6 Steps from Contaminated Environment to an Infected Patient

by Erica Mitchell | May 20 2016

An earlier version of this article was posted on September 15, 2016.

Remember those proofs from high school geometry? Based on given a set of rules, you could discover the measurement of all the angles in a shape from just one measurement. Stepping you way from that one measurement to the next, you could prove with certainly the measurement of another, then another, until all the angles were accounted for, each determination backed up by a known rule.

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Bacteria: Our Love/Hate Relationship

by Erica Mitchell | May 13 2016


An earlier edition of this post was originally posted on December 8, 2014.

Bacteria rule the world. Not only do they far outnumber every other type of plant or animal, they are everywhere - inside and outside every other type of animal and in every conceivable environment, from boiling thermal vents to sub-zero glaciers. But not all bacteria are germs, or illness-causing bacteria. Most are vital to our survival and to the survival of life on Earth. Unfortunately, some bacteria are dangerous, especially to those of us with weak immune systems. Today’s post will explore this incredible branch of the tree of life, and our “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” relationship with these microorganisms.  

What is bacteria?

Bacteria are single-cell organisms. Where humans are made up of, on average 1 trillion cells, bacteria are made up of just one. But one isn't the loneliest number when it comes to bacteria; they reproduce very efficiently by splitting into two, who then go on to split into two more… and on until you have a colony of bacteria. Some of these  colonies are beneficial to us, some don't harm us at all, and some are downright nasty, leading to harmful infections which can threaten our lives.

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8 Great Podcasts to Check Out This Summer

by Erica Mitchell | May 11 2016

As summer approaches, so do opportunities to listen to podcasts! If you want to explore some of the topics we cover in this blog straight from the researchers, scientists and designers who are on the forefront of discovery, check out some of these highly-reviewed podcasts. 

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Anatomy of a Scientific Journal Article

by Erica Mitchell | May 4 2016

Scientific articles, also called academic or scholarly papers, are every-day reading for many professionals. For the average person, however, they represent a novel, sometimes intimidating, type of reading material. Unlike science articles found in science magazines such as Scientific American or Psychology Today, which take a journalistic approach to covering breakthroughs, journal articles have a concise writing style, lots of numbers, and scientific jargon. This post will explore the basic parts of a scientific journal article, including what parts to skip to if you just want the big picture.

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Scientific Journals: From the Lab to the World

by Erica Mitchell | May 3 2016

Scientists around the world toil in their laboratories or in the field conducting research according to the scientific method. One of the final steps in the scientific method is sharing data within the scientific community. The most important way these 15 million + scientists share their work with their colleagues and the world at large is through publication in a scientific journal. Publication in a journal means the wider community has access to research that may help in other studies, but it also means the data has been reviewed and meets established criteria for reliability, meaning fellow scientists can trust the findings and use them with confidence.

Today’s post will explore the steps required for work to achieve publication, and tomorrow’s post will describe the resulting article format.

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Stopping the C. diff Cycle

by Erica Mitchell | April 29 2016

In our series on Clostridium difficile, we explored the bacteria that causes this lethal hospital-acquired infection, the resulting infectious disease, and the outlook for treatment and prevention. We are now offering this one-page infographic that presents the highlights of this series on one shareable page. The cycle of infection as well as the lifecycle of the microorganisms are presented in relation to each other, with the added element of where either of those cycles can be broken, preventing an outbreak.

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8 Ways John Snow is like Jon Snow

by Erica Mitchell | April 26 2016

These days, most people hearing the name “John Snow” will think of the character Jon Snow from HBO’s Game of Thrones, a hugely successful series based on the books by George R. R. Martin. Many of the 6 million+ viewers of this fantasy series may not know that there was another John Snow, perhaps one without the coal-black curls and swarthy good looks, but a man who changed the world of medicine and saved millions of lives. What does a fictional hero who wields a magical sword to destroy the undead atop a 700-foot wall of ice have to do with a Victorian-era physician who wielded nothing heavier than a fountain pen as he collected thousands of data points in a 1-square-mile neighborhood of London? The answer may surprise you!

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6 Reasons Why C. diff is a Menace

by Erica Mitchell | April 22 2016

C._diff_6_reasons-01.jpgThere are 6 reasons why Clostridium difficile is such a menace. Each one of these aspects makes C. diff infections, or CDIs, a force to be reckoned with. All six make it one of the greatest threats in hospital infection control.

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C. Diff: The Perfect Storm

by Erica Mitchell | April 19 2016

You are a patient in the hospital, recovering from a surgical procedure. You are put on antibiotics to prevent infection, and everything seems fine. That is, until you begin to get sick. Not from your surgery, but from abdominal pain, fever, cramping, and terrible diarrhea. Your doctor informs you that you have become infected with Clostridium difficile. Now you are not only trying to recover from your surgery, you are also trying to fight off the leading cause of hospital-acquired infection death. How did this happen? What is C. diff doing to your body? Today we’ll explore the disease that has hospitals and long-term care facilities desperate to find solutions: Clostridium difficile colitis.


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Clostridium difficile: An Introduction

by Erica Mitchell | April 15 2016

C. diff, or Clostridium difficile, is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped, anaerobic, endosporic, toxigenic, opportunistic, bacillus. Its scientific description makes it sound like a pretty standard bacteria. But this bacteria "has become the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals," according to the CDC, a pathogen responsible for 14,000 deaths each year. We could all stand to learn more about this microorganism and the unique attributes that make it so lethal. Today’s post will explore the basic definition of Clostridium difficile. First, let’s unpack that long list of terms mentioned above.
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