Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Good, The bad & The Ugly - A Bacteria's story

What comes to mind when you hear the name "Bacteria"? "Friendly buggers" is what I call them. There's nothing worse to the start of the week than looking down the microscope on Monday morning to find your cells infected with bacteria. Sigh!!!, Just when you were looking forward to a nice confluent flask or patterned well of cells to play with.
And just like that the day's plan goes out the window and you're stuck with alcohol, detergents, settle plates and how best to implement plan 'B'. 

How about you spend one night in hospital only to be told you've been infected with "MRSA" - yep every patient's worse nightmare. Trust me the nurses and other healthcare professionals involved in your care are not to blame. I've never seen anyone wash their hands so many times in an hour than healthcare workers. Yes, I know because I used to be one. I wonder how many health care professionals will actually swap positive to MRSA? Not sure what the practice is now but when I worked on hospital wards, we never got tested. Ah well, I suppose those buggers must have developed a symbiotic relationship with the staff.

On the flip side, how tasty was that cheese you had, and that yogurt  or that glass of wine, not to mention the soy sauce with that yummy sushi / stir fry. Yep all thanks to those "friendly buggers" called bacteria.
Their application in the food industry, biotechnology industry, agriculture to name but a few remain vast. We appreciate the friendly role of bacteria in the gut, however when faced with a bacterial infection or disease you get a harsh reminder of how hostile these friendly buggers can be. Take cholera, meningitis, pneumonia and TB - all potentially fatal conditions due to bacterial infection.  

The problem with bacteria is that they are such low maintenance, non fussy creatures that they can be found surviving almost anywhere on earth be it hot or cold, inside or outside, underground or above surface. They are so adaptable it's become challenging to combat them even with antibiotics. Once upon a time penicillin was a wonder drug for treating many bacterial infections. Subsequent antibiotics developed since then as efficient as can be are now never a 100% due to mutations of bacteria to become resistant. Resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is now a major concern for the pharmaceutical industry.

Still several industries flourish thanks to the role of bacteria in the same way I love my cheesy meals, the occasional glass of wine, a nice creamy yogurt and a night in with chinese takeaway.

Love them or hate them, those friendly buggers are here to stay.

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