Field of Science

Is a Deep throat a Sore throat ?

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for

 One of the reasons that I blog on Streptococcus pyogenes so often is because it is such a fascinating and adaptable pathogen. It causes so many different diseases. Diseases as different as a sore throat, and necrotizing fasciitis (The flesh eating disease !).  It's even been implicated in tourettes syndrome. This is a hardy and adaptable pathogen, that primarily colonises the throat and the skin.
In a recent outbreak in japan, it was found S. pyogenes has apparently found a new niche to colonise. During the course of one month, researchers at Nagoya city hospital tracked the incidence of of a disease called balanoposthitis.
Now, whenever you see a disease that has "itis" at the end of it, it's usually caused by a bacterial infection. And another word for the "glans penis" is balanus. Still not clear on what balanoposthitis is? Why not Google Image it !

So these doctors looked at patients with an infection of the foreskin and penis. What they found was that it was caused by S. pyogenes. So how on earth did it get there ?

Remember how earlier I said that S. pyogenes likes to colonise the throat ? The Authors hypothesize that the causes of these balanoposthiteses (say that with a lisp, I dare you) are from penile to oral contact, likely from a sex worker.
The cluster of these individuals in one month would suggest something like an outbreak occurring. Perhaps a new strain of S. pyogenes that specifically causes this disease? Perhaps there was one really busy prostitute in serious need of a strepsil ?
What they found however was that these were all different strains of S .pyogenes. They looked at the surface proteins, and found that they were all different. So in fact, all of these guys had relations with different people with sore throats, each carrying a different strain of S. pyogenes.

This means that on each of these occasions, these bacteria, through no fault of their own, found themselves in a new environment. Instead of simply dying, they grew and multiplied and survived. This demonstrates the sheer tenacity of this bacterium. It's sort of inspiring.
In a really really gross way.

Minami M, Wakimoto Y, Matsumoto M, Matsui H, Kubota Y, Okada A, Isaka M, Tatsuno I, Tanaka Y, & Hasegawa T (2010). Characterization of Streptococcus pyogenes isolated from balanoposthitis patients presumably transmitted by penile-oral sexual intercourse. Current microbiology, 61 (2), 101-5 PMID: 20107992

[no cartoon today, snowed under with work]

Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No...its Superantigens

The human body is a great niche for bacteria. Nutrients run through our blood vessels, and soak our cells. Within the gut, on the skin, and in the nasal tract, many bacteria make a home. And for the most part, we tolerate their presence. Some bacteria are even useful to us. However, there are some bacteria who are not friendly tenants. These bacteria try to invade the body. However, this in itself is no easy task. The body is defended by the immune system, a complex and organized collection of different cells dedicated to fighting off bodily intruders.