Tag Archives: Bacteria

C. diff Bacteria: What Is Clostridioides difficile

“C. diff is a severe, difficult-to-treat infection,” says family medicine specialist Daniel Allan, MD.
Studies show that you’re seven to 10 times more likely to get C. diff while you’re taking antibiotics or right after.”

Cleveland Clinic – Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) is a type of harmful bacteria that causes inflammation in your large intestine (also known as pseudomembranous colitis). The main symptom of a C. diff infection is frequent, watery and sometimes bloody diarrhea. If diarrhea persists, it can lead to:

  • Dehydration.
  • Weight loss.
  • Sepsis.
  • Death.

C. diff is common in the environment. Some people even carry C. diff in their gut but don’t have any signs of illness. Most of the time, the “good” bacteria in your gut prevent a C. diff infection. But certain antibiotics can wipe out your gut bacteria. If you encounter C. diff while taking antibiotics, the bacteria can flourish and grow and make you sick.

“Think about your colon as a plush green lawn. The thick grass crowds out the weeds,” illustrates Dr. Allan. “But if your yard is mostly dirt, all kinds of weeds will grow. Antibiotics reduce the rich collection of bacteria in your gut (the thick grass). This gives C. diff (the weeds) an opportunity to take hold.”

C. diff is most dangerous for people age 65 or older or with a weakened immune system. People who are healthy can also develop life-threatening complications if they don’t receive prompt care.

Bacteria: The Risks Of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa

Bacteria have long been classified according to how they are stained by the chemical dye called the Gram stain. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is Gram-negative, compared to the Staph aureus which is gram-positive.

Being Gram negative, Pseudomonas has an extra membrane, the outer membrane, and a shell of a nasty material called Lipo polysaccharide. These extra structures act as a barrier to entrance of antibiotics. In addition, the Pseudomonas has many more genes than the average bacterium and uses these genes for adaptation. For instance, it is good at forming a raft of mutually supporting cells called a biofilm, which enables it to become particularly entrenched. In a condition of the lung called cystic fibrosis, this biofilm contains specialized cells, one of which is called the Persister cell. When Pseudomonas senses that a critical number of bacteria is present, called quorum sensing, the persister cell multiplies to become around 10% of the bacterial population, and slows down their metabolism massively, becoming a sort of “zombie cell”. These cells are very hard to kill and persist through an antibiotic treatment that kills other Pseudomonas cells, only to rev up their metabolism and become active again once treatment is withdrawn.

In addition, Pseudomonas has all of the other resistant talents mentioned in the previous article on Staphylococcus aureus, such  as plasmid acceptance, ability to destroy penicillin, efflux pumps, and rerouting of metabolism.

In trying to control Pseudomonas, techniques other than antibiotics are being tried out of desperation, including interference with a quorum sensing, use of bacteriophages and chemical  elements such as Gallium which masquerades as the iron this bacterium requires.

Pseudomonas is not as actively pathogenic as Staphylococcus aureus, but it has made a great niche for itself in the respiratory tract, especially in people with a compromised immune system, or pulmonary abnormality such as cystic fibrosis. Ventilation tubes and other hospital equipment can become contaminated and spread the infection, unless thoroughly cleansed of Pseudomonas; it is very sensitive to acidic solutions, and those who need nasal CPAP for sleep apnea may recall that they have to rinse their equipment in vinegar, or acetic acid. Swimmers can get an external ear infection with this organism, and the drops for swimmers ear often contains acetic acid.

The next rogue to consider is a frightful yeast called Candida auris.

—Dr. C.

Dr. C’s Journal: MRSA- Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

Staphylococcus aureus is a highly successful – eg.BAD – disease producing bacterium, or “pathogen”. From the standpoint of the bacterium, it didn’t know it was so bad, and was merely producing factors that break down its surroundings to produce food for multiplication. Unfortunately, the proteins-ENZYMES- produced by the staphylococcus, In its effort to survive, can cause anything from diarrhea, abscesses, high fevers, shock, and kidney failure to death.

The staphylococcus was very successful for thousands of years, until slowed down by penicillin.

