Iceberg is the name of an extremely rare white Orca that was seen off the north east coast of Russia in 2010. Iceburg is one of only four white Orcas ever recorded. He is 16 years old, a number which is estimated by dorsal fin measurements of 6.6 feet high. 

It is unknown if albinism is what causes Iceberg’s unique coloring; a young Orca by the name of Chimo died at the young age of 4, her white coloration was caused by Chediak-Higashi Syndrome which in addition to partial albinism, causes a compromised immune system and reoccurring pyogenic infections. The only way to see if Iceburg has albinism is to see if his eyes are pink.

Meet a Microbe: Streptococcus

Who isn’t familiar with the dreaded strep throat? An extremely painful form of pharyngitis, or inflammation of the back of the throat, it’s caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes—hence its name—which is also the culprit in rheumatic heart disease. But there are more than 50 recognized species of Streptococcus, many of them regular denizens of the human mouth, respiratory tract, and elsewhere.

Some, like S. pyogenes, are proven pathogens, the cause of everything from cavities (S. mutans) to pneumonia (S. pneumonia). But others seem to do no harm, and may even help by working against troublesome strains of fellow streptococci. Streptococcus salivarius, for example, which is found in the human mouth and respiratory tract, can be dangerous, even lethal, to people with weakened immune systems in the rare event it escapes outside the oral cavity. But in the mouth, it appears to help prevent both gum disease and tooth decay. When cultured side by side in the lab, S. salivarius inhibited the formation of decay-causing plaque by S. mutans.

Meet more microbes in the new exhibition, The Secret World Inside You, opening November 7!

Image: © AMNH/B. Peterson


Streptococcus pyogenes

Streptococcus pyogenes (also known as the flesh eating bacteria) is a gram-positive bacterium that usually grows in pairs or chains. It has been classified as a beta-hemolytic streptococcus because when cultured on a blood agar plate all the red blood cells are ruptured by the bacteria. Furthermore, it has been classified using Lancefield serotyping as group A, because it displays antigen A on its cell wall. Therefore, this bacterium is commonly called the beta-hemolytic group A streptococcus, or GAS.

This bacterium is responsible for a wide array of infections. It can cause streptococcal sore throat which is characterized by fever, enlarged tonsils, tonsillar exudate, sensitive cervical lymph nodes and malaise. If untreated, strep throat can last 7-10 days. Scarlet fever (pink-red rash and fever) as well as impetigo (infection of the superficial layers of skin) and pneumonia are also caused by this bacterium. Septicaemia, otitis media, mastitis, sepsis, cellulitis, erysipelas, myositis, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, meningitis, endocarditis, pericarditis, and neonatal infections are all less common infections due to S. pyogenes

There are at least 517,000 deaths globally each year due to severe S. pyogenes infections and rheumatic fever disease alone causes 233,000 deaths. 

Key characteristics: Gram(+), beta-hemolytic, bacitracin(+), PYR(+), facultatively anaerobic.

Pyogenes is my attempt at making a NICE male character. He worked in law enforcement in some capacity on Grismara, and is highly intelligent as well as athletic and in very good shape (for a contagion-infected-mordesh). Unfortunately he is rather entirely FAIL when it comes to social interaction. Not so much in a Sherlock way, more of in an adorable Spencer Reid way.

He enjoys reading a good book, playing with pets, and is a terrible softie who would probably love hugs if he knew what to do with them.