Assignment ll: Microbes in the News

Can airborne viruses survive in water?

This article discusses an equine herpes virus and its ability to survive in water. This causes a problem for shared water among animals. It also gives insight into viruses that can survive outside of their preferred conditions.

The first thing that came to mind after reading this article is the infectious game we played with the beach ball. This was the same lecture we talked about possible ways an infection can be passed: airborne, contact. However, for me, a combination was never considered.

An airborne virus also being able to survive in water makes the area spreading of that virus that much wider. The article mentions that even when the animal with the virus is absent, other animals were getting the infection through the shared water. This is important because trying to maintain the spread of an infection is only possible when you know all of the pathways of infection.

My question is: Have viruses always been able to survive outside of their ideal environment?

Assignment ll: Microbes in the News

Bacteria’s DNA fingerprint suggests it could be spreading via food distribution

This article discusses the spread of Clostridium difficile, a microbe that causes gut infections. C. difficile  is an important topic of discussion because it appears to be transmitted through food, resistant in some people, seen in a lot of hospitalized patients, and it can be dangerous. To track the source of this bacterium, scientists have been using DNA fingerprinting. Dr. David Eyre, the researcher of this topic, has been promoting washing hands to prevent the spread however, he thinks it is beyond this because there are different strains appearing together in different countries.

This topic ties into a couple of our lectures. We’ve discussed resistance, the human microbiome, and washing hands (soap) as being a way to kill bacteria.

I find this topic important especially since Clostridium difficile appears to be widespread and affecting certain countries. DNA fingerprinting is a great method for finding the source of a spread and I think if scientists continue to practice this kind of research we could get to a place where we can stop a disease before it begins.

My question for you is: Will this be good enough? What other ways can we prevent the spread of an infection?


Microbes of Decomposition


For the piece I have been working on, I decided to make   a woman with a dress of microbes laying on the forest bed.   I always find images with woman lying on the forest to be interesting (especially one series of photos I’ve seen that represents stages of fertility).   I first thought of a woman lying in some moss in the forest, and then decided to do a depiction of the bacteria that go behind the decomposition of a body to make up the dress of the person.

For the purpose of finding out which microbes are involved in decomposition, I ended up reading through a paper by Metcalf et al. that discussed use of microbes in forensics to better determine time of death.   I discovered which microbes played parts in different stages of decomposition and placed them throughout as such.   Many of the soil bacteria were Proteobacteria, which meant that they were all gram-negative.

Some of the interesting bacteria to find included Firmicutes that would stain gram-negative though they were gram-positive and serratia, which could form endospores.

Art Project: The Lytic Cycle

The Lytic Cycle Shown Through Dance

I knew from the beginning I wanted to incorporate my microbiology project with pole dance however, none of the topics seemed to easily transition into a dance. When we learned about viruses, I knew I had found my topic. I came up with a routine and asked a few girls at my studio to do it with me. Fortunately, they agreed! Unfortunately, I was asking them to give up their time and work without pay. However, they were very generous and in the short amount of time we had, I was able to show them the routine and this was only take two!

The dance starts with the “cell” being the first two dancers on the pole. Then the virus shows up on the pole (attachment). The scarf dropped down from the girls portraying the virus to the girls on the floor portraying the cell represents the DNA (DNA entry). The girls that then come into the routine is representing the virus duplicating and the floor work of the cell on the floor is its slow demise (synthesis and assembly). Finally, the virus bursts through the cell (release), ending the cycle.

A life commandeered

It was made for you.

A connection before you were

ever born.

When it feels out, into the dark, you’ll be there

and you’ll draw it in.


Surrounded by your kin

a familiar grasp

But its none of them.

You are beset.


Just a pinch and a push

and its done.

An itch and tingle and you’ve become more

than you’ve ever been,

an extra length

of soul incised and tied.

It fit, in a blink, and it settled into you.

Like the last lie you’d ever tell yourself.


Divided, you persist as you can.

The shame you feel

when you see it in your progeny.

A beastly poison in their being.

You know it is a matter of time.


Bracing, you and yours

fall apart.

The thing you kept and passed on,

wrested from you all the mechanisms of life.

You watch as you are dismantled.

And with your last attempt for salvation,

if not for you, then for others,

you rip and raise high

a sign of the anathema.


Artist Statement:

Learning about lysogenic viral cycle was one of those times in biology that I felt there was something poetic going on. The nature of the invasion and destruction of cells from this type of virus made me think about things in human lives that are applicable. Where ideas are impregnated and can have profound influences on how we live. The cycle seems dark and sad to me. But like in the human spirit, the drive of life at all levels can be at times selfless in the face of defeat. I was instantly drawn to the idea of a cell’s MHC showing the on the outside what was going to destroy it from the inside. It seemed to have a greater meaning than its evolutionary utility. Although what is described in the poem is meant more for a bacteriophage, I took some license with what would possibly be more appropriately an endogenous retrovirus in humans.

