Maggots are fly larvae. Their life cycle goes like this: flies are attracted to food and other rubbish on which they lay their eggs; later the eggs hatch into maggots, which turn into flies. You may be wondering if you have eaten that picnic sandwich which a fly had just landed on (and possibly laid its eggs), whether the eggs and maggots can survive!? Answer: larvae that might be accidentally ingested with food cannot usually survive in the gastrointestinal environment.
Hospital acquired infections are never a good thing, usually there is simply lapse in care, resources or common sense behind most occurrence. The normal kinds of infection you “expect” to see being acquired in hospitals are MRSA, Norovirus or Clostridium difficile. However sometimes outbreaks can be a real mystery to solve. I have had to deal with an unusual outbreak of hospital acquired fungal infection myself, so I was intrigued to “read on” when I saw this week’s headlines that “a strange outbreak had occurred in a Scottish hospital”.
This outbreak occurred at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and sadly patients have died as a result. An outbreak is defined when there are two or more cases linked in time, place or person. A single infection can constitute an outbreak if the infection is significantly rare or unlikely in the particular situation. The Glasgow outbreak is unusual in that it is not the normal kind of infection you expect to see being acquired in hospitals, this was cryptococcosis.
Cryptococcosis is a fungal infection caused by yeast like organisms of the family Cryptococcus spp. There are three main subspecies which infect humans:
Cryptococcus spp. are found worldwide and throughout the environment; C. gatii is mainly found in the tropics whereas C. neoformans is more common and widespread. C. neoformans is principally found in pigeon droppings and pigeon nests as well as soil whereas C. gatii tends to be found in the bark of trees as well as soil. Other animals have been known to carry Cryptococcus spp. including cats, dogs, horses and even camels, llamas and alpacas!
Okay, so the Bug Blog is usually about the clinical and scientific aspects of microbiology but this week I’m going to do something a bit different. Now I’m not someone who watches much TV; there was very little on that interested me over the Christmas period. However, I did watch a short TV hospital dramatization called Charité on Netflix which I thought was brilliant and something that anyone interested in microbiology would also enjoy. OK so it’s in German with English subtitles, but it is the best show I have watched in a long time! Let me explain.
As some of you will be aware from reading previous New Year blogs (see Pandemic Legacy blog) I love board games and of course microbiology. This year Santa has brought me another brilliant bug board game combo… Plague Inc.
This is the opposite to the Pandemic games in which humans battle to eradicate bugs; here you are the bug and the aim is to infect cities of the world and kill off entire countries and continents! Now I feel this game lacks the shear panic that Pandemic Legacy gave me but it has meant I have slept over the two weeks of Christmas, which I did not when playing Pandemic Legacy (the ultimate, epic, scary and brilliant game for Microbiologists and all those interested in infection).
But back to Plague Inc, you start as a bacterium (all bacilli of various colours) with one country that you already infect and 5 Trait Cards. You gain DNA points (1 bonus point each round plus 1 for each country where your infection cubes are in control) that allow you to evolve by buying a trait from the Trait Cards you hold in your hand… At the start your bacterium has little potency (2 DNA points) so the game feels a bit slow, but it will grow on you!