Infection Control Today - 08/2002: Microbe of the Month

Microbe of the Month
By Roger P. Freeman, DDS

OK, OK ... time to get real! Give a break to your boss, the job, the latest outbreak, the Martian, the kids, the money and all those other annoying "lifestyle factors." Blame the baggage for those bellyaches if it makes you feel better, but remember the real show doesn't start without me. I'm a spiral-shaped, skinny-legged bacterium, tethering my tendrils in 30 percent of you homies and just about everyone else on the planet. I call your gastric gazebo "home," scoring a perfect 10 with my corkscrew dive into the high-security muco-hood covering the lining of your food bin. I stay protected from the seriously unpleasant enzymes and HCls used to digest Mom's meatloaf. Once in residence, I attract trendy white cells, neutrofils, killer Ts and all sorts of inflammatory riff-raff. Together, we work our mischief in still-mysterious ways, but you'll surely know my work by the g-nawing pain, g-bloating, g-burping and g-heartburn, not to mention a mortifying case of "early satiety." Oh, you're gonna love me!

I'm a newbie in the micro monde. No peer recognition until 1982, though it's a good bet my relatives peptized the pharaohs and friends. In any case, I was sure a hard-sell to your gastrogeeks; poor Dr. Marshall had to self-infect in order to get me elected. It's a tough way to make a living.

I travel in the ever-popular and revolting f-o mode, but the infect-o-meter is pointing lately toward lipleaps as another possibility. Seems you can't count me out of dental plaque, either. Yummo! It's not easy to test for me, unless of course, friends and neighbors start calling you urea-breath. This would be a sign. Endoscopy with biopsy (don't try this at home) is most reliable; blood tests are often inconclusive, tending to give false pozzies.

To decrease the dolor, the palliative posse recommends bland foods, chalk slurpees and bizmuth bon bons. The homeopaths have a thing for yogurt. Bleeccchhh! NSAIDS are music to my flagella, and if you double-team me with aspirin, and I will really show you the love! Tip from the top: use a well-chosen anti-micro mercenary that'll hopefully work before the serious sequellae appear.

For a pepperoni giftpak, or a really nice gift, whichever reminds you least of me, name me and my peppy boo-boos.

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 E. coli and 0157:H7. For archived Microbe of the Month columns, log on to:

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