Infection Control Today - 07/2002: Microbe of the Month

Microbe of the Month
By Roger P. Freeman, DDS

I'm your enteric everyman, the Peter Parker of microbes, everything you sci-guys could want in a good germ. G-neg, aerobic, non-aerobic ...whatever! Just a model m-org hanging out in the s. intestine, cranking out non-FDA approved vitamins and patrolling the bowel borders. I'm one of 170-plus serogroups, mostly so average the labbers love to mess with me (we don't have much of a right-to-life lobby). I was ID'ed in the 1880s by Deutchlander Ted -E, but it wasn't until 1982 you picked up on my more menacing modularity. E-hemorragic, -toxigenic, -pathogenic, some of my types will inspire visions of the Big Dipper in daylight! Others, such as bactermias, septicemias, Guillain-Barre, urinary infections and lethal kidney conditions, can seek, debilitate or destroy your young and helpless. For sure, once I corral a kidney, I'm gonna be a significant other for a long, unpleasant time.

I like to travel, or, more accurately, I love it when you travel ... especially to areas where I'm endemic and boogie regularly with the natives. That makes you a primo-candidate for my charms. Go ahead, drink the water, have some raw fish or veggies! Aztecs, Montezuma ... these are not necessarily historic terms, if you catch my contaminated drift. You haven't lived until you've danced the porcelain polka!

And don'tcha just love summer? Me too, although I probably need to buff my flagella before suiting up this year. Summer means BBQ, and that means party time for me. Especially crazy about too-fast food, rare burgers, mingled cooked and raw juices, co-habiting meat and produce. I suggest you blitz those burgers 'til they look like your wallet, over 160 degrees F. Samples are available at any greater northwest Jack in the Box. You might also want to autoclave the very ugly faux-fodder called alfalfa sprouts, often so rudely heaped on my BLTs.

Best defenses include good old-fashioned handwashing, before, during and after cooking and toidy time; food safety education; pasteurization protocols (my favorite sonnet: Ode de Walla); isolation and detox of toddlers' diapers and fulminating fomites; disciplined petting zoo dates; and a moratorium on familiarity with bovines.

For an all-you-can-eat, questionably fresh sushi-sampler, or a really nice gift, whichever is less likely to really rip you, name my enteric, generic self and my Bond-like, licensed-to -kill alter ego.

Roger P. Freeman, DDS, is a dental infection control consultant and president of Infectious Awareables, at

E-mail your answers to, including your name, title and the name and location of your healthcare facility. The names of the first 25 readers supplying the correct answer will be placed in a quarterly drawing for infection control-related prizes from Infectious Awareables and Glo Germ Company. The answers to last month's mystery microbe are Staph aureus, Staph albus and toxic shock syndrome. For archived Microbe of the Month columns, log on to

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