Penicillin attached itself to a critical part of the staphylococcal cell wall, which stopped the bacterium from functioning. The staphylococcus retaliated by producing an enzyme, penicillinase, that destroys penicillin. Humans responded by producing methicillin, which resisted destruction by the penicillinase. The Staph responded again by a genetic change in the target of penicillin, PBP, so that the Methicillin wouldn’t attach, hence the term methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA.

Interestingly, the MRSA can send little packets of genes called “plasmids” to other bacteria, even other species, which take in the packets and allow them to resist methecillin also. This is called horizontal transfer of resistance.

The staphylococcus aureus has many other ways of protecting itself, and is a good example of the various ways a bacterium can deal with antibiotics.

It can prevent the antibiotic from gaining entrance, or pump it out of the cell faster. It can destroy the antibiotic, as with penicillinase. It can modify the bacterial target of the antibiotic, as in the PBP that protects from penicillin. It can also develop an alternative metabolic pathway or structure to bypass the effect of the antibiotic.

THIS IS WAR, similar to the human kind. The offense develops the sword. The defense develops the shield. The offense develops mounted archery. The defense develops the castle and so on.

We’re not so very different from the bacteria, and in fact every single cell of our bodies has descended from an ancestral  bacterial cell that engulfed another bacterium, which became the mitochondrion, a “slave cell” dedicated to producing thousands of times more energy than the simple bacterium, and leading to multicellular organisms.

Each organism develops appropriate defenses. Penicillium molds developed penicillin to protect themselves from bacteria and we took advantage of this. But it is a dynamic process, with both offense and defense having to adapt repeatedly over time.

In the next article, I will be discussing the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa which is not as dynamic as the staph aureus; It specializes in people with problems, and is called a “facultative pathogen”.

However Pseudomonas is particularly good at exploiting its specialized habitat, which is increasing with the popularity of immunosuppressants and insertion of surgical hardware.

—Dr. C.

Read more

Dr. C’s Journal: The Rise Of Antimicrobial Resistance

We are immersed in a vast sea of tiny organisms, microbes, most of which are either helpful or neutral. There are a few bad actors that can harm people and are responsible for plagues of the past, such as the black death, cholera and influenza epidemics.

This whole picture changed in the late 30s with the advent of Sulfonamides, and especially Penicillin, the “magic bullet”. I was practicing medicine early in the days when antibiotics eliminated almost all infections.

In fact, at one time infections were thought to be a problem of the past. Unfortunately, overusage, chronic multiple infections, surgically implanted devices, immune suppression for cancer and autoimmune diseases have allowed bacteria, fungi and viruses to evolve resistance mechanisms.

At the present time there are a number of bacteria, such as staphylococci, actino bacteria, enterococci, and candida that are essentially untreatable. Even if they are somewhat treatable, second and third level antibiotics are so toxic that they can cause problems with the kidney, liver, or heart.

In later postings, I plan to consider specific organisms and the situations in which they operate. I will also eventually talk about efforts to create new antibiotics by harvesting genetic material from unusual places, even our oceans.

—Dr. C.

Infographic: Diagnosis & Treatment Of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.

Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.

ANALYSIS: MULTIRESISTANT BACTERIA THAT OUTSMART ANTIBIOTICS (VIDEO)

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest medical challenges of our time. Among the causes are industrial livestock farming, poor hygiene in hospitals, and the misuse of antibiotics. This documentary looks at approaches to fighting multiresistant strains of bacteria.

Each year 33,000 people in Europe die after becoming infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Hygiene specialist Dr. Ron Hendrix has been working for years to prevent outbreaks of infectious disease in hospitals. Dr. Hendrix says that he and other experts in the Netherlands recognized early on that they’d have to fight the spread of bacteria just as actively as they would the actual infection.

Hendrix has convinced a number of German hospitals to re-open their diagnostic laboratories, as well. In the early 2000s, many of these labs had been shut down as a cost-cutting measure. And farmers in Denmark voluntarily chose to sharply reduce their use of antibiotics, after evidence showed that intensive livestock farming caused multiresistant bacteria to multiply.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Patrick Soentjens was able to convince Belgium’s health ministry to allow the use of “phages” to treat stubborn antimicrobial resistant pathogens. Phages are special viruses that kill bacteria. Dr. Soentjens is certain that this well-known, but largely forgotten option could save many lives. Belgium has become the first western European country where phages have been officially recognized as a legitimate medical treatment.

