organism odors ( was re: Ecoli?)

K N and P J Harris ecoli at cix.compulink.co.uk
Thu Oct 12 15:48:00 EST 1995

> ==========
> bionet/microbiology #781, from rockbugs at aol.com, 2545 chars, 5 Oct 
1995 10:07:35 -0
> Comment to 765.
> ----------
> Article: 1732 of bionet.microbiology
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> From: rockbugs at aol.com (ROCKBUGS)
> Newsgroups: bionet.microbiology
> Subject: organism odors ( was re: Ecoli?)
> Date: 5 Oct 1995 10:07:35 -0400
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>      I didn't realize that recognizing characteristic odors of 
> was an unusual talent. I've been a Med Tech for nearly ten years, and 
> is the way that I was taught.
> The real challenge is trying to describe in words what some of them 
> like.      Beside the usual Pseudomonas aeruginosa (grape kool-aid) 
> Haemophilus  species ( musty-mousy), there's the previously mentioned 
> cepacia (stinks, hard to describe)  and X. maltophilia (ammonia) some
> Flavobacterium species (tutti-frutti), Staphylococcus ( species vary 
> "fresh-sweet" to "dirty-wet dog"), Proteus mirabilis (another tough 
> but it's strong, and will stink up the whole incubator), Strep bovis
> (butter-rum),  Ecoli (on MAC is almost sweet, but on BAP is like
> mothballs), some "normal flora" sputum cultures (which bug, I don't 
> have a smell that I can only describe as "Fritos" (the corn chip) , 
and we
> had one strain of Pseudo last year that absolutely reeked of dirt and
> moldy potatoes. The whole lab just stank for days after the plate had 
> already bagged and autoclaved! 
>       The only time that this "olfactory skill" has caused me problems 
> when a patient turned out to have Neisseria meningitidis bacteremia, 
and a
> coworker and I (who had our noses in the plates) ended up on Rifampin 
> three days - along with everyone else who had had contact with the
> patient.
>      So, now I have a question. Has anyone ever done gas 
chromatography or
> anything else to determine the chemical makeup of these odors? Does 
> care?  Are they strictly a byproduct of metabolism? Some of them 
> or lessen on subculture, so do only "wild" bugs do the wild thing? Do 
> "get happy" on the plates and stop eating beans? Maybe I should go 
> for my Master's, and make this my thesis...
>      Forgive me for rambling, I'll go back to "lurking", now.
>      Kathryn L. Sherlock, BS, MT(ASCP)
>      (Kathy or Rockbugs)

I love all this sniffy stuff, but in the UK the Health and Safety 
thought police would throw unending wobblies at the idea of anyone 
putting their noses near a plate. 
I have always believed that we have ignored our sense of smell. To 
replicate what we have up our noses and in our brains would cost a large 
fortune in GC-MS plus computer power.
Seriously, has anyone out there come acrosss a system that will allow my 
delicate little students get some idea of the topic without exposing 
them to (as seen by our gestapo) certain death and us to large damages 
Peter Harris,
The University of Reading, UK.

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