Microbiology 3302 Spring 2013 – Getting Friendly with Bacteria

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    Hello! My name is Borrelia burgdorferi and I am a member of the Spirochete phylum. Armed with a cell wall sandwiched between two plasma membranes (an inner and outer) I’m inevitably classified as a gram-negative bacterium. Like many other microbes with two membranes I can’t help but be stained by safranin when put through the rigors of a gram stain reaction test. When it comes to breathing my fondness for oxygen isn’t as strong as others. Though I need oxygen to survive I rather it in smaller amounts than what’s readily available in the air—microaerophile.
    My most defining feature without a doubt is how I survive. Though I do rely on carbohydrates such as glucose to drive my metabolic pentose phosphate pathway, it is where I find these energy precursors that make me so unique. I am a parasite. As a parasite I’ve grown quite comfortable setting up home in the innards of ticks. If one wishes to find me in this country they need only travel to the wildernesses of the Northeast or the Midwest. However, I have been known to take vacations into the tissues of those bitten by ticks I’ve infected so discretion should be taken when traveling to these areas.

    Like many other parasites in the world I’ve become very skilled at being pathogenic. Whenever I find myself transferred into the tissues of an unsuspecting camper I enlist the help of my surface proteins to evade my new host’s immune system; a rather handy virulence factor. Once I’ve become settled into my new home, your body, I can finally begin to work on my famed masterpiece—Lyme disease. In fact, in 1975 I was identified as the culprit behind a massive bacterial outbreak in the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut. Since then I’ve been known to infect tens of thousands of people every year including former president George W. Bush, Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, and actor Alec Baldwin. For those of you not familiar with my work, Lyme disease is an infectious disease known to cause fatigue, arthritis, flu-like symptoms, muscular issues, and a diverse multitude of other complications.
    Lastly, if you’re ever curious as to whether I’ve stopped by you for a visit just be on the lookout for my calling card; the bullseye marks my next target!

    Domain: Bacteria
    Phylum: Spirochete
    Order: Spirochaetales
    Family: Spirochaetaceae
    Genus: Borrelia
    Species: Burgdorferi


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