Livin' on the MDedge

Human cheddar, bacteria-bashing berries, and constipation amnesia


 

No celeb cheese, please

You don’t mess with cheese. Cheese is love, cheese is life. But now, science has gone too far by bridging the gap between man and cheese.

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In a new London art exhibit, a biologist and an artist teamed up to create different types of cheese made from … British celebs? Look, we love the Spice Girls as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean we want Baby Spice Brie.

Bacteria taken from their face, armpits, ears, and even bellybuttons were used to create cheddar, Cheshire, and Stilton cheeses, among others. Yum. The goal of the (possibly blasphemous) exhibit is to change people’s view of microbes and demonstrate how they are essential to human existence. The cheesy contributors included Ruby Tandoh from the Great British Bake Off, chef Heston Blumenthal, and Blur bassist Alex James.

The artists and scientists involved did not yet determine if the cheese was safe for human consumption – not that anyone would eat them, anyway.

A poop oops

I’m sure we’ve all been in the position – you’re on your porcelain throne, things aren’t going your way. You’re praying to any and every deity under the sun to get things moving. Maybe you start bargaining … but would you give up a decade’s worth of memories to jump-start your intestines?

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One woman in China seems to have made this deal with the devil. After straining a bit too hard during a nasty bout of constipation, the Hong Kong woman emerged from the bathroom displaying signs of amnesia. Her family quickly discovered she could not remember anything from the past 10 years and took her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with transient global amnesia. The temporary amnesia was caused by an increase in abdominal and intracerebral pressure that limited oxygen flow to her brain.

The woman regained her memories after about 8 hours and had no recollection of the unfortunate series of events. Or so she claims. We imagine she might remember a bit and is going to start stocking up on prune juice from now on.

Juicy, red, and ready to save the world

The Avengers may have finally stopped Thanos, but what could they do against Escherichia coli? And Superman may be more powerful than a locomotive, but could he take on Pseudomonas aeruginosa?

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In this week’s episode of Bacteria vs. the World, we meet the superhero the world really needs.

The humble cranberry doesn’t have super speed or an armored flying exoskeleton, but it does have the power to help antibiotics fight the bacterial menace, as researchers at McGill University and Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, both in Montreal, discovered.

They found that bacteria exposed to a cranberry extract known as proanthocyanidin had increased sensitivity to antibiotics. The extract, it appears, makes bacterial cell walls more permeable to antibiotics and interferes with the pump mechanism that bacteria use to rid themselves of the drugs. “The antibiotic penetrates more easily, and the bacteria have a harder time getting rid of it,” so the drug is effective at a lower dose, they explained.

But wait, there’s more! “When we simultaneously treated the bacteria with an antibiotic and the cranberry extract, no resistance developed. We were very surprised by this,” lead author Nathalie Tufenkji, PhD, said in a written statement.

This is all great news, of course, but we’re a little surprised by their surprise. Here’s why: The scientific name of the American cranberry is Vaccinium macrocarpon. Vaccinium? Coincidence? We think not.

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