that I found black in color, a perfect and bold contrast for such a dark medium.

The E. coli. grown in this media must have produced acid while they were feeding on the lactose must have acidified the eosin dye embedded within the EMB media to form black in color with glossy glare from incoming light.

Since the EMB has in it lactose, and eosin, a dye which is sensitive to acid, the e. coli. consuming this.


Countries still using antibiotics to fatten animals despite ban

Anne Gulland
13 February 2019


Whereas some countries like those part of the European Union and the United States have banned the use of antibiotics in farming practices as a means to optimizing animal growth, several other countries are ignoring the imminent threat of antibiotic resistance. Strangely enough, the American based company, Zoetis, is selling their antibiotics to farmers in India, which still has not banned the use of these drugs in their cultivations yet. Moreover, The Telegraph reports that some countries are using bacitracin, antibiotic option that the World Health Organization designates as an emergency last-resort option when all else fails. With other countries refusing to recognize the dangers of antibiotic resistance, the post-Antibiotic era could be sooner than we think.

This article is most relevant to microbial evolution and speciation as discussed in class. We’ve discussed how microbes can evolve from different factors of the environment compelling them to do so, it just so happens that it’s a lot more prevalent in the biomes of livestock with the use of antibiotics. These new species of bacteria which are beginning to emerge have no known cure.’¨Another connection is to antibiotics. Penicillin attacks bacteria’s cells by breaking the 1-4 petal linkages in a bacterium’s cell wall causing lysis during replication. With some bacteria now resistant to penicillin, some might also develop resistance to other antibiotic therapies as well.

Critical Analysis:
I’m very interested in the growing trend of antibiotic resistance. Aside from it posting a health hazard to some exposed to superbug strains, it might lead to the next global pandemic. Another plague, if you would, this time with no known cure.
On the contrary, antibiotic resistance might not be as much of a microbial issue as it is an ecological issue. Perhaps the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria is nature’s way to counter Earth’s ever growing population. As human beings, we often forget that we can’t control all things that happen on this planet. Moreover, I might also suggest that a post-antibiotic era might spark the test to see who the real keystone species on planet Earth is. Another plague might be nature’s occasional reminder that it can’t be contained in a laboratory setting. Sure this particular article is concerned with cattle, however, diseases can cross between species just like Avian flu and Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

As for the article, I think that farmers need to look beyond maximizing their profits and livestock yields and understand the threats that arise to both their produce and their communities with the sporadic abuse of antibiotics. The problem getting in the way of that happening, like a lot of advancement in science, is money and politics. Ironically, US-based companies like the ones mentioned in this article are only exacerbating the danger that stares humanity in the face.

What are some alternatives to antibiotics that farmers can use to ensure their livestock grows healthily that is both safe for them and humans?

A2: Microbes in the News

The region in Svalbard where the bacterial strain was found. Photo courtesy of Yahoo! News and Reuters

Superbug found in one of most ‘pristine’ places on Earth

By Anne Gulland of the Telegraph.

January 28, 2019

What could be worse than contracting a bacterial infection? Contracting one that has no known treatment protocol or cure. That is the ongoing issue for patients in India who have succumbed to the “superbug” that was recently found in soil samples extracted from Svalbard in the Arctic circle.

A “superbug” is an term used to categorize bacteria that have strong resistance to antibiotics and for those reasons, they are extremely dangerous to those infected. Despite the island of Svalbard being extremely isolated and inhabited by humans, the discovery of such bacteria in a remote place have shown the great potential that antibiotic resistant strains have to migrate from place to place.

As the world enters into a post-Antibiotic era, the bacteria take advantage of not being combated by spreading wherever they can. This particular strain of Bacteria, containing within it a gene known as blaNDM-1 gene is believed to have been carried by birds to Svalbard and then diapered by the island through guano.

