Field of Science

#MicroTwJC: Vast Viruses !

Viruses ! Is there any word related to microbiology that conjures up the same fear, the same cache of woe than viruses. The very definition can mean "a harmful or corrupting influence", which is presumably why Miley Cyrus's music is often transmitted via "Viral Videos". People know there is something to fear when they hear of a Virus.
So perhaps it is not mistake that so close to Halloween that the Microbiology Twitter Journal Club is getting together to talk about a new species of GIANT VIRUS.

TMI Friday: A Nasty Rash

Urticaria is a disease that causes rashes, and is most commonly caused by allergic reactions. However, there is one form of this disease known as "Dermatographic Urticaria" which occurs because of excessive scratching or stroking of the skin.
This weeks TMI Friday we are looking at a surprisingly unusual cause of Dermatographic Urticaria.
A 30 year-old, married male reported to the ... Department of Skin and VD (venereal disease) with a history of recurrent itching, redness and swelling on the penis 1-5 minutes after masturbation for the last three months. These lesions persisted for 4-6 hours after which they gradually disappeared of their own accord within 24 hours.
 That's right. Excessive "monkey spanking" can give you a nasty rash. These rashes only occurred after masturbation, and not during intercourse with his wife. It should be noted that he wasn't using any kind of cream or "lubrication" to aid his masturbation. One would think that our patient would stop masturbating when they developed Urticaria, and perhaps engage in more intercourse with their wife. The authors of this paper write one sentence to explain it.
... finding masturbation to be more satisfying than normal vaginal intercourse, the patient continued to masturbate.
 Patients with Urticaria and other skin disorders have been suggested to not find sex as fun as everybody else (Which is a fair cop if you are covered from head to toes in painful rashes).
You may think that using a lotion of some sort would have helped this patient, but as was pointed out in a letter to the journal, the symptoms exhibited here are similar to a disease known as "Pressure Urticaria". When pressure is applied to the skin of someone who has this disease, they will develop a rash in the manner described by the authors.

Ghiya B., Mehta R. & Bumb R. (2008). Masturbation: Can it be urticarogenic?, Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, 74 (4) 384. DOI:

Godse K. (2009). Urticaria and masturbation, Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, 75 (5) 516. DOI:

TMI Friday: Wiring up your Joystick

When a man goes into a Doctors surgery complaining of pain and uncontrolled bloody urination, there are many things that could be the cause. However, when that story appears on TMI Friday, one can make a few educated guesses. The question here is what exactly did he do to his own member, and why.
There are a number of incredibly stupid things people will do for sexual gratification, and urethral abuse is one of them. In this case, the big clue came when the doctors performed the physical examination and found a half a centimetre wide and eight centimetre long piece of copper wire protruding from the end of his penis.
apparently, this was the first time he had ever done this, so whilst he managed to get the wire in, he was having a lot of trouble getting it out.
The people of the emergency department attempted to remove it, but since king arthur wasn't available to pull the sword from the bone, they were unsuccessful. An X-ray revealed that the wire had coiled within the patient, making it very difficult to remove. They had to perform surgery to remove the full length of wire. All sixty centimetres of it.
There are some days when I don't know whether to clap or vomit. So I do both, and revel in the delicious spray as it diffracts the light to form a rainbow.

Chattopadhyay S., Das R., Panda N., Mahapatra R., Biswas R. & Jha A. (2011). LONG ELECTRIC WIRE IN URETHRA –AN UNUSUAL PARAPHILIA. CASE REPORT, Jurnalul de Chirurgie, 7 (3) 437-440. DOI:

MicroTwJC: Lasering Bacteria !

This week on Microbiology Twitter Journal Club, we'll be seeing what happens when we hit bacteria with LASERS.
Picture is unrelated

TMI Friday: Do you even lift ?

When I googled penile fracture GIFs, this was the first result

This week in TMI Friday we look at a case study from Taiwan, in which we hear about the many strange and interesting causes of penile fracture.

In the years between 1999 and 2007, there were 13 sufferers of penile fracture reported to Mackay Memorial hospital in Taipei.

For those of you who are not aware of what penile fracture is, it generally only occurs when a penis is fully erect. In this state, it is supported by blood flooding into the corpora cavernosa. This is what causes the penis to harden.  A penile fracture occurs when an extreme force damages the corpora cavernosa , causing the blood to flood out, and for the penis to "Fracture". This fracture is frequently signalled by a cracking noise and an immediate loss of boner. It can be repaired with surgery, although four of the patients refused this treatment, instead opting for icepacks and painkillers.

