Sunday, February 23, 2020

Disease Post: Brucellosis

This is one of my favorite "bugs!"

Background:
Bucellosis is caused by a bacteria from the genus Brucella. There are a few different species that cause disease in animals and humans. For humans, the three species that usually cause disease are suis, abortus, and melitensis.
Brucella colonies on blood agar. Image from Pixnio.

Brucella species are small, anaerobic, gram negative coccobacilli, meaning that they do not require oxygen and do not have peptidoglycan in their cell walls and stain red/pink on a gram stain (bacteria that stain purple are gram positive). Coccobacilli describes the shape--they are between cocci (round) and baccili (rod-shaped).

They are facultative intracellular organisms, which means that they have to be inside another cell for part of their life cycle, but can also live outside of another cell. In the case of Brucella species, the cell they tend to invade is the macrophage. Macrophages are important cells in your immune system. Briefly, they usually "eat" things that are dangerous, like bacteria, and break it up into pieces. Then they take those pieces and display them on the surface of their cells using special cell receptors that will signal other immune cells to look for them. That way, the rest of your immune system can respond to the invaders. Brucella bacteria hiding in these cells, it makes it much more difficult for your body to find and fight off.

How is it spread?
Humans usually get this disease either by being in close contact with an infected animal or by eating contaminated animal products. Namely unpasteurized milk, which is contaminated with the bacteria when an animal is infected (this is why drinking unpasteurized milk is so dangerous). The bacteria can cause infection if inhaled, ingested, or through the skin. Most commonly, it infects via mucous membranes (for example: the eyes, throat, or respiratory tract).

According to the CDC, person-to-person spread is rare, but is most common if a mother is infected, she can infect her breastfeeding infant.

This disease is most worrisome in animals, both wild and agricultural. It is also found world-wide.

The bacteria are not especially hardy, they don't form spores and they can be killed with heat. However, they manage to survive in the environment for several years, if the conditions are right.

The incubation period for this bacteria is about two to four weeks, so there can be quite a delay between getting infected and showing symptoms.

Symptoms:
Many of the symptoms are flu-like: fatigue, fever, sweating, headache, body aches, anorexia, nausea, and malaise (generally not feeling well). According to the CDC, some symptoms can be recurring or persist for a longer period of time. Most commonly these symptoms are: recurrent fever, arthritis, swelling of the heart, neurological problems, chronic fatigue, swelling of the male reproductive system (namely the testes and scrotum), and swelling of the spleen and/or liver.

The good news is that brucellosis is rarely fatal in humans, but it is still considered a potential bioweapon because it can be easily spread and incapacitate people.

The chronic symptoms that are so common with this microbe are due to a couple things: incomplete antibiotic treatment, which causes relapses, and persistent infection by the bacteria in tissues (like bone, spleen, liver, et cetera). It can be difficult to get rid of.

Brucella colonies on serum dextrose. Credit: Royal Veterinary College and Wellcome Collection

Prevention and Treatment:
One way to prevent human infection is by pasteurizing milk and other dairy products. Eating under-cooked meat is not recommended as it could be contaminated with Brucella. There is also a vaccine for herd animals to B. abortus.

People who work with animals like cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep should wear protective clothing, like gloves and goggles.

Because the bacteria hides inside cells, antibiotic treatments can last a long time (often 6 weeks) and often more than one antibiotic is needed. Doxycycline with with rifampicin can be used, or doxycycline with gentamicin. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole can be used for women who are pregnant or for young children.

Miscellaneous Information:
What I find super interesting about this bacteria is that it causes abortion (and infertility), which can lead to further infections in animals. It almost plays off of the maternal instinct. For example, if a cow is infected and it causes the cow to have an abortion, the cow may survive. However, the aborted fetus is infectious. Other cows may come into contact with the aborted fetus as they inspect it and then the bacteria can infect the new animal. A bit evil and fascinating.

Brucellosis is known by many other names, including: Malta fever, Mediterranean fever, Cyprus fever, goat fever, Gibralter fever, to name a few.

Sources:
The Centers for Disease Control: Brucellosis
Microorganisms and Bioterrorism edited by Burt Anderson, Herman Friedman, and Mauro Bendinelli
Emerging Infectious Diseases by Lisa A. Beltz
Medical Microbiology 6th edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A Pfaller

Saturday, February 1, 2020

January 2020 Wrap Up

Well the first month of 2020 is over.

My January had several ups and downs. I've been missing my friends and family back home and probably not dealing with it as well as I normally would because, well, my support system is back in Colorado.

I did attend my first meeting at a local book club at the beginning of the month. It seems like a good group and I managed to meet a couple of ladies who are also scientists. I plan to keep going as long as my work schedule allows. They give a choice of two books each month and are very laid back and nonjudgmental. So you can read one book, or both books, or neither! For January the books were The Paper Magician or Feast Your Eyes. I re-listened to the Paper Magician, but did not read the other one. For the February meeting, the options are the Book Thief (which I re-read) or Red at the Bone, which I tried to get to and didn't. Even though I probably can't go to the February meeting due to tutoring...

This month, Kevin and I went to a museum exhibit all about Jim Henson, which was wonderful. And it was fun to see the puppets and read the stories. Of course, the Labyrinth section was my very favorite. I was so excited to see the ballroom outfits! Here are a few of my favorites from the exhibit:



In other exciting news, Kevin surprised me (late Christmas gift) with a trip to India later this year! I am still working out the details with my work place to make sure that I can work it in since I don't really have that much vacation time. But I was very surprised and I think it will be amazing.

