Amir writes:

Dear TWiM team

My name is Amir and I’m an Israeli PhD student studying in Jena, Germany. We haven’t got a real winter here this year, so it’s not too cold – round 5-10°C

First, thanks for all the hard work. I’ve been listening to you guys for a few years now and you really bring out cool science that I wouldn’t otherwise hear about – so THANK YOU!

A question came up at our dept. seminar that sparked a discussion I wanted to share.

A novel method was presented for medical diagnostics using Raman spectroscopy, and somebody asked whether all infections are single-species. The speaker was stumped (fair enough. He’s a chemist). 

So I roll the question to you – are infections generally single species?

I am sure the answer (as always) is that anything is possible, but what is the norm? I remember most infections are monocultures except for rare cases, please enlighten me!

I want to add that I work in the department of chemistry so most people really have no background in microbiology at all, and I studied agriculture so… my medical training ain’t too sharp 🙂

Thanks again!


Note on Jena: 

Jena is the home of Zeiss, one of the best companies for microscopes in the world. Carl Zeiss has pretty much invented the *modern* microscope, together with Ernst Abbe (who discovered the resolution limit) and Otto Schott : they wanted to make science more accurate, reproducable and standardized worldwide.

This is a huge part of the city’s culture, with streets and buildings named after the three (and the local sports teams) as well as statues presenting Zeiss with his microscope, Abbe’s equations and a full optics museum.

Bob writes:

The world of bacterial outbreaks happening at the same time as COVID-19

A listeria outbreak is being reported and is under investigation by the CDC and FDA

A deadly listeria outbreak linked to enoki mushrooms from Korea has sickened 36 people in 17 states with four reported deaths, according to federal health officials.

In a food safety alert Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said officials were investigating a multistate listeria outbreak and advised that people at higher risk for listeria infections – pregnant women, adults 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems – avoid eating any enoki mushrooms labeled as “Product of Korea.”

The alert comes a day after Montebello, California-based Sun Hong Foods Inc. recalled all enoki mushrooms imported from Korea after Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development found that a sample was positive for Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Enoki mushrooms are white with long stems, small caps and usually sold in clusters. They are popular in East Asian cuisine and also known as enokitake, golden needle, futu, or lily mushrooms, the FDA notes.

Matt writes:

Kind greetings,

I am new to TWIM.  I just listened to my first episode, a fascinating show covering topics ranging from a discussion of tripartite HGT in mealy bugs, to hospital floors being a hotspot for coronaviruses. Thank you!

My question is about hygiene.  The general public is correctly told that diligent handwashing is helpful in reducing infection risk during any outbreak.

Anecdotally, for the last eight years, when I have been inadvertently exposed to a very sick person spewing virions with great force near me, I have proceeded to diligently wash my hands afterwards.

Then, once my hands are quite clean, I carefully wash my face, carefully lavaging my nostrils, tear ducts, lips, ears, and general facial area for 30 seconds.

I seem to get sick less frequently than my peers, and when I do become sick, it is less severe.  I surmise this could be related to consistently lower viral loads delivered to the principal portals of pathogenic entry into my body, namely my facial mucosa.  

I have a few questions about this procedure.

1.  Do you think a study using harmless cauliflower mosaic virus is warranted to see if this practice could be meritorious?  If so, who might fund it?

2.  How could this procedure be made safer?  I note facial touching and facewashing is still routinely practiced among the general population during this COVID-19 pandemic when showering daily.  

Thank you.

Matt, San Francisco