Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Microbiology and Pop Culture

I was all set to let this Animalcules go by (again) without writing anything, when I caught the last 10 minutes of House. For those who haven't seen the show, It is about a jerk of a doctor who just happens to be a world class diagnostician (he seems to have an emphasis on infectious disease, but maybe that's just my bias!). Anyway, the episode was a two-parter, ending this evening. The agent of the mystery disease turned out to be a water borne protozoan Naegleria fowleri, which under fairly rare circumstances can cause severe CNS disease (in the show, meningitis and encephalitis. Now, I generally don't do the protozoan thing, but the reason this one caught my eye was because of a throwaway line in the show, something about how coinfection with Legionella slowed the infection down.

Why did this spur my interest. Well, in the show, this is a throwaway that every great diagnostician should know, but I'd bet my next month's salary (or something someone might want...) that the vast majority of doctors, even ID specialists, are not aware that Legionella can hide out in amoeba. That article is from I and I in 1985, so clearly the idea has been around, but it doesn't seem to may naive eye to have agained a great deal of traction. However, it is very clear now that intracellular living in environmental amoeba is a part of several pathogenic microbial lifestyles. It even made it into this lowly blog not too long ago.

Since I went over the basic ideas (especially wrt evolution of virulence) before, I won't rehash it. However, it's nice to see a fairly cutting edge facet of the convergence of general microbiology and infectious disease entering the pop culture. (I won't bore you with my pedantic complaints about their 30 second identification of a pathogenic protozoan from biopsy...)