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


I'm your enteric everyman, the Peter Parker of microbes, everything you sci-guyscould want in a good germ. G-neg, aerobic, non-aerobic ...whatever! Just a modelm-org hanging out in the s. intestine, cranking out non-FDA approved vitaminsand patrolling the bowel borders. I'm one of 170-plus serogroups, mostly soaverage the labbers love to mess with me (we don't have much of a right-to-lifelobby). I was ID'ed in the 1880s by Deutchlander Ted -E, but it wasn't until1982 you picked up on my more menacing modularity. E-hemorragic, -toxigenic,-pathogenic, some of my types will inspire visions of the Big Dipper indaylight! Others, such as bactermias, septicemias, Guillain-Barre, urinaryinfections and lethal kidney conditions, can seek, debilitate or destroy youryoung and helpless. For sure, once I corral a kidney, I'm gonna be a significantother 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, havesome raw fish or veggies! Aztecs, Montezuma ... these are not necessarilyhistoric terms, if you catch my contaminated drift. You haven't lived untilyou've danced the porcelain polka!

And don'tcha just love summer? Me too, although I probably need to buff myflagella before suiting up this year. Summer means BBQ, and that means partytime for me. Especially crazy about too-fast food, rare burgers, mingled cookedand 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 atany greater northwest Jack in the Box. You might also want to autoclave the veryugly faux-fodder called alfalfa sprouts, often so rudely heaped on my BLTs.

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

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

Roger P. Freeman, DDS, is a dental infection control consultant andpresident of 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 Staph aureus, Staph albus and toxic shock syndrome.For archived Microbe of the Month columns, log on to

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