That squirming little thing… is a ParaWHAT? Microbe Monday #4

Paramecium- the most well-known protists in history.

Domain: Eukaryota
Phylum: Ciliophora
Class: Oligohymenophorea
Order: Peniculida
Family: Parameciidae
Genus: Paramecium


What is a Paramecium?

Paramecium are the most commonly studied organism when learning about single celled microorganisms. First seen in the 17th century by early French and Dutch microscopists, a paramecium is well-known for its ability to rapidly conjugate and divide, this species is considered a model organism for studying biological processes.

Structure and Environment conditions


As with all Eukaryotes, paramecia have a very organized cell structure with organelles such as a cytoplasm, vacuoles, and mitochondria. However, paramecia have also developed unique structures such as micro and macro nucleus, cilia and cytoprocts. Cilia are small tendril like hairs protruding from the pellicle (membrane) which aid in movement and eating.

Paramecia are heterotrophs, meaning that they eat other microorganisms such as bacteria, algae and other small organisms. Paramecia are roughly 50-350 micrometers in size and are easily seen through a standard light microscope. Paramecia are found in almost every water source- ponds, lakes, oceans and even fossil aquifers!


Facts about Paramecium 

  • Its micro and macro nuclei have separate functions- without the macronucleus, the cell cannot survive, but without the micronucleus, the call cannot reproduce.
  • These organisms can reproduce through binary fission (asexual), conugation (sexual) or even through endomixis, a form of self-fertilization
  • Can move up to 12x their body length every second
  • These organisms have no heart, brain, or eyes
  • Have been known to form symbiotic relationships with other animals
  • Recent research suggests that even without a nervous system, paramecia are able to learn and may have memory.
  • A single paramecium macronucleus can hold up to 800 chromosomes
  • Nearly half of it’s energy is used for motility
  • New Species of paramecia are being discovered even now!


Alipour, A., Dorvash, M., Yeganeh, Y., Hatam, G., & Seradj, S. H. (2017). Possible Molecular Mechanisms for Paramecium Learning. Journal of Advanced Medical Sciences and Applied Technologies, 3(1), 39-46.

Kapusta, A., Matsuda, A., Marmignon, A., Ku, M., Silve, A., Meyer, E., . . . Betermier, M. (2011). Highly precise and deleopmentally prongrammed genome assembly in Paramecium requires ligase IV-dependent end joining. PLoS Genetics, 7. Retrieved from

Krenek, S., Berendonk, T. U., & Fokin, S. I. (2015). New Paramecium (Ciliophora, Oligohymenophorea) congeners shape our view on its biodiversity. Organisms Diversity & Evolution, 15(2), 215-233.



Rabies Virus- Contagion between species. Monday Microbe #3

Rabies is one of the most well known zoonotic diseases in the world, and is transmissible between a wide range of animals from dogs, cats, bats, etc. and can infect any mammal.

Group: Group V ((−)ssRNA)
Order: Mononegavirales
Family: Rhabdoviridae
Genus: Lyssavirus
Species: Rabies lyssavirus

Image result for rabies virus


Rabies was first recorded way back in the Mesopotamian Empire in 2000 B.C. In this culture, if an owner with a rabid dog did not take proper precautions against the dog biting others they would be fined. Rabies came to the new world in 1769 starting with a case in Boston. The majority of cases, 99%, are transferred between infected dogs and humans through bites, specifically the saliva. Rabies is considered one of the most concerning diseases of history and modem time. In 1885 a vaccine was developed in France by Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux for humans.

