Leeuwenhoek had stolen and peeped into the fantastic sub-visible world of little things, creatures that had lived, had bred, had battled, had died, completely hidden from and unknown to all men from the beginning of time. Beasts these were of a kind that ravaged and annihilated whole races of men ten million times larger than they were themselves. Beings these were, more terrible than fire-spitting dragons or hydra-headed monsters. They were silent assassins that murdered babies in warm cradles and kings in sheltered places. It was this invisible, insignificant, but implacable-and sometimes friendly- world Leeuwenhoek had looked into for the first time of all men of all countries. ~Microbe Hunters

Monday, 22 April 2013

Staphylococcus aureus

Last summer my little sister and I met a newlywed couple from Malta (teeny country in Europe) who were travelling around Canada for their honeymoon. As useless of information that is to you, you have probably had bigger trips and bigger adventures and encountered even more people along the way. Why I bring this up, is because of the infection rates of Staphylococcus aureus in the world. Not only the infection rates, because generally, they can be treated with antibiotics and cured, but rather the resistant strains of Staph aureus. Have you ever heard of MRSA?

Normal flora, or bacteria that is always on our body, is essential to keep us healthy because it takes up the space where pathogens, or harmful bacteria, could potentially inhabit. Unless there is an imbalance between our normal flora, we will not get sick from these flora. For example, the use of antibiotics or chemo therapy can cause certain bacteria to be wiped out, which could cause other normal flora to cause infection. Or, if you take a knife and stab your neighbour, normal flora from their skin could be transferred into the deep wound of the knife. The bacteria that can do this are called opportunists. In the lab, we do not report when we find normal flora, unless they are suspected to have invaded and caused a problem.

Staph aureus is part of some people’s normal flora in their nose. When you go into a hospital, sometimes they will do a nasal and/ or rectal swab to find out if you are a carrier. If you are, that could lead to your own room for your hospital stay so that you don’t infect other people. Some of these carriers can have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, hiding in their nose. Methicillin is the antibiotic normally used to treat staph infections, so when it becomes resistant, it can cause problems, like necrotising fasciitis (normally strep pyrogens) which is also called FLESH-EATING DISEASE.

Malta actually has the highest incidence of MRSA in the world to date. Something like 90% of the Staph aureus infections are resistant to methicillin. Surprisingly (well not that alarming, but), the rates of resistance in Canada are substantially less than America. I wonder how long that will last. Probably until someone decides it is a good idea for them to test for MRSA and other diseases at the boarder and in airports. You think that's crazy now? Wait until the green party gets one more seat in the House of Commons, Canada! (Kidding) But still, the rate of global travel is increasing the spread of these resistant organisms.

Last week my prof shared something else that’s interesting: The people/things who you reside with, be it family, roommates, or animals, have a strong influence on your normal flora and immune system's resistance. Sometimes, when we get a new roommate, move into the library at exam time or join a really rowdy frat house, our normal flora doesn’t really mesh together. This could cause irregular sicknesses, for example, longer or more frequent minor illnesses because the immune system is altering itself to deal with the new microflora. It will take a while for your immune system to pick up on the change of normal flora, but eventually a healthy immune system will expand itself to allow you to live in sync with one another- as long as they leave the toilet seat down.

Darn good and sure of it,



  1. How cool you are doing medical Lab AtoZ! Pretty impressive.
    Good luck to you for TUVWXYZ! :D
    Just Another Blog

  2. I have heard of it and it scares me a bit.

    That's really interesting the thing about normal flora and the immune system.