Art Project: Comics



Starring cats Toni and Buttercup

For my art project I created a comic with photography. My cats participated as the actors in the story. The story was inspired by my isolate project in this class, in which swabbed my cats mouths.

The microbiological concepts that I have focused on are pathogen/host interactions and antibiotic resistance.

Hosts have evolved incredible mechanisms to evade pathogens including the complement system, which leads to the opsonization of bacteria. Although this concept is intuitive (host evades pathogen), there are many complex and detailed mechanisms involved that constitute our immune system.

When the orange cat hears the word “pathogen’ she immediately assumes that a disease outbreak is going on. However, mechanisms in the feline immune system keep these pathogens from causing disease. Antibiotic resistance is also a natural process, but it can be accelerated by overuse of antibiotics by humans.

Art Project

I drew a one panel comic about how according to the endosymbiotic theory, mitochondria (and chloroplast) evolved separately from rest of the Eukaryotic cells and therefore it is similar to being adopted.

I tried to add some detail like  Endoplasmic reticulum and ribosomes on them. I wanted to add things like lysosome and other organelle but I didn’t want to make it too crowded.

Ode to a Pathogen

What ho! Another dog has come to see

The Vet’rinarian, in this wee hour,

With stomach contents laid for all to see

And such odor unlike any sweet flow’r.

What caused this vomiting of food and bile,

Bowels emitting odor quite obscene,

The stool unformed, of crimson hue – and while

The Gram stain dries, His owner’s turning green!

One look into the eyepiece of the scope,

Reveals the answer: there upon the slide,

Magenta-colored rods form strands of rope.

Enteric pests, from us you cannot hide!


O pathogen! Thy logarithmic grow

Rate shall be stopped: Bactericidal drugs

Shall we inject in skin of dog, and lo!

What fate awaiteth these virulent bugs?

Will ribosomal subunits be bound

To halt the lengthening of peptide chains?

No – “grab the ampicillin: pound for pound

This antibiotic will heal thy pains.’

Administered under the skin it goes,

Inhibit cell wall synthesis, it shall;

To kill those pesky Gram-neg anaerobes,

Gut health restored to thine four-legged pal!


Artist’s Statement:

I have chosen to immortalize a common ailment that befalls our canine companions during the break-up season, in the form of a pair of sonnets.

Likely due to our curious little buddies finding and eating some rotting thing that has been buried under the snow for most of the winter, we see many dogs who present with vomiting, diarrhea (most of the time bloody), and dehydration as a result of the first two symptoms. We’re able to see whether or not a bacterial infection is brewing in their GI tract from a Gram stain of a sample from the dog’s tail end. If we find an overgrowth of bacteria on the slide, the patient wins the prize of getting an injection of antibiotics under the skin and a course of antibiotic tablets/capsules to go home with. The choice of antibiotics we use will of course depend on which types of bacteria we see on the slide. For this poem I chose to write about Gram-negative bacilli.

I wanted to showcase how I am able to synthesize information on microbes from two sources: academic knowledge from this course, and applied practical knowledge from on-the-job experience.

Microbial Culture Video

Team Brokaryotes presents: MICROBIAL CULTURE!

Created by Albert, Inho, Rei, and Rod!

In this video, we combined different languages and cultures, as well as interpret microbiological concepts through dance (in which case we consider to be a different language on its own)!

Artists’ Statement:
When Rei asks Inho something about Microbiology, Inho suddenly answers in a different language. Now every time someone tries to explain the concepts, they suddenly change languages to something the other cannot understand. This portrays the diversity and “culture” of the microbial world, drawing parallels to the macro-world. We also incorporated a dance/piece to interpret microbiological concepts.

Art Project: “Extreme Environments”

My name is Kjersten Williams. For my art project, I decided to go with mixed media. I constructed the microbes’ background environments out of paper and colored pencil, and made the microbes themselves out of modeling clay, giving the project a bit of visual depth. For my subject, I decided to focus on a specific group of microbes: the temperature extremophiles. I wanted to showcase the variety of different morphologies and habitats of these microbes (through the relatively accurate depiction of the microbes and their respective environments), while also making a statement against the general belief that all microbes are “bad’ (hence, the added shaky eyes to make them cuter and more personable). These microbes live in environments which would be deemed uninhabitable to the majority of life forms on Earth. Due to their resilience and adaptability, they represent the type of organism which astrobiologists may be most likely to find on other planets!

There are a couple mesophiles included for the sake of contrast. The microbes represented are: Chloroflexus aurantiacus (the red snake-like thermophilic bacterium represented against the background of a hot spring area), Methanopyrus kandleri (the blue, rod-shaped hyperthermophilic archaea set against the background of hydrothermal vents), Deinococcus radiodurans (a mesophilic bacteria represented by the green tetrad set against the forest background), Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans (a mesophilic bacterium represented by the purple, rod-shaped microbe with the pink flagellum), Psychrobacter arcticus (the blue diploid psychrophilic coccobacillus bacterium with pink spots, which is set against the aquatic background underneath the ice layers), and Planococcus halocryophilus (the blue-green diploid cocci bacterium set against the polar background).