Image result for rabies

Facts about Rabies:

  • One of the worst parts about rabies if its prevalence throughout the world and ability to rapidly disseminate.
  • Rabies is present on all continents other than Antarctica
  • Almost 99% fatal for human already showing symptoms or humans who are un-vaccinated
  • Vaccination within 6 days of infections has been seen to have a 100% success rate for survival.
  • In 2010, 26,000 people diseased from rabies within the world. This is a significant decrease from the 54,000 deaths in 1990.
  • Well-known for its neurotropic effects- infecting nerve cells and altering human behaviors by shutting down the nervous system
  • First signs and symptoms of the flu such as fever, headache and dizziness, but can progress to confusion, anxiety and agitation.
  • Many people who are infected completely depersonalize in the later stages, reverting to pure “rage” personalities, attacking, biting scratching people and foaming at the mouth.
  • Rabies infection is the main disease cited in sci-fi and fantasy for “zombie-like” behaviors and many story lines utilize signs and symptoms similar to rabies as zombie indicators. So… the zombie apocalypse is coming!
  • Image result for zombie apocalypse

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Wait no… it’s plague. Microbe Monday #2

Yersinia pestis is one of the most infamous microorganisms in the world- known commonly by the disease it causes: plague.

History of Yersinia pestis

The plague is first recorded during the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Justinian I, during 541 A.D. and continued to outbreak over the next 200 years, leaving over 25 million people dead (Rosen, 2007). Most commonly known for sweeping through the Old World during the Middle Ages and known as “The Black Death”, plague is on of the scariest infections in history. Starting in China during the 1300’s, this outbreak spread across trade routes and decimated an estimated 60% of all European populations (Benedictow, 2008). More recently, during the tail end of the 1800’s, plague was carried by ship routes throughout the world and had a 10 million mortality. The disease is carried by small animals such as rats, mice and squirrels, and jumps to humans through bites from fleas. The availability of small animal hosts quickly enables the transmission to a host of populations through carrier-mediated transmission.

Related image

Facts about Yersinia pestis and Plague

  • There are three types of plague
    • Bubonic– characterized by sudden onset of fever headache, chills with tender lymph nodes. Results from the bite of a flea and localized to the nearest lymph nodes. If not treated, can spread to the rest of the body.
    • Septicemic– symptoms include fever, chills, abdominal pain, shock and bleeding into skin and organs. Skin and surrounding tissue may become necrotic (dead) and turn black. Transmissible from a flea bite or handling infected animals.
    • Pneumonic– symptoms include fever, chills, weakness and a rapid onset of pneumonia with secondary symptoms of chest pain, coughing and bloody mucous. Transmissible through inhaling infectious droplets, or from untreated bubonic or septicemic infections.
  • Can be treated with modern day antibiotics
  • Majority of modern day infections are confined to Sub-Saharan Africa or Madagascar, but cases have been seen in the United States (Arizona Included!), Europe, and IndiaPlague occurs on all continents except Europe and Australia. Central and east Africa have the most reported plague for the years 2000-2009.  Additional clusters of cases during this time period occurred in northern Africa, central Asia, southeast Asia, China, India, Madagascar, Peru, and the United States.Human plague cases in the United States, 1970-2012. All naturally occurring cases of human plague occur in the western United States, with a majority of cases clustering in northern New Mexico and Arizona and southern Colorado.
  • Plague vaccines were available, but were decommissioned. Currently, there are several different kinds of vaccines being developed but none available for use!
  • Plague is considered to be one of the first uses of bioterrorism- many invading armies would catapult bodies infected with plague into cities to kill the opposition.
  • Estimates of the plague say it has a mortality rate of 90-95%
  • Some historians attribute social upsets to the plague such as the Fall of Rome, the beginnings of the Renaissance and lost of influence of the Catholic Church leading to Protestantism.


Benedictow, Ole J. 2004. The Black Death 1346-1353: The Complete History. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Yersinia Pestis. National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD)

Khan, I. A. (2004). Plague: the dreadful visitation occupying the human mind for centuries. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 98(5), 270-277.

Rosen, William (2007), Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe. Viking Adult; pg 3; ISBN 978-0-670-03855-8.

Microbe Monday #1

Welcome all to a new weekly posting from A Microbial World! Each week we will be discussing a new microorganism and how it impacts the world!

This week, we’re going to talk about one of my personal favorites- commonly called Water Bears or Moss Piglets (my favorite nomenclature)- Tardigrades! These cute little things look like this:

What are Tardigrades?

Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Bilateria
Infrakingdom: Protostomia
Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Tardigrada

Tardigrades were first discovered in 1773 by a German Pastor by the name of J.A.E. Goeze. Tardigrades are approximately 0.05 mm- 1.2 mm in length, with segmented bodies and 8 legs. They can reproduce via asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction and lay 1 to 30 eggs each cycle. Their diets can consist of the fluids of plants, animals and bacteria; they can eat Amoebas, nematodes and even other Tardigrades!

Why are they unique?

  • There are over 1,000 species of Tardigrades on earth
  • They live in extreme conditions from -330 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, pressures up to 6 times the pressure of the deepest parts of the ocean, radiation and  even in the vacuum of space!
  • Tardigrades can be frozen and thawed without dying
  • They utilize a process called cryptobiosis where all metabolic processes come to a complete standstill.
  • They utilize a tiny layer of water around their bodies to keep hydrated and moving- they actually swim in their aqueous environments. When exposed to extremely dry conditions, they lose this layer and curl up into a ball-like shape called a Tun
  • Most species live in freshwater or semi-aqueous environments, however a few species live in salt water.
  • these little creatures are virtually indestructible and some theorize they have survived 5 mass extinctions over the last 500 million years.

Zika in Arizona!


The first case of Zika Virus has been confirmed in Maricopa County as of today by The Maricopa County Department of Public Health. The woman had traveled to Zika affected area and returned home to Arizona where she started having symptoms. However, Public health officials believe that there is little chance of the virus spreading or becoming an epidemic here in Arizona.

This confirmation comes just four days after the CDC released new guidelines for the virus that include prevention measures such as the use of condoms and abstinence for those sexually active.

As of March 25th, in the United States there have been 273 confirmed cases of travel associated Zika infections, 19 of which are pregnant women. In the US territories, there have been 282 locally acquired Zika Infections, 4 travel associated case, and out of those 282, 34 are pregnant women.

If you or someone you know has traveled to a Zika affected area (list here), and are displaying Zika symptoms (here), please see your doctor, or contact your local public health agency.


Zika on the rise!

A little over a week ago, I posted a description of a now looking to become pandemic virus: Zika (you can read the previous description here). Zika virus has been around for decades, with a few cases here and there, but recently, a surge in the virus in South America has had Health Organizations scrambling to determine the threat against the global population.

Zika virus is now spreading to more countries and new advisories are going out:

  • The first case of Zika in the United States was confirmed in Texas, and transmitted through sexual intercourse.
  • First pregnant woman in Spain confirmed with Zika virus
  • CDC has stated that limiting sexual activities with a pregnant partner if living or travelling to Zika infected areas.
  • Florida’s Governor Issued a State of Emergency in the counties that 12 confirmed Zika cases are- None of which were infected in the United States.
  • Brazil has found Active Zika virus in urine and saliva.
  • El Salvador advises its citizen to avoid pregnancy for up to 2 years.
  • New York has 11 confirmed cases of Zika.
  • Pennsylvania has two confirmed cases
  • Delaware has 1 confirmed case
  • Ohio has 1 confirmed case
  • Indiana has 1 confirmed case
  • WHO states that as many as 3 to 4 million people are infected in Central and South America
  • CDC issued Travel alerts to 28 countries.
  • Three deaths of individuals with Zika virus in Venezuela (caused by complications not currently linked to infection).
  • 52 cases of travel acquired Zika virus confirmed in United States

The World Health Organization convened its first emergency meeting to discuss the Zika virus, its epidemiology, clinical signs and symptoms, spread, and link to neurological disorders and microcephaly. The committee then submitted guidelines to be approved:

  • The increased and enhanced surveillance of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome in areas with outbreaks of Zika or with potential to become an area
  • Research into the etiology of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome to determine causal links.

They also issued additional recommendations in precautionary measures:

Zika virus

  • Surveillance enhancement
  • Prioritization of  new diagnostics.
  • Risk communications should be enhanced to address
    • population concerns
    • enhance community engagement
    • improve reporting
    • ensure application of vector control and personal protective measures.
  • Control measures and PPE should be implemented.
  • Education of Pregnant women or those intending to become pregnant in how to reduce risk.
  • Resources should be provided to pregnant women exposed to virus

Longer-term measures

  • Appropriate research and development efforts into vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
  • Increase in health services preparation for potential increase in neurological or congenital birth defects.

