JEDilworth bactitech at hortonsbay.com
Tue Nov 13 00:55:17 EST 2001

I remember some of my pathogenic micro pretty vividly.  The year was the
spring of 1970.  The campuses were reeling with protest (have to set the
background).  I was attending a rather large midwest state university. 
I was a junior that year. 

My prof used a LOT of visual aids, e.g. movies (pre-video era).  I don't
know where he obtained them, but their images stick with me to this day,
probably because I work in microbiology, and have done so most of the
last 27 years.  

He had public health movies that included the following diseases (and
probably more that I've forgotten):  tetanus, whooping cough (the poor
baby trying to breathe while coughing finally made me understand my
mother's commentary on having the disease), cholera (the site of people
so dehydrated from losing gallons of fluid still sticks with me to this
day).  The most awful one, though, was from the place in Maryland where
they were performing the germ warfare of the time with.....anthrax! They
had a poor rhesus monkey hooked up and made him inhale spores, then
tracked how the spores circulated in his body until they produced toxins
and death.  It was terrible to watch, but actually quite timely now,
considering what's been going on.

As a medical microbiology tech, I think micro is most interesting when
you provide a lot of visual images.  Show them how bacteria grows on a
plate.  Show them lots of interesting slides.  Perhaps you have a
medical technology program at your university.  Talk to the director of
the program.  Micro is usually one of the students' favorite rotations. 
I learned on conventional media identifications (TSI, LIA, citrate,
etc.) but now all that has been replaced in clinical laboratories by
automated ID systems like Vitek or Microscan.  When I trained as a
medical technologist, we had certain groups of media we set up to ID
gram negatives, and the senior tech in micro had examples of positives
and negatives for each ID test. She would put them together in different
combinations and we had to "ID" the combo.  This might not necessarily
be appropriate for non-med tech students, but it was visual.

A trip to a large local clinical micro lab would be very interesting. 
Be sure you go to one of the big ones, as they'll be doing medical
mycology, mycobacteriology, bacteriology, ova and parasite exams -
everything.  I remember what struck me even way back in the 70's was how
many of the lab methods used in college labs were really old and
outdated compared to what's being used in clinical labs.  I haven't seen
a cotton plugged media tube since college!  We also don't flame the
opening of tubes, either (which was the "official" method in college). 
My college professor kept Strep. pneumoniae alive by inoculating mice in
their peritoneal cavity, letting it grow till it killed them, then
freezing the mice!  Yuck!  It grows fine on blood agar, although you
must subculture it every couple of days and keep it in CO2. I still
can't believe he did that! 

You can memorize gram reactions, and all that stuff, but the most
interesting is the human aspect of disease.  Since all of this
bioterrorism stuff has come up, my laboratory has been having inservices
and refreshers on all the BT organisms.  I watched an interesting and
almost newly minted (from 5/2000 I believe) tape from the CDC tonight at
work.  It's a two parter, mostly for laboratories.  The second part of
the second tape, though, had a lot of interesting information regarding
plague, tularemia, brucellosis, anthrax, hemorrhagic fevers, etc., - all
the stuff terrorists can use for biowarfare.  The epidemiology of
disease was what interested me the most.  I loved pathogenic and it led
me on to become a medical technologist specializing in microbiology. 
BTW, that prof's teaching abilities were only so-so, but the subject
matter was the hook.

Judy Dilworth, M.T.(ASCP)
Microbiology 27 years

Glenn Songer wrote:
> I am embarking on the teaching of a pathogenic bacteriology lab for
> upper division undergraduates.  Can anyone suggest paradigms which I
> can consider as I build this course?  Thanks.

More information about the Microbio mailing list