Livin' on the MDedge

Electrified pathogens and urbanized mosquitoes


 

Microbes won’t believe this shocking truth!

Pathogens can be tough little critters. Always getting into places they don’t belong, and when they get there, they can be difficult to get rid of, what with their ability to quickly evolve resistance to our best medications. If only there was some shocking new way to tackle those nasty and annoying infections.

Danger High Voltage sign alano design/Getty Images

Thanks to some engineers and researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, if you’ve got an infection centered on a metal implant, that shocking new treatment won’t be just a figure of speech. They ran a weak electrical current through metal dental implants infected with recurring Candida albicans infection, which damaged the cell membranes of the offending fungal pathogens but left the healthy tissue around the infection alone. That damage increased the pathogen's permeability, making it more susceptible to antimicrobial treatment.

The treatment, also known as electrochemical therapy, is great if you’ve got a recurrent infection. The dormant pathogens responsible for the recurrence, not normally susceptible to treatment, are affected by antifungals or antibiotics after the shock wakes them up. Even bacteria that have evolved drug resistance become vulnerable again after a session with Dr. Electricity.

Unfortunately, while the therapy could certainly be expanded beyond dental implants, shocking yourself when you’ve got a regular old infection probably won’t work. We know – Watt a disappointment.

Blast from the brewing past

What separates a rich Belgian ale from its paler, mass-produced American competitors? Is it the sudsy je ne sais quoi produced by squabbling Walloons and Flemings debating the fine points of the brewing arts over open tanks? Perhaps it’s the signature warm-fermented ways of Trappist monks? Is it possible les Belges have hired the unemployed Artesians who once made Olympia Beer a household name across the American West?

man in brewery holding a beer SerhiiBobyk/Getty Images

Wrong, wrong, and faux. In fact, Belgium’s finest brews are driven by hybrids. Yeast hybrids. Specifically, rare and unusual forms of hybrid yeasts.

Or, as Belgian researcher and world beer hero Dr. Jan Steensels of VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology explains, “Think of lions and tigers making a super-baby.”

Fearlessly, Dr. Steensels and his intrepid colleagues went hunting for these exotic creatures. They found that the yeasts behind many of Belgium’s finest brews combine the DNA of the traditional, domesticated ale yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with genetic material from wild yeasts such as Saccharomyces kudriavzevii.

The result? The mighty fermentation strengths of normal beer yeasts are paired with the stress resistance and alluring aromas of feral yeasts that survived mankind’s Medieval brewing endeavors and somehow stumbled into the modern brewery for a drink.

Dr. Steensels’ team is now using its knowledge to craft more yeasty lion-tiger super-babies. We at the Bureau of LOTME look forward to hoisting a pint of this “liger” elixir. We’re certain the brew will bear the name of ligers’ greatest cinematic fan, Napoleon Dynamite, and feature the subtle undertones of tater tots.

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