A recent article from Bogoch et al. has determined a potential transmission map for how the Zika virus might spread. Taking into account the number of people who travel in and out of Brazil, the researchers determine that the rest of Central and Northern South American countries will see a drastic increase, as well as the Caribbeans, Florida and will continue to spread up through the Eastern Seaboard of North America.

Zika.jpgBogoch et. Al.  2016. Anticipating the international spread of Zika virus from Brazil. The Lancet.


The most important thing to remember about Zika virus is that it normally does not lead to death. The majority of individuals infected do not display symptoms and are not sick. the recent rash of Zika infection is unprecedented and researchers around the world are working faster diagnostics tests, treatment options and vaccines.

Holiday Gifts for my Fellow Science Nerds!

Choosing holiday gifts are difficult for the regular person- but if you are trying to figure out what to get for your buried in a lab- nose in a textbook friend- here are some gift ideas!


GeNiUs coffee mugs – $50

Test Tub Tea Infuser – $11


Beaker Mug – $12
Beaker mug

Caffiene Molecule Mug –  $23

Periodic Table Coaster Set – $20
Coaster Set


Anatomical Heart – $16-180 depending on metal used
Anatomical Heart

DNA Base Pair Molecules – $35+
Base Pair

DNA Helix Pendent – $29
DNA Helix

Chemical Formulas – Dopamine, Serotonin, and Acetylcholine – $2+
Molecular Formula Jewelry

Solar System Necklace – $31

For the Chemical Nerds:

Periodic Table Shower Curtain – $30

And finally…For those who love the little wiggly microbes-

Microbe Plushies! – $10-25


Have Happy Holidays my fellow Science Nerds!

Ebola! The facts and fiction.

When I was seven years old I watched a movie called Outbreak; an action packed movie that threw together Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and a cute monkey battling a mutating virus that began to overwhelm a small town. This movie led me on a an exploratory journey into the world of infectious diseases. Outbreak was loosely based on the book the Hot Zone, a nonfiction novel about the history of hemorrhagic fevers. I read this book over and over, and to this day still have the the same weather worn copy.

With the recent International outbreak of Ebola, I thought it would be a good idea to spread some wisdom about Ebola.


*Human Liver infected with Ebola.

Disease: Ebola virus disease
Also known as: Hemorrhagic Fever

Virus Family: Filoviridae

Transmission: Spread of bodily fluids or objects recently in contact with bodily fluids. Air transmission has not been seen in any form of transmission. Can spread through blood, vomit, mucus, and feces.

Pathogenic organism: Four Ebola virus strains are know to cause disease in humans: Zaire (EBOV) which now just known as Ebola Virus due it it being the most common virus, Bundibugyo (BDBV), Sudan (SUDV), and Taï Forest (TAFV). The fifth strain is not known to cause disease in humans and is named Reston (RESTV).


*Evola Virus virion


The first Ebola outbreak in history was in 1979 where two outbreaks occurred at the same time: one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The virus was named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then named Zaire which is the name of the most common form of the virus. The natural reservoir of the disease is thought to be a kind of bat from the family of Pteropodidae.

The disease has an incubation period of 2-21 days in which a person is infected and can infect others. Being symptomatic means a person is infectious. Symptoms include those similar to many other viruses such as: fever, sore throat, muscle pain and vomiting. Ebola typically has a case fatality rate of around 50% but can range from 25-90% depending on available healthcare, comorbidities and healthcare infrastructure.

The recent outbreak in Africa caused widespread panic across the world. Countries from all over the world sent healthcare aid, workers and supplies. Unfortunately, health care workers are at an increase risk of infection due to close contact with patients and their samples. As we’ve seen with the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the risk of health care workers being infected and travelling outside of the infection zone is a safety concern in any kind of outbreak. The key to controlling any outbreak is containment and healthcare mobilization.

If there are any questions you would like me to answer, comment below and I will happily answer!

* The information and pictures from this posted is references from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Ebola Page on and on the World Health Organization on -Please visit these sites for more information!