A2: Microbes in the news. Measles Outbreak.

Washington measles outbreak climbs while other states grapple with the disease -CNN


As of the new year, Clark County has confirmed 49 cases of measles. Of those diagnosed with the virus, 41 were not vaccinated with the MMR vaccination. Washington has recently declared a state emergency due to the rise of Measles cases throughout the state.

Washington isn’t the only state that has been affected by measles. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Texas have also reported outbreaks as of 2019. A total of about 80 cases this year, with children being the main attributor.

Measles used to be devastating before the vaccination was released in the 1960s, with diagnoses  being in the hundreds of thousands in the US alone. The MMR (Measles,  Mumps, Rubella) vaccination has been about 93% effective in preventing the disease and with a booster that percentage goes up to 97%. It is noted that the sudden rise in the measles outbreak is due to children going unvaccinated.

This relates to what we have discussed in class because we have talked about epidemics, such as the plague. As mentioned above, in the US alone the diagnosed measles counts in a given year were as high as 800,000 in the 60s before the vaccination.

I find this very interesting because I am curious if this will encourage more parents to vaccinate their children more since there has been a debate that vaccines are not necessary, although they have proven to be effective. I didn’t know that the measles  vaccination was so reliable at preventing this virus. It makes me really happy my parents have vaccinated me during my childhood.

I believe that this story is scientifically factual because I did my research on other websites and found the data to be consistent. I also think they did a good job of making their message concise and understandable for the general public to be able to understand.  By using common language, this important message of an outbreak in the US is able to be delivered to US citizens.

Question: How much further will the measles  outbreak progress due to the decline of parents vaccinating their children?

A2: Microbes in the News- Phytoplankton




This article explains that the World’s oceans are going to change color as a result of climate change. Researchers point out that the base of the food chain in the oceans is phytoplankton. With an increase in water temperature, the phytoplankton will die, resulting in an ocean that is not as green (as phytoplankton have green pigment from the chloroplasts). This article also explained that by using the color of the ocean one can deduce the population of phytoplankton, therefore getting more data on how global warming is affecting the world.


We have been learning in class the different properties of microorganisms. Right now we are learning how the metabolism works. By understanding this concept, I can use my knowledge to fully understand how an increase in temperature would affect the microorganism’s ability to acquire food and survive. Furthermore, we have been learning in class how different microorganisms can change the environment that they are in.

Critical Analysis

I found this story interesting because I liked the concept that you could tell the population of an organism, like phytoplankton, by looking at the color of the water. Although, I can see many variables in trying to actually test this idea. There are many things that can change the color of something, especially in the ocean, so I don’t see how they could do this. I think that this article did a fine job of relaying information to the general public so they could understand topics that they might not have any experience dealing with it. On the other hand, that means that this article most likely left out many concepts that the general public wouldn’t understand, but I would find interesting.


What is the main reason why an increase in temperature of a few degrees would kill phytoplankton?


A2: Microbes in the News


E.coli was used specifically to use its DNA in a research project conducted by Baylor College of Medicine. The team set out to look at the mechanisms of cancer-causing proteins when overproduced in a cell and e.coli was an ideal model because of its simplicity in structure. They genetically modified the bacteria so that it was illuminated red when there was DNA damage present. These specific proteins they reproduced were known to induce cancer but they wanted to know where the genome was specifically damaged.

How does it relate?

E.coli is a microbe that we’ve discussed during the past four weeks of class. It’s a model organism (cheap and easy to maintain in a lab setting) that is heavily studied which makes it an ideal microbe for research.

Critical Analysis

I found this summary of the actual article really easy to read and understand. It used a lot of common vocabulary most people could read it easily. I didn’t have to go back and read over the article five times to understand it. One thing that I would advise people to do to be skeptical readers of this article (or any article in general) is to understand that E.coli is an extremely simple organism compared to a complex organism such as a human. This could be a oversimplification of the reality of understanding proteins and their role in the formation of cancer in complex organisms such as humans.


How do these researchers reproduce proteins in a lab setting, and how do they know which proteins they’re reproducing?

You can read the article from Science daily here.