‘INFECTIONS’: HOW WE EXPERIENCE INTERACTIONS WITH MICROORGANISMS

The RNA molecule is central to life. It is the information molecule of the Pandemic SARS CoV 2 virus, whose Messenger RNA specifying Spike proteins is the basis of 2 recently-released vaccines.

“RNA Life” is the leading theory for the Origin of Life itself, more than 3 Billion years ago. DNA evolved as the blueprint information molecule in cellular life, but the ubiquitous RNA may well have become the first viruses.

The stage was set for the ongoing battle of life: Parasite vs. Host, Pathogen vs. Target, but recent research reveals a much more nuanced picture. Viruses and bacteria can be BENEFICIAL as well as deleterious. We now speak of the MICROBIOME, usually referring to our host of resident BACTERIA, and the VIROME referring to all of our indwelling VIRUSES.

INFECTION is how we experience our interaction with microorganisms, their benefits unseen. Bacteria, viruses and parasites have always been with us, increasing in impact as Paleolithic man crowded into agricultural settlements.

Enlarging cities became more dense, favoring spread of infection and PLAGUES. The Bacterium, Yersinia Pestis,emerged in Roman times,
causing the Justinian plague, and resurfaced in the 14th C. as the Black Death. Viral Plagues, including Smallpox, were devastating during European adventures into the New World.

Malaria, a one-cell Eukaryotic Parasite, may be the greatest killer of all time. Modern Sanitation and improving medication have lately pushed bacterial infections into the background.

Viral infections such as Influenza and most recently Covid have become the Modern face of infection. Many Viruses reduce Immunity, however, paving the way for bacteria to invade: Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterium, may have caused much of the mortality of the 1817-1918
Flu epidemic.

IV drug usage has facilitated the spreading of the viruses causing Hepatitis and AIDS. The immune-compromising nature of the latter has reinvigorated TB and Syphilis, both bacterial infections. Only a few years ago, bacterial infection was thought to be conquered by antibiotics, and viral infection contained by Vaccines.

Microorganisms are constantly evolving, however, and often share their resistance factors. Infection is no more a thing of the past than War. The Battle continues.

–Dr. C.

HEALTH: VALUE OF A HEALTHY ‘SKIN MICROBIOME’ (VIDEO)

Our skin is home to billions of microorganisms, the vast majority of which are bacteria. Much like the microbiome in our gut, these microbes play a crucial part in keeping us healthy. They are part of a finely balanced ecosystem of friendly or ‘commensal’ bacteria, which protect our skin by creating an inhospitable environment for would-be invaders, bolstering the physical integrity of the skin, and training the immune system to distinguish commensal inhabitants from pathogens. A number of skin conditions are now understood to be influenced by a breakdown of this microbial ecosystem. Researchers are working out whether restoring the balance can treat these conditions. Understanding the ecology of this rich community is likely to be an important part of both dermatology and the study of the microbiome. Read more in https://www.nature.com/collections/sk…

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #30: ACNE (Vulgaris)

ACNE is almost a rite of passage in adolescents, although it is not totally restricted to the teen years; women may experience acne during pregnancy, or at the time of menopause. It afflicts about 90% of kids during their PUBERTAL growth spurt, though is moderate or severe in only 15%.

Acne is caused by PLUGGING of the sebaceous glands of the skin. Infection by certain skin BACTERIA follows. Check the accompanying video for a description of the battle between the “Good guys”, Staph epidermidis and Cutibacterium acnes, vs. the bad guy, Proprionibactrium
acnes.

Acne tends to run in families. The steroid HORMONES like Testosterone and Cortisone promote Acne. STRESS tends to chronically raise Cortisol and is a factor in Acne, and many chronic illnesses as well.

A person who is having trouble with Acne should avoid sweets and greasy foods, which is a good idea for everybody. Skin cleansers, using salicylic or azelaic acids and benzoyl peroxide may help, and creams containing retinoic acid derivatives may be useful..

The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic like tetracycline in resistant cases. Cystic acne may be scarring, but otherwise “the zits” depart with the pubertal years.

–Dr. C.

Further reading at Mayo Clinic