Microbial art project

For this art project, I really needed to do some searching. I am not an artist person by any means. It’s difficult for me to even draw a stick figure. Growing up in Alaska, I’ve always admired its beauty, so I wanted to do something that could possibly depict the spring time here in Fairbanks. However, it’s not necessarily pretty. It’s muddy, it’s messy, it’s dirt covered snow and soggy grass. I’ve seen wax art like this before, but instead of showing something streaking down and falling on to something, I decided to show the growth of something through what resembles the decomposition of the flowers before these to fertilize this growth. The flowers that we do have here are dime a dozen and they are beautiful if they can grow strong and tall enough to push through the fertilized soil. Also, I’ve always thought that the first day of spring is the first day you see a butterfly, so I decided to add one of those little guys!

A2: Microbes in the News

Article Title: Microbial biogeography of wine grapes is conditioned by cultivar, vintage, and climate

Date: September 16, 2013

Author: Nicholas Bokulich, John Thorngate, Paul Richardson, David Mills

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

Link: https://www.pnas.org/content/111/1/E139.full

Summary: This was a study done on wine! The researchers collected 235 samples of grape must (the crushed de-stemmed berries right before fermentation) from 8 different wineries in 4 California wine regions. They took DNA samples from all these grapes and sequenced specific genetic markers for bacteria and fungi instead of the entire genome. They found that a lot of factors make microbial differences, especially the region (geographic location) the grape was harvested from. The relative humidity and total precipitation of each area influences the specific niche for bacteria and fungi. The microbes found in a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa/Sonoma valley are completely different from grapes harvested from the central coast microbes. One example given was Zinfandel, which grape has thin skins leading to more berry breakage, these grapes carry more Gluconbacter and Lactobacillales which are commonly found on damaged fruits. This in turn, of course, leads to different flavors. For example, Oenococcus oeni carries out malolactic fermentation which adds a buttery flavor and reduces the acidity of the wine (think, Chardonnay) and Brettanomyces which adds a bit of a bitter bite and can sometimes spoil the wine (corked).

Connection: The authors talk about how microbes can be transferred in a modular way, by horizontal gene transfer, which we have covered in class. They go into detail about genome sequencing and online databases to help decipher sequences that are in the millions. They also briefly touch on fermentation.

Critical Analysis: I love wine, so this article was very appealing to me. I know the basic process of how wine is fermented and I know about different grapes and regions, but I never really thought about the microbes in different areas and in different wines and how they can affect them. I thought this study was really interesting in how environmental factors influence microbial populations and how it may be possible to predict how it can change with global climate change. Growers in the vineyards may be able to make changes to those conditions each year after tastings to be rid of anything that is undesirable or enhance things that are positive. I knew winemaking was an art in itself, but I’m fascinated to see how much science actually plays a part in the sometimes pretentious lifestyle.

Question: Will there ever be a wine that doesn’t cause a hangover!? 🙂 Just kidding. I’m wondering about the microbes in the soil and how they affect vine growth. There are microbes in the grapes themselves, but do the microbes in the soil play a part in taste at all? Or does that specifically reside on the personal palate of each individual person.

A2: Microbes in the News

Article Title: Microbiological Contamination of Drugs during Their Administration for Anesthesia in the Operating Room

Date: April 2016

Author: Derryn A. Gargiulo, M.Pharm.Clin., Reg.Pharm.N.Z.; Simon J. Mitchell, Ph.D., F.A.N.Z.C.A.; Janie Sheridan, Ph.D., Reg.Pharm.N.Z., F.R.Pharm.S.; Timothy G. Short, M.B.Ch.B., M.D., F.A.N.Z.C.A.; Simon Swift, Ph.D.; Jane Torrie, M.B.Ch.B., F.A.N.Z.C.A.; Craig S. Webster, Ph.D.; Alan F. Merry, M.B.Ch.B., F.F.P.M.A.N.Z.C.A., F.R.C.A., F.A.N.Z.C.A.

Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists

Link: https://anesthesiology.pubs.asahq.org/article.aspx?articleid=2491392&resultClick=3

Summary: This article talks about the frequent lapses in aseptic techniques used in the operating room today, particularly with tools administering drugs to patients. Especially in large, busy hospitals were preoperative environments can get quite hectic, the aseptic techniques can often be overlooked during the sense of urgency to keep the patient on track for their scheduled surgery. This is in contrast with a normal, slower paced clinic setting where the anesthesiologist has ample time to set up equipment and utilize aseptic techniques as well as enough time between patients. The study was done in a major teaching hospital in New Zealand. They were able to obtain pathogenic microbes from 6.3% out of 300 general anesthesia procedures.

Connection: They talk a lot about how they swabbed the syringes and what they did to obtain their samples as well as what they did with them afterwards. They used multiple types of agar plates, included horses blood plates to culture different bacteria. They utilized the quadrant streaks, Gram-stains, and incubation. These are all things that we have done in lab.

Critical Analysis: I found this article very interesting. When we think of post-operative infections we rarely think that the anesthesiologist would play a part in that because they just administer the drugs to keep us asleep. They don’t exactly put their hands inside the patient like the surgeon does.

Question: What steps could be taken in order to ensure that all surgical equipment is suitable for surgery? There is an entire position devoted to sterilizing surgical equipment, but something seems to always slip through the cracks. Most syringes and needles are put into sterile packaging, I wonder if there is something that could be put in the paper of those packages that could potentially kill anything that was not cleared off during sterilization

A2: Microbes in the News

Article Title: No Vacancy: How Beneficial Microbes Cooperate with Immunity to Provide Colonization Resistance to Pathogens

Date: May 1, 2015

Author: Martina Sassone-Corsi and Manuela Raffatellu

Source: Journal of Immunology

Link: https://www.jimmunol.org/content/194/9/4081


Summary: The microbes in the gut are called microbiota and they work hand in hand with our intestinal mucosa to provide a beneficial relationship to both. There are certain good bacteria that we have labeled as probiotics. These microbes that are beneficial to us and can help diminish pathogen colonization in our GI tract by blocking harmful microorganisms in two major ways. The first being direct competition between two commensals and the second being indirect effects against pathogens.  These probiotics include Lactobacillus spp  and Bifidobaterium spp. Probiotics are managed by the World Health Organization and are defined as “live bacterial species that confer a health benefit when administered in adequate amounts’. There has been some success in targeting specific pathogens with different probiotics but there is still further research that needs to be done.      


Connection: This article correlated with what we are covering about immunity. The way our body responds to specific pathogens and bacteria, what we produce internally and what we can take orally to enhance what we’ve already produced to fight potential infection. This also talks about the different pathways bacteria takes to cause infection.


Critical Analysis: I really like the idea of what the authors are studying. I do not like taking antibiotics unless absolutely have to. I like the idea of taking something to enhance the healthy bacteria that I already produce to help fight potential infections before they even occur. This article went into detail that went over my head a bit but they rounded it all together at the end.


Question: The article talks about discovering a specific intestinal commensal bacterium can potentially provide colonization resistance to certain pathogenic bacteria. I wonder if at some point we will be able to prescribe different probiotics to fight most, if not all GI diseases and infections before it even occurs to avoid prescribing antibiotics.

Assignment 1: Introduction

Hey guys! My name is Alyssa, and like many others I consider myself a super…duper senior. I have a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Oregon, but found that sitting behind a computer to analyze lab work and data for 8 hours a day was not for me! I had a part time job as an ER medical scribe and fell in love with it. I decided to move home (born and raised here in Fairbanks!) to pursue the path to medical school as an emergency medicine physician. One day, right? 🙂