6 Reasons Why C. diff is a Menace

by Erica Mitchell | November 21 2019

There 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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Superbugs: Vertical Gene Transfer

by Erica Mitchell | July 11 2019

"Superbugs," or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, have been in the news a lot lately. These types of bacteria can cause infections that are very difficult to treat since they are not killed by conventional antibiotics. While most of them can be eradicated, it requires very powerful (and costly) antibiotics. And most terrifying, we play a role in creating these superbugs. To see how, we first need to understand how bacteria reproduce and how they adapt (and share that adaptation to their surrounding buddies).

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How do Germs Spread?

by Erica Mitchell | June 14 2019

Germ theory, the idea that infection is caused by microscopic organisms unseen to the naked eye, is only a few hundred years old. This theory focuses on three main components.

  1. The reservoir: The person, animal, or surface that carries the infection.
  2. The mode of transmission: Via direct contact, a droplet of liquid, airborne, a vector (such as an insect), or a vehicle (food or surface)
  3. The susceptible host: A person and his/her ports of entry (nose, mouth, incision, medical device, wound)

But the paths from the reservoir to the susceptible host seem infinite. To narrow down the steps needed to prove this relationship between contaminated rooms and infected patients, researchers have proposed routes of transmission that could account for a relationship. Here are two proposals, both of which demonstrate the critical role played by surfaces in the transmission of pathogens.

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The Dirt on Garden Bacteria

by Erica Mitchell | March 24 2017

As winter ends and spring begins to arrive (and stay), many of us will find ourselves elbow-deep in soil, getting our gardens ready for the season. While we are selecting our annuals, clearing out weeds, and picking out our vegetable plants, there is an army of workers already at work in our gardens: Bacteria. Billions and billions in one handful, these microscopic organisms are performing essential actions that enables us to grow a beautiful garden and grow nutritious food. Today we will explore these unseen workers and how, depending on where they are, they can be either life-sustaining or life-threatening.

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Happy Birthday, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek!

by Erica Mitchell | October 24 2016

Today we celebrate the birth of a scientist known as the Father of Microbiology for his role in the use of lenses to observe the microscopic world. Optics and lens-making developed quickly in 16-17th century Europe, allowing research to expand to the universe. But just as lenses could sharpen light from far away, allowing Galileo to see Jupiter's moons, it could also magnify objects right in the laboratory. The microscope was invented by several lens makers at around the same time in the late 1500s and the technology spread throughout Europe. In the 1660s, however, the use of microscopes for intense research grew explosively. Discovery after discovery began to lay the groundwork for modern biology. 

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The Pathogens That Made History: Consumption, Part 2

by Erica Mitchell | April 8 2016

In our last post, we described a pervasive disease that so affected the global population that it found its way into visual, musical, and literary works of art for centuries. What what this horrible disease? Tuberculosis.

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Choosing a Disinfectant: What to Sic on the Bugs Making You Sick

by Erica Mitchell | February 11 2016

There is an astounding array of cleaning products available at your local store, online, and probably just sitting under your sink. Does it matter what you use to clean up after someone in your family has been ill? Absolutely. Today's post will help you pick the right product for your clean-up requirements.

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Cleaning House, Part 2: Know Your Household Pathogen

by Erica Mitchell | February 5 2016

Hospitals clean with great attention to what organisms caused illness within that patient room. The pathogen could be a virus, a bacteria, a fungus, or other microorganism. Each pathogen has its own unique characteristics that dictate the kind of cleanser needed, the frequency of cleaning required, and many other factors. Even though some of the organisms causing hospital-acquired infections are different than those that cause our typical community-acquired infections, we should use this same type of approach in our home cleaning. First, let’s learn about the viruses and bacteria that cause most of our sick days.

This post discusses diagnosis, symptoms, and details about illnesses that are not intended to be taken as medical advice. Always discuss health issues with your doctor.

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The Golden Age of Microbiology: Part 2

by Erica Mitchell | January 25 2016

Our last post introduced the work of Louis Pasteur, the father of microbiology. It was not long after Pasteur proposed that microorganisms were to blame for food spoilage that someone would make the leap that infection could, too, also be caused by microorganisms. That man (who would become a great scientific rival to Pasteur) came to be known as the founder of modern bacteriology.

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Microbrews and Microbiology

by Erica Mitchell | January 15 2016

This blog has covered many aspects of microbiology, from germs that make us sick, to the bacteria that help us live. Today’s post explores microorganisms that are not vital to our survival, but perhaps make life a little livelier. Those microorganisms are the ones that bring us beer.

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