On top of that, he usually works nearly all of the time, which leaves me alone the majority of the time. This doesn't bother me really, since I like alone time, but can be hard because I don't have friends here. So one night a week, he will come home on time and we will have a date night. We put together a bunch of different date ideas so that we won't ever be scrambling for things to do or places to go. We have been doing this for the last few weeks and its been lovely. I am glad that he suggested it.

And now for the books I read in January:

Title: The Autobiography of Santa Claus
Author: Jeff Guinn

Synopsis: This is just what the title implies: the true story of how Santa became the figure we all know and love. From his early days as a local gift-giver to his adventures around the world and his famous helpers.

Thoughts: I liked the history parts and some of the ideas were cute, but I did not love this book. I remember Kevin asked me about it and I said that I liked parts of it, but I hoped it would get better. It wasn't bad, it just didn't knock my socks off. I don't really know how to describe it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars




Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Narrator: Amy McFadden

Synopsis: After Ceony finishes her year as a student of magic, she enters her apprenticeship to a paper magician. Her dream was to be a Smelter (magician that enchants metal), but she has been forced into being a Folder against her will. To her surprise, her mentor, Magician Thane, is a young, eccentric, good man and she begins to enjoy Folding. Until a dangerous Excisioner (those who practice illegal magic on people) appears and steals Magician Thane's heart. It is up to Ceony to rescue him.

Thoughts: I read this series several years ago and remember thinking it was OK. I re-read this one for my book club. It isn't great. I think some of the magic system is creative and interesting, but mostly the story seemed contrived or strange. It might go over better with a younger audience.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5



Title: Red, White, and Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston

Synopsis: First Son of the United States is a well-loved public figure. His mother is the first woman president and her family is incredibly supportive and active in politics. In fact, Alex's dream is to be a great politician on day, much like his mom. However, following a confrontation with his self-proclaimed nemesis, Prince Henry at Henry's brother's wedding, he has to embark on a damage control mission to pretend that he and Henry are actually best friends. This means photo sessions, joint charity work, and spending time together. But as Alex gets to know Henry better, he finds that he actually likes him. And Henry likes him back. Now they have to keep their real relationship a secret. And Alex's mom is up for re-election. What could go wrong?

Thoughts: This book has popped up everywhere, it seems. Everyone was raving about it on Instagram and in a book community I follow on Facebook. So when it came up in a Kindle sale, I just had to try it out. And I thought it was cute! I'm not sure what else to say. I enjoyed it, but I can see why some people wouldn't. It was a nice, easy book to read. Parts were definitely funny and charming. I thought the characters were well-written and I felt satisfied with the ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: The Glass Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Narrator: Amy McFadden

Synopsis: Ceony's apprenticeship continues. She likes being a Folder now and she hopes that her growing feelings for Magician Thane are not one-sided. And things would be easier if she weren't being targeted by a couple of evil Excisioners who are threatening her, her friends, and her family if she will not help them.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this after I finished the Paper Magician because I couldn't properly remember the story lines from several years ago. And it was OK overall, but I kind of couldn't wait for it to be over so that I could read something else. I guess that isn't a glowing review...

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars



Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan

Synopsis: Lei lives in a small village in a kingdom that treats its lowest citizens (the paper class who have no demon in them) like dirt. Except for the eight most beautiful girls who are sent to the palace every year to serve the king--the Paper Girls. Lei is snatched from her home and family (as her mother was years before) and taken to the palace as a Paper Girl. She is forced into training with the other selected girls, but then she falls in love with someone who she should not love. And there might be a secret plot to help free papers from the evil grasp of the demons.

Thoughts:  I really liked the premise of this book, but I did not enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. To be honest, I really think I wasn't in the mood for this type of book and that affected my feelings towards it. And I nearly stopped reading right at the beginning because of one scene (no spoilers) that really, really bothered me. I am a little interested to follow the characters and see what happens next, even if I didn't love this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Narrator: Allan Corduner

Synopsis: This is the story of a young German girl living in Nazi Germany. On the way to her new foster family, her brother dies and she steals her first book.  As Liesel adjusts to her new life, her foster father shows her great kindness and gentleness. And he teaches her to read. Liesel loves words and so begins her unusual ways of collecting books. And her world changes again when her foster parents take in a Jewish man and hide him in their basement.

Thoughts: This was a re-read for me. I loved it the first time I read it and I loved it this time, too. I'm not sure I even have the words to say how beautiful this book is. The style and narration were unique. And it is interesting to see the world from the point of view of a "normal" German girl. And watch her develop into the Word Shaker. There is so much heart and compassion (and some heartbreak) in this book, I highly recommend it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



Title: Thirteenth Child
Author: Patricia Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconni

Synopsis: Set in an alternative early America, this book follows the journey of a girl named Eff, who is an unlucky thirteenth child (so they say). Her twin brother, however, is the seventh son of a seventh son and blessed with luck and strong magic. Due to her fear of her magic and of being an unlucky thirteenth, the development of her own magical abilities is difficult, but she finds some of her own unique strength in the end.

Thoughts: This is a re-read. I have read this trilogy many times. I just love it. And I love it as an audiobook (I'm not sure I would have liked it as much if I read the actual book). But this trilogy is a comfort read for me and I just felt like re-reading them.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: The Book Thief. Or Thirteenth Child.

Least favorite book read this month: The Autobiography of Santa Claus

In other literary news, I decided to try participating in a little reading challenge. It is the alphabet challenge. The goal is to read one book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. "The" does not count for any title, including for T. And for X and Z, there needs to be an X or Z somewhere in the title, even if it isn't the first letter.

So this month, I have covered A, B, G, P, R, and T! And I have read seven books towards my annual goal of 75.

I have part of a new disease post written. It is about one of my favorite diseases! But I have had a difficult time finding any good pictures. I will keep trying.

That's about it for January! I hope everyone else had a good month!