November 20, 2013

Sometimes, serendipity is a scary thing...

I took nursing back in university. My favourite favourite class was microbiology, so much so that I often wondered if I should have hung out there instead of going on to be a nurse.

We had a great prof, who would spice up his 8:30 AM lectures (with many many slides) with unusual pictures,  beer tasting, jokes, and other things that actually kept us awake despite the early hour and the darkened classroom.

My favourite bacterium was Clostridium Perfringens, primarily because it is the cause of the nauseating-sounding gas gangrene. Plus it also hangs out in gut bacteria and leads to food poisoning. 

And it has a cool name.

From Wikipedia:
Clostridium perfringens (formerly known as C. welchii, or Bacillus welchii) is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped, anaerobic, spore-forming bacterium of the genus Clostridium.[1] C. perfringens is ever present in nature and can be found as a normal component of decaying vegetation, marine sediment, theintestinal tract of humans and other vertebrates, insects, and soil.
C. perfringens is the third most common cause of food poisoning in the United Kingdom and the United States though it can sometimes be ingested and cause no harm.
Infections due to C. perfringens show evidence of tissue necrosisbacteremiaemphysematouscholecystitis, and gas gangrene, which is also known as clostridial myonecrosis. The toxin involved ingas gangrene is known as α-toxin, which inserts into the plasma membrane of cells, producing gaps in the membrane that disrupt normal cellular function. C. perfringens can participate in polymicrobialanaerobic infections. Clostridium perfringens is commonly encountered in infections as a component of the normal flora.In this case, its role in disease is minor.
The action of C. perfringens on dead bodies is known to mortuary workers as tissue gas and can be halted only by embalming.

It's a nasty bacteria with a nasty name that rolls off the tongue in a most satisfying way. Imagine - GAS gangrene! It sounds like something out of Harry Potter. I adored it, I loved saying it, I think I even cultured it in the lab.
And now it turns out it may be one of the causative factors in MS:
Of course, early days yet, and I still think Epstein-Barr has the greater role, but I think it's rather amusing that my favourite bacteria might be the cause of my illness.
Of course, I do have holes in my brain, so perhaps I'm not thinking properly about what is funny and what is not. But c'mon, say it with me:

Clostridium Perfringens!

On the good side, every discovery is another step closer to treatment and cure. But maybe, just maybe, first year microbiology students shouldn't be culturing this creature.

1 comment:

climbingdownhill said...

Not sure whether to laugh or be scared, but this is certainly interesting.