The most common cause of penile fracture in this study was through violent sexual intercourse, afflicting seven patients. Three patients suffered from penile fracture due to vigorous masturbation. In one unfortunate case, the patient was sleeping, and rolled onto his erection, which was broken by his body weight.

However, the most interesting cases of penile fracture were the final two patients, who suffered their injuries whilst performing a practice known as Chiu Chiu Shen Gong. From what I've read about it, it is a specialised set of exercises devised by martial artists which allows one to lift heavy objects using only the power of one's boner. To perfect this practice no doubt requires dedication, discipline and no doubt a tolerance for pain.

When performing chiu chiu shen gong, a heavy object is lifted by a string which was looped around the penile base with or without scrotal involvement. Penile fracture occurred ........ when the heavy object was suddenly picked up using the penis
What is even more interesting is one of the patients broke their penis, not once, but on two separate occasions whilst attempting to lift heavy weights with their dong. That is dedication, and history does not relate whether they indeed became masters of boner-fu, but in my heart I hope that somewhere, out there, they are using their skills to fight crime.

Shih H.J., Lin W.C., Chan H.K., Yang S., Hsu J.M., Chen M. & Tsei W.K. (2007). Penile Fracture: Analysis of 13 Patients and a Literature Review, Journal of the Taiwan Urological Association, 18 (2) 99-101. DOI:

TMI Friday: Sometimes you shouldn't put a ring on it

"Nocturnal emissions" is the fancy scientific term for orgasms that can occur to people (usually adolescents) during sleep. They are more commonly referred to as "wet dreams", and whilst only real harm they cause comes from having to clean up the mess, they can be quite distressing.
This week, we examine the case from 1931 of a gentleman who suffered from these nocturnal emissions, and came up with a drastic method to deal with them. The man decided that the best way to stop these was to dam the source. He pulled his testicles through a tight hardened steel ring, with the hopes of strangling the source of the sperm.
Five days later, realising his mistake and failing to remove the ring with a hammer and chisel, he admitted himself into hospital. The testicle strangulation had caused fluid to pool within the sack, causing it to swell, making removal of the ring impossible. The doctors applied cold compresses, with the hope that they would cause the testicles to shrink enough to pass through the ring, but to no avail.
There was only one choice left. The doctor called the resident hospital engineer, who noted that the ring was constructed from case hardened steel, and that he would need to use his toughest buzzsaw to remove it properly.
If the prospect of having a high powered whirling blade operate mere millimetres from his delicate parts wasn't enough, the patient also had to worry about heat. The engineer thought this through, and had a solution ready, which he explained to the physician.
[The Engineer].. procured the apparatus and asked me to make arrangements for protecting the scrotum from the heat by drawing a strip of sheet asbestos through between the ring and the skin and by playing a constant stream of water over the surface that was being cut.
This was the 1930's, and no one knew how dangerous asbestos was at the time. But this wasn't the end of the patient's suffering, for there was another quirk of the procedure that the engineer had yet to explain.

[The Engineer]..also warned me that the apparatus, when working, produced a stream of sparks which would necessitate protection both for the patient and for the operator's eyes.
So it was no surprise that the doctor decided to render the patient unconscious for this procedure, which proceeded as dramatically as you might expect.
The heat generated was surprising, and the stream of sparks was projected for fully six feet. Approximately fifty minutes was taken to cut through the ring in two places so that the halves could be separated and removed.
Despite all of these risks, the engineer managed to remove the rings without doing any damage to the patients scrotum, and the patient was able to leave within a day of the ring removal.
Rooke A.B. (1931). Unusual Method of Removing a Foreign Body, British Medical Journal, 702. DOI:

#microtwjc Clostridium difficile

In this week's #microtwjc paper, we discuss a preliminary study that asks whether common acid reflux treatments make Clostridium difficile virulent
If ever you have suffered from acid reflux, then you may have been prescribed a "proton pump inhibitor". These act, as you may have been able to guess, on proton pumps within the gut. so what do proton pumps do ?
Proton pumps keep your stomach acidic
In order to keep your stomach acidic, proton pumps act to pump protons (also known as hydrogen ions) into your gut. But in cases where your gut produces too much acid, doctors can prescribe proton pump inhibitors such as Omprezole. They stop the proton pumps, and thus prevent the build up of stomach acid. This de-acidification of the stomach can leave someone vulnerable to gastric infections. A systematic review has shown that proton pump inhibitor treatment is associated with infections by bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridium Difficile *.