In class, we’ve touched up on how bacteria have such short generation time; henceforth, they are prone to more genetic mutations in reproduction and thus more prone to experience evolution much faster than animals. Because of this, nature will select the bacteria whose mutations benefit them to survive the onslaught of antibiotic therapies. Going back to learning about penicillin from Monday,   January 28, 2019, the fungal spores can interrupt the bacteria’s ability to reproduce, there might come a time when it is no longer effective against pathogenic strains like the one mentioned in this article.

What I find interesting about this article is the mechanism by which this bacterial strain managed to end up on one of the most remote places on Earth. According to the Article, the strain is carried by birds   It really makes you think, from an epidemiological aspect, just how vulnerable we really are to being exposed to a foreign disease like the one mentioned in this article that could be brought to us by similar mechanisms of migrating birds. Even more so, as antibiotic resistance continues to persist, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care; the first thing that came up on this news website’s homepage was about the government shutdown. Even more so, when I clicked the science tab to look for science articles, one of the first articles that popped up was about how Donald Trump doesn’t believe in global warming. I’m surprised that people are more interested in things like politics that don’t really affect them as opposed to serious issues like antibiotic resistance which could directly affect journalists if they ever get infected.

So what do you think? Are superbugs, with this most recent trend, to be the end of us or are the chances of us coming into contact with them pretty slim and more of a matter of avian migration patterns?


– Alexander Gloger

A3: Epithet Epitaphs

Sarah Branham Matthews was an American microbiologist with an extensive history in research of various diseases. She is most well known for her extensive research in Niesseria meningitidis, a bacterial strain that causes meningococal disease (meningitis) but occasionally can cause sepsis as well. In her honor, the bacteria Branhamella catarhalis was named in her honor but then changed after DNA sequencing linked the strain to another bacterial species known as Moraxella catarrhalis; nonetheless, some in the microbiology and medicine field still call it Branhamella.

Born in Oxford Georgia in 1888, Branham graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, GA with a B.S. in Biology before studying bacteriology at the University of Colorado. After only a few weeks, she was hired to teach for bacteriology due to a shortage of men needed for the efforts in World War I. After earning a second B.S., she went to the University of Chicago where she then earned an M.S., Ph.D. in Bacteriology, and an MD.

With the ongoing Spanish Flu pandemic during her studies at U of C, she studied influenza for her thesis and published multiple papers on the subject.

She left Chicago to work at the University of Rochester School of Medicine around the time that the first sightings of Neisseria mengitidis arrived in California (possibly from China). For the rest of her life, she would work for the National Institutes of Health (previously known as the Hygienic Laboratory of the United States Public Health Service) where she would successfully discover the Niesseria strain and confirm it as the causing microorganism of meningitis. Branham died of a heart attack in 1962.

Aside from the research in the fatal diplococcus strain and influenza, Branham’s research is also included salmonella, diphtheria, and the avian psittacosis.

“Sara Branham Matthews.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 23 Jan. 2019.

“Sara E Branham,” Biography n.d. Oxford Historical Society. 23 Jan. 2019.

“Early Women Scientists at NIH.” Office of History, National Institutes of Health. 23 Jan. 2019.

“Branhamella catarrhalis respiratory infections.” Jun. 1992. PubMed.Gov, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.


A1 Introductions: Alexander Gloger

Hello everybody!

I’m Alexander Gloger (pronounced Glow-ger).

I am currently in pursuit of a B.S. in Biology hopefully with an idea of where I want to continue my education into graduate school (either Medical or Biology-related PhD).

I really like microbiology; I’ve been exposed to it alongside epidemiology for a long time since I was a kid. Moreover, about two years ago, a colleague and I organized and coordinated with the Safety Director at the CDC and the Weather Ballooning Director at the FAA to conduct an experiment that would send a bacteria, a virus, and a fungi group into the high atmosphere via a weather balloon to study the effects of such the high environment on such organisms. The project never took flight unfortunately, but the experience I gathered and the professional insight from bright minds in high places really reinforced my interests in Biology and the microscopic world overall.

I look forward to a great class this semester and meeting you all!