Have you ever heard about the terrorist attacks of anthrax via mail in 2001 in US that finally ended with Bruce Ivins, the chief suspect in those attacks, committing suicide?
What about tracing microbe sources as in the Salmonella US outbreak?
This is microbial forensics.
Microbial forensics uses biological analysis such as genome sequencing, protein and carbohydrate fingerprinting to figure out the source of a biological agent. 2001 was not the year which witnessed the emergence of microbial forensics. Actually, in 1998 a doctor from Louisiana, who intentionally infected his former mistress with HIV, had a trial in court. But the anthrax attacks were really the reason for the amplification of the role of microbial forensics as it was followed by government funding and developing the sequencing techniques into more cheaper ones.
As a result, microbial forensics is extrapolated to further applications beyond biocrimes. In molecular epidemiology, it will help figuring out the source of food or water borne diseases such as in recent US Salmonella outbreak. The field also is expected to provide help in hospital-acquired infections. Many people sue hospitals every year claiming they got MRSA (methicillin-resistent Staphylococcus aureus) infection from a certain hospital. Tracing the source of the infection will prove whether those people really contracted the infection from the hospital or from any other outside source.
, nosocomial infections
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The concept of self-sacrifice was discovered within the colonies of the Salmonella bacteria. Merely, a survival strategy. In normal cases, whenever the human body becomes infected by Salmonella, the body’s innate immunity represented in the gastrointestinal tissue barriers and normal commensal intestinal flora, literally fights back.
Fortunately enough for the bacteria, they have a way to tackle down this problem. Basically, they divide themselves in two groups, one ready to sacrifice itself for the well-being & the survival of the other. To elaborate more about this, the 1st group has the job of invading the tissues and thus triggering an inflammatory response which is basically a suicide. The 2nd group awaits for the chance of the inactivation of the normal flora & strikes an attack to find a paved smooth way for host infection.
Nothing in the genome dictates the fate of each specific bacterium since they are all members of the same bacterial colony. The difference in the bacterium’s behaviour within the host tissues is due to the random distribution of the cellular components between the two daughter cells.
This same scenario might also apply on a number of different of pathogenic bacteria. This might give us a closer look on the mechanism of bacterial infection & probably provide us with new ideas on how to tackle it.
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Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Recently, it has been all over the news in the United States…warning americans about buying tomatoes, pepper, and different kinds of vegetables “They even suggested some pretty clever alternatives” due to a Salmonella outbreak, which made over 1,200 people sick throughout the nation.
Now “after two months of the intial discovery”, the outbreak has been linked to irrigation water contaminating a certain type of pepper at a Mexican farm, stored in a warehouse in Texas. Officials are being blamed now for putting too much spot-light over tomatoes when in fact they did not significantly contribute to the arousal of the problem in the first place. Their hope now would be to discover that the same irrigation water was also used on tomatoes and not just the pepper.
The FDA declares that it IS safe to eat tomatoes and pepper grown in the US, urging consumers to be open and ask their local grocery stores & restaurants about the source of these vegetables.
For the time being, I would strongly avoid any Mexian salsa 🙂
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