Microbiologists always know when summer has arrived and the weather is improving. How? Well, the number of stool samples we see growing Campylobacter spp. increases significantly (currently 5-10 a day for me)… yep, Microbiologists are strange enough to notice…! You’ll notice too when they start humming..."Summertime and the living is queasy!"
Many of you will have seen the news about an outbreak of
Bacillus cereus blood stream infections in newborns, that has sadly claimed the life of one of these babies. So far 18 cases have been identified in a number of different hospitals. It is thought that the cause is contamination of parenteral nutrition given intravenously to premature babies when they are unable to feed for themselves.
B. cereus is a common environmental bacterium found in soil and the environment. It may be encountered in clinical medicine as a cause of food
poisoning (e.g. fried rice) but as most laboratories do not routinely look for B. cereus in stool samples (it is technically very difficult to separate it out from other gut flora) it is not routinely reported. B. cereus grows in food held at room temperature allowing toxins to be produced or the bacteria to multiply.
I have seen a recent run of patients, with pyrexia of unknown origin and raised
liver enzymes, who have subsequently been shown to have liver abscesses. I have
been asked to help find the cause of the liver abscess and advise on treatment. Interestingly...the cause can usually be determined from the history taking alone - laboratory tests just provide confirmation. Although liver abscesses are
not particularly common, they are good examples of how a careful and systematic approach can elicit the cause and lead to the correct treatment.