serratia

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Last Updated: April 24, 2017

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1. Vogesella indigofera, obtained from a pond brimming with highly toxic waste.

2. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic pathogen that can also be used in the bioremediation of oil spills.

3. A battle between Serratia marcescens (red) and the common soil bacterium, Bacillus mycoides (white). The Serratia seems to produce an antibiotic to protect itself from the invading Bacillus strain. 

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Some pictures taken in micro today. The two slides on the microscope are of Bacillus. The red rod-shaped bacteria are the actual bacilli, and those green dots you see are called endospores.

Endospores are formed when essential nutrients or other environmental standards are not being met. They’re extremely heat and chemical resistant. They are formed within the cell by the bacteria replicating it’s DNA. Those spores you see are very tough protective structures that house that replicated DNA after the mother cell ceases to exist.

Also, I made a chicken out of Serratia.

MICROBIOLOGY IS COOL.

Biological warfare has been devastating people since at least the time the Mongols started wiping out enemy cities by catapulting diseased corpses over their walls, but its grand, mustard gas-y upgrade in World War I all but ensured that most every military worth its salt started dabbling in inhalable horrors. The U.S. military was no exception, but where most military organizations were content keeping their terror-bacteria in laboratories, they wanted nothing to do with such lame-assery. Instead, from September 20-27, 1950, they carefully sprayed the entire city of San Francisco with enough Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii bacteria to expose the area’s 800,000 residents to new, vile lifeforms.

To be fair, Operation Sea-Spray was intended to be (slightly) less “Fuck San Francisco, amirite?” move than it seems. The operation’s aim was to find out whether enemy agents could unleash a biological attack on a coastal city, and the researchers were allegedly fairly sure that the bacteria they had used was almost certainly harmless. However, it was in fact anything but. Within days, people with mysterious, difficult-to-treat infections caused by a hitherto extremely rare bacteria called – all together now – Serratia marcenscens started trickling into the area’s hospitals. By November, one patient had died. The doctors didn’t have a clue what was going on, because the military hadn’t bothered to inform the health officials before, you know, covering their whole city in strange bacteria.

What’s worse, the bacteria may never really have gone away. Weird infections have sporadically cropped up in the Bay Area ever since the experiment, and doctors speculate that the military-introduced Serratia may well be the culprit. A Serratia infection killed a man as recently as 2001.

5 Military Experiments That Told Ethics To F*ck Right Off