December Animalcules

Ho ho ho, and welcome to the early Christmas edition of Animalcules. Sit back, grab some hot cocoa, and click below to open your Christmas gift of some of the most interesting microbiology-themed blog posts over the past month.

To start us off with, in a new blog to me (the Cornell Mushroom blog), we learn how a fungus assists in the transmission of a nematode from the environment to the host--in this case, cattle. It's a fascinating example of commensalism.

From the same blog comes another post on Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (or Bd), a fungus which is a cause of skin infections in amphibians. Bd has been one reason for the decline in amphibians that I've mentioned briefly here and here.

After having a dearth of entries about fungi in previous editions of Animalcules, we're making up for it today. Carl Zimmer at The Loom brings us another strange fungus story: this one overtakes the mind of its host before growing out in a stalk from its head. Complete with video!

Continuing on the "animalcules that mess with your mind" theme, Janet at GermTales has a two-part series on "mind germs". Check out Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Sandra at Discovering Biology in a Digital World brings us 5 bacterial cultures, and a whole lot of dirt-tasting food; check out her post to find out why.

In other blogging news, Ewen of Complex Medium isn't dead; he's just been very busy with graduate school. Still, he was nice enough to send along a link to a recent post on!*, describing studies of the effect of gravity on pathogenic microbes and the immune system.

Over at SuperStrain, JKS has a post on a topic I've been meaning to write about (again): that the U.S. is still not prepared for a health crisis, be it man-made (such as bioterrorism) or created by nature (such as an influenza pandemic).

Effect Measure, of course, always has good stuff about tiny critters. This round, to go along somewhat with the post above, I'll direct you to a post Revere has written about the "bird flu" naysayers--those such as Michael Fumento who call anyone who's been concerned with the evolution and emergence of influenza H5N1"chicken littles."

Meanwhile, Mike the Mad Biologist is famous!. Well, in some nerd circles, anyway, after being interviewed for an article in Cell about a project he's working on to identify new antibiotics.

From here at Aetiology, I'll point out a few posts. First, microbiologists mourn the passing of Esther Lederberg, a true microbiology pioneer and innovator. Second, one of my main areas of interest is zoonotic disease, and a recent news story emphasized just how poorly regulated pet importation is in the United States, allowing in millions of animals (and any diseases they may be carrying!) every year with next to no screening.

Finally, microbiologists should take note of the verdict in Libya's recent prosecution of 6 medical foreign medical workers (the "Tripoli Six"), who were convicted of infecting hundreds of children with HIV in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence against that conclusion. In this season, my heart and hopes extend to their families and loved ones, that reason will triumph in the end. Slim chance, I know--but if you're not familiar with the story, educate yourself and do what you can to help.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to drop me a line (aetiology at gmail dot com) if you'd like to host future editions of Animalcules--looking for hosts as early as next month.

*I hope someone else out there watched the Muppets back in the day....

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I have not had a chance to read any of these yet but I do have a nitpick about the Jane Costello quote that begins the mind germs part one post:

"but the system of diagnosis is still 200 to 300 years behind other branches of medicine"

This is a huge exaggeration give that the basis of modern medicine is only just over 100 years old.

By Andrew Staroscik (not verified) on 21 Dec 2006 #permalink