A Rising Threat to Pregnant Women: Syphilis

Title: A Rising Threat to Pregnant Women: Syphilis


Summary: Syphilis, which is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection, has been increasing in women (including pregnant women) all over the United States in recent years. This is especially dangerous, because babies that are born with syphilis have a 40% chance of being born stillborn. All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis multiple times during pregnancy, because they can contract it after they are already pregnant. If someone is tested positive, penicillin will be prescribed, and it has a 98% effectiveness rate.


Connections: In the first week of class we talked about the history of discovering microbes, and while this isn’t a discovery, it is important to utilize tests and treatments that were previously discovered so that diseases don’t continue to be spread.


Critical Analysis: While I knew STDs could be passed from mother to child, I hadn’t really thought about how dangerous it could be until I read this article. However, this was a very brief article, so I kind of wish it could have gone into more details about syphilis and how it spread in order to inform the public. I couldn’t find anything intentionally misleading, but its possible some of the statistics were. The only thing that I thought was kind of strange was how they framed the article specifically around pregnant women, and then explained how syphilis has actually just been increasing in women in general. I think this was a short and to the point article that helped inform people that syphilis is dangerous, especially during pregnancy, and that it is importance to get testing and treatment.


Question: This article frames the recent rise in syphilis specifically around pregnant women, even though it is increasing in all women. Was this the article trying to be more sensational, in order to reach more people, and is this a helpful tactic to inform people about dangerous infections? What is the best way to inform people about a bacterial infection that doesn’t initially have obvious symptoms?

A2: Deadly Food Poisoning

Article and Link:

“Student, 20, died in his sleep from food poisoning bug after eating pasta that he’d left out on a worktop for five days’



A college student ate noodles with pasta sauce he had reheated after leaving out for 5 days.   Within 30 minutes he came down with a headache nausea, and stomach cramps.   He began vomiting and having diarrhea.   Thinking he had a case of food poisoning, he went to bed to sleep it off and was found dead in his bed 11 hours later.  Upon investigation it was found he died from Bacillus cereus, which is a spore forming bacteria that produces toxins that causes vomiting and diarrhea.   The autopsy showed that the concentration of B. cereus was so high it caused his liver to shut down.   Samples of the food were analyzed, results determined significant contamination within the pasta, no traces within the sauce.


As we just talked about spores in class, how easy they are to spread and how deadly they can be I found this article fitting.   Having talked about weaponizing spores, this article shows how contaminated food can have deadly effects.   As we were recently talking about generation times, I did some research and found it only takes 26 minutes for B. cereus to double and 8.6 hours do multiply by 1,000,000!   Which sheds light on why the boy died after leaving the food out for 5 days.

Critical Analysis:

I found this article interesting in that it went with a topic we just talk about.   The testing was completed by a medical examiner and scientists, so I believe the results are accurate.   This was written as a news article, they used easy to understand language making it readable for people not in the science community


Could a test stick could be created and marketed that could test for common microbes that cause food poisoning that people could use at home or in restaurants?

A3: Epithet Epitaph- Nancy F. Millis

Millisia brevis is a type of fermenting bacteria that produces mycolic acid and is found in activated sludges (wastewater treatment process) in Australia.   This bacterium is named after the Australian  microbiologist, Nancy Millis (1922-2012). The word brevis  means short, branched rods. It is an actinomycete, a gram-positive bacterium.

Millis was born in Melbourne Australia in 1922 and was one of six children in her family. After high school she first completed training at a business school but after a few “dreadful” years of working in this industry, she enrolled in an Australian university to study agriculture and earned her bachelor’s degree.

She traveled to Papua New Guinea to educate women on various types of agriculture methods. Unfortunately, she had to end her time there because an illness she caught almost took her life. After this she went on to work at various universities around the world in Europe and Asia and earned her PhD from University of Bristol in 1952. She was the first person to introduce applied microbiology courses.


