Infection Control Today - 05/2002: Microbe of the Month


You really think your recent bunch of ICT lite-robes qualify for iconstatus? Have you no sense of history? YOU CAN'T HANDLE HISTORY! 'Cause if youcould, you wouldn't have waited this long for my close-up. ( I am onlyresponding now because of your offer of a nice, warm rodent.) Oh sure, thoseother B-class bugs can do some pathology, but we're talking history here...and heading the hx column, there can be ... only ONE!

What else do I need to do? Three pandemics in the first 2K, not to mention a1994 outbreak in India. First, in the fifth century, where I managed to wipe outhalf of Europe and ravage Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Heck, the "DarkAges" were just a PR ploy to recuperate from my grand tour! Next, the lucky13th (The Black Death), thanks to the tin hats and big rats. Just loved Venice,first "quarantine" and all. And lastly, in the 17th century, where Ihumbly accepted the title of The Great ----- of 1665. Pestilience! What a gig!

I'm a gram-neg, aerobic bacillus (unlike some of the imbacilli you haveinterviewed!) but really, what's in a lineage, anyway? No-pride epizot that Iam, I'll ménage real time with both rodent and H. erectus. I typically roomwith my burrowing buddies, until I kill 'em off. That's when I jump ship and flydirect. The rat-fleas grab an amuse-bouche from their furry host, then inject meinto one of you vertical types. Free to be me, this is where I sink to theoccasion. I head for the pits and groin (not a lot of applicants for my job),where I cause some pretty ugly bumps, not to mention monster fever, prostration,hypotension, even bleeding into the skin.

I am deadly for half of all untreated victims, and can morph into pneumonicand septicemic modes, ratcheting up to 95 percent M. I can kill in a half day,live on in carcasses, in soil or in sputum for longer than you'd care to know.I'm rare in the United States, but I still can (and do) wax domestic. I remainon the A list for serious biowarfare buffs. In my honor, the CDC has craftedthis reassuring message for American travelers abroad: "avoid rats."

For FDA approval of your new drug, or a really nice gift, whichever takesless time ... name my exalted bacterial self, name my disease and name mycharacteristic bumps.

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

E-mail your answers to,including your name, title and the name and location of your healthcarefacility. The names of the first 25 readers supplying the correct answer will beplaced in a quarterly drawing for infection control-related prizes fromInfectious Awareables and Glo Germ Company. The answers to last month's mysterymicrobe are Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis A, C, D, E, F and G. For archived Microbeof the Month columns, log on to:

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