susceptibility of ultra-bacteria to heat?

Joan Marie Shields jshields at rigel.oac.uci.edu
Wed Jul 14 14:54:31 EST 1999

Joan Shields wrote:
>> I was at the last ASM General Meeting (Chicago, May-June, 1999).  There
>> was a symposium about ultramicrobacteria which included a talk about the
>> basic size requirements etc - all based on present knowledge and
>> understanding of bacteria and what is required to preform certain basic
>> tasks etc.  Much of it boiled down to a great deal of skepetism that these
>> organisms exist.  In the audiance was a woman who is a member of a lab
>> working on these, in blood.  I admired her standing up to the prevailing
>> attitude of ridicule.  There's a lot we don't know and the assumptions we
>> make regarding microorganisms have had a tendancy (if you look at the
>> history) of falling apart.  There is some evidence that these bugs exist,
>> maybe not enough to absolutely prove it but enough to warrent a closer
>> look.

Timothy Paustian  <paustian at bact.wisc.edu> wrote:  
>Intersting, wish I coulda made it. The people who push the dogma always
>have to withstand such pressure. Its a classic mechanism for finding the
>truth. If her data is good and she believes it (and from what I have
>read she should) she can withstand it.

It took quite a bit for her to stand up and defend her lab, I admired
that in her (and told her so later).  It's very hard to do that, especially
in that room.  The fellow giving the talk did back down a bit - he wasn't
necessarily being mean, though he did present handwritten overheads of 
calculations he had made regarding the probability of such tiny organisms.
I guess to him it just seemed so absurd given the assumed components of
a cell - ribosomes and DNA etc.  Given some of the sentiments around me,
while the idea is a difficult one to immediately swallow, we do need to 
be open-minded about it.  

I think this is very important - very important to stay open-minded.  Like
I said, if we look back at history there are so many instances where people
were laughed at for proposing ideas we know today as fact.  Just the fact
that there are tiny organisms that can cause disease was ridiculed years
ago.  The notion of gene swapping among bacteria - the idea that viruses
may insert themselves into genomes and cause disease, even spark cancer, 
years later is still, by some, laughed at.  Yet the evidence builds.  Back 
in the 1960s the US Surgeon General stated that infectious diseases would
soon be a thing of the past and so therefore more money and resources 
should be shunted into chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
A lot of people took that to heart - now here we are nearly forty years
later and indectious diseases are not only still with us (with a vengence
in some areas) but that some of these so called 'non-infectious' diseases
may actually be caused by microorganisms.

I guess it's hard to accept that we are simply another rung in the food-
chain and that creatures far smaller than we are a rung higher. 

>> I'm an environmental microbiogist (that's what they tell me anyway) though
>> I work with eukaryotes.

>Well are they small eukaryotes? :-)

Well, Cyclospora is more on the big side, though at 10microns in diameter
they aren't as big as some of the other sporulating parasitic protozoa,
though larger than Cryptosporidium.  Microsporidia, which I also have an 
interest in (they have THE coolest method of infecting host cells), are,
well, the ones that infect humans, are about 1-2microns in diameter.
pretty small, for eukaryotes.

>> I do not purchase services or products from unsolicited e-mail 
>> advertisements.

>Do you find that this helps?

Not really but it makes me feel better.

Joan Shields       jshields at uci.edu       http://www.ags.uci.edu/~jshields
University of California - Irvine         School of Social Ecology
Department of Environmental Analysis and Design
I do not purchase services or products from unsolicited e-mail advertisements.

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