“Professor Nancy Millis, microbiologist.” Australian Academy of Science. 2001.  https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/history/interviews-australian-scientists/professor-nancy-millis

“Millisia brevis.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 24 Mar. 2018.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millisia_brevis

 gen. nov., sp. nov., an actinomycete isolated from activated sludge foam.”    International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 56: 739-744.  Retrieved from:  https://ijs.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/ijsem/10.1099/ijs.0.63855-0#tab2

A2 Microbes in the News (P.gingivalis and Alzheimer’s disease)

Article and Link:

“We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s–and how to stop it’
By: Debora MacKenzie
Source: NewScientist.com
Date: 24 January 2019



Researchers have found that the formation of amyloid and tau proteins which are signs of Alzheimer’s disease, may be a response to bacterial infiltration. One of the major risk factors of Alzheimer’s is the occurrence of gum disease caused by the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis.
They have found that P. gingivalis has been found to infect areas of the brain with Alzheimer’s lesions as well as exacerbating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in mice who have been infected with P. gingivalis as gum disease. Similarly healthy mice (who have not been engineered to have Alzheimer’s) who have been infected with gum disease and the bacteria P. gingivalis, exhibit amyloid plaques, and neural damage similar to that found in Alzheimer’s affected brains.
Enzymes which P. gingivalis uses to feed on human tissue, have been found in 96% of brains analyzed by Cortexyme and P. gingivalis proper has been found in several brains upon autopsy. Higher rate of these “feeding enzymes’ called gingipains have been higher in those with a greater cognitive decline before their death as well as greater amyloid and tau accumulations.
Cortexyme has developed a molecule with inhibits these gingipains and has shown to effectively halt P. gingivalis infection in mice including stopping amyloid production and reducing the associated brain inflammation.


                      I can see a connection with the research that they are doing with Koch’s postulates. Not only have they found the pathogen in unhealthy mice, but also upon injecting the pathogen into healthy mice, they receive the same symptoms. I don’t know their exact procedure, however that they are not only exploring what they are finding within the diseased subjects, but duplicating the symptoms in healthy subjects is similar to how they have been identifying pathogens using these postulates.

Critical Analysis

I am very interested in this news story, not only because the community is expanding their thinking on the amyloid and tau protein buildup (previously thought to build up due to cell component aging) being a response to something, rather than an inevitable state of neural tissue. I also like that it goes into light detail on the reasoning behind why they began the studies, what the studies are doing and what the future of the studies are going to be. Also, it is interesting that they have not only made this correlation, but that Cortexyme has already begun developing a vaccine and medications to stop the proliferation of P. gingivalis in the brain (which could also help with gum disease, but I really just love the brains).
As for the article, I think that it is a lot of information for one article but that it is very well put together in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm the reader. There are also links embedded within the article that reference journal articles for further reading, which is beneficial for those who would like a deeper understanding.


The main question that I have is one of correlation vs. causation. There is evidence form the research on healthy mice that the P. gingivalis causes the anomalies within the brain tissue, but they did not find evidence of the bacterium in all cases of Alzheimer’s that they studied. So my question is still the age old question: Is this THE cause of Alzheimer’s disease or is it A cause of Alzheimer’s disease? Does it simply exacerbate the disease or increase the rate at which the disease presents?


Samantha Smith

Alexandre Yersin

Alexandre Yersin is the scientist credited for determining the bacterium responsible for the bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis. Yersin was born in Switzerland and trained to be a physician in Switzerland, Germany and France. In France he trained at the Pasteur institute, and helped create an anti-rabies serum. Eventually he was sent to China and placed in charge of determining the cause of the plague by the French government during an outbreak in Hong Kong in 1894. He successfully isolated and determined the bacteria responsible. A Japanese scientist, Kitasato Shibasaburo, also found the bacteria responsible for the plague at the same time as Yersin. However, Shibasaburo’s method of isolating the bacteria became contaminated, and he also didn’t have the same connections that Yersin did, ultimately causing Yersin to be the scientist credited with discovering the bacteria. Yersin attempted to develop an anti-plague serum, and moved to Nha Trang, Vietnam in order to test the serum. Unfortunately, the serum didn’t work. Yersin then went on to create a medical school in Nha Trang, and stayed in the city until his death in 1943. Yersinia pestis is gram-negative, anaerobic, rod-shaped, and incapable of movement. When Alexandre first discovered the bacterium he named it Pasteurella pestis after the Pasteur institute, but in 1944 it was renamed Yersinia pestis in honor of Alexandre Yersin.



“Alexandre Yersin.’  Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Jan.           2019,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Yersin

“Alexandre Yersin, the Man who Discovered the Bacterium Responsible for the Plague.’ Institut Pasteur, 24 Oct. 2017, https://www.pasteur.fr/en/research-journal/news/alexandre-yersin-man-who-discovered-bacterium-responsible-plague

Butler, T. “Plague History: Yersin’s Discovery of the Causative Bacterium in 1894 Enabled, inthe Subsequent Century, Scientific Progress in Understanding the Disease and theDevelopment of Treatments and Vaccines.’  Clinical Microbiology & Infection, vol. 20,3, Mar. 2014, pp. 202—209.  EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/1469-0691.12540.

“Yersinia Pestis.’  Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Jan. 2019,en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yersinia_pestis.

A3: Epithet Epitaph Victor Morax

Victor Morax:   Moraxella lacunata



Victor Morax was a Swiss ophthalmologist, born March 1866 in Morges, Switzerland, who discovered the bacillus family Moraxellaceae, genus Moraxella. Moraxella are gram-negative bacterium that are short rods, coccobacilli or diplococci, Moraxella are sometimes phenotypically confused with Neisseria. There are thirteen species of Moraxella that reside in mucosa in humans and animals and often cause infections when the opportunity arises. The bacterium was also discovered during the same time, 1897, by German ophthalmologist Theorod Axenfeld; thus leading to the joint name of Morax-Axenfeld diplobacilli.

Victor Morax studied in Germany and Paris becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1894. He worked at the Pasteur Institute from 1891 to 1902 where, in 1896, he discovered Moraxella which is associated with conjunctivitis in humans. Between 1903 to 1929, Morax worked at the Hôpital Lariboisière then went back to become a permanent member at the Pasteur Institute in 1929. Morax published four articles, most notably Le Trachome and he was also an editor for the journal Annales d’oculistique.









A3: Epithet Epitaph – Sara E. Branham Matthews

The aerobic gram-negative diplococcus bacteria  Branhamella catarrhalis or  Moraxella catarralis, is a pathogen of the upper respiratory tract,  middle ear, eye, central nervous system and joints in humans. It was originally thought to be a commensal strain of bacteria found in the throat and mouth, but starting in the late 1980s it was found to be the source of many cases of bronchitis, pneumonia, otitis media and sinusitis. Originally classified under the Branhamella  genus,  named after Sara E. Branham Matthews, it was moved to the Moraxella genus, named after Victor Morax, after several DNA hybridization and 16s rRNA studies justified its classification as a Moraxella bacteria.

Sara Elizabeth Branham Matthews  was a woman of great academic ambition. She was born in Oxford, Georgia in 1888 to a wealthy family who was ahead of their time in terms of women and higher education. Over the course of her life she received seven different academic degrees including a B.S. in chemistry and zoology, a Ph.D in bacteriology and a Medical Degree. She was also a member of many scientific boards and fellowships including the National Institutes of Health, the National Board of Medical Examiners, the American Board of Pathology and the American Academy of Microbiology. She has many accomplishments accredited to her name with one of her greatest achievements being the cure to spinal meningitis. Over her lifetime, she was published on 70 papers in professional journals and co-authored two books. She died in 1962 and is currently buried with her husband, Philip S. Matthews in the Oxford Historical Cemetery.



Barriero, B., L. Esteban, E. Prats, E. Verdaguer, J. Dorca and F. Manresa. 1992. Branhamella catarrhalis respiratory infections. Eur Respir J. 5:675-679.

Branhamella catarrhalis. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2019, from  https://www.msdsonline.com/resources/sds-resources/free-safety-data-sheet-index/branhamella-catarrhalis/

Moraxella catarrhalis. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2019, from  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moraxella_catarrhalis

Sara E. Branham. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2019, from  https://www.oxfordhistoricalsociety.org/sara-e-branham.html