You will be required to write a non technical “story” from the point of view of a Microbe of your choosing.
Hullo, members of the genus Homo sapiens! I am Staphylococcus aureus. Feel free to call me Staph, the nickname lovingly given to me by those clad in white coats. And where am I? Well all over you, literally! On your skin, in the nostrils, in your oral cavity and even the boils or pimples, if you have any, that is. Am a bacterium, by the way, the gram positive kind and the humans first found my forefathers in the year 1880 in the pus from an abscess during a knee surgery. What a location to discover someone! The patient was in Aberdeen, Scotland. Antibiotics had still not been discovered and life for us folks was much simpler then. Then came the arsenal and ammunition of antibiotics and humans killed us with much glee. Actually we were mass murdered. And just when you guys thought that you had won the war on Staph, in came antibiotic resistance. And there we were surviving in the war that the medical fraternity had waged against us.
I bear a grudge against mankind, now why should you name us microscopically visible types as 'bugs' or even 'germs'. But grudge or not, Mr Homo sapiens, your body is my home, where I find shelter, food, produce progeny and largely I owe my existence to you. The human race is a thriving and growing population. But so are we, if there are billions of you inhabiting planet earth, so are we, there are billions of us on human bodies. You can count your kind because you are visible, but we are well innumerous and the naked human eye cannot spot us, not without a microscope. And to top it, arrived on planet earth much before you did, thousands of years before. We have been around when the dinosaurs, the woolly mammoth, the dodo, came and became extinct. If the crazy head of state of a rogue state decides to press the nuclear button, well, we shall survive that too. About you Mr. Man, I am not so sure.
You are a smart species that has dominated lives of other beings on earth. But our smartness is being unravelled only now. We normally manage to obtain our nutrients from your skin, and the nasal epidermis but when we encounter people with weak immune system, we dig deeper, the nutrients of the inner tissues are more delicious. Then we are the causative organisms for a host of infections, an abscess, an infected wound, your heart where we cause endocarditis, pneumonia, sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, septicemia, meningitis, and others. Simple nutrition is available on the surface, but when we get a chance to dig deeper in your tissues, that is where the gourmet stuff lies. But I must say I like the taste of the selective media that you guys have formulated to isolate us. It is fun to grow on those colourful petriplates with only family around us. There is the Mannitol Salt agar that has such a high concentration of salts that only us, the mighty types can survive and thrive on it, and has Mannitol as a carbon source and phenol red gives it the lovely colour. Then there is the Baird Parker medium that has tellurite as the selective agent which is reduced by us to form grey black spots (Kim & Oh, 2010).
There are so many hospital acquired infections or nosocomial infections that can be blamed on us. Already weak and trying to recover from surgical wounds, patients in hospitals often fall more sick due to us. But we got our colonies to feed and that makes us utilize opportunities when we find better source of nutrition. Poor hand hygiene gives us more opportunities to infect patients, when we travel on hands of health professionals from one patient to another, it's quite a ride, you know. Come to think of it, you had to actually carry out research to prove that the more people adhered to rules of hand washing and hand disinfection, there was reduced chance of nosocomial infections (Pittet, et al., 2000). Another group found that medical students were negligent about hand washing (De Alwis, Pakirisamy, San, & Xiaofen, 2012).
Then came the villain for us bacteria, Alexander Fleming, and we do not like him because he discovered the antibiotic Penicillin (Tan & Tatsumura, 2015). This weapon of mass murder could kill all of us. So, we went in a huddle, continued living when and where we could, like scared mice. But then, one day, we also evolved, nature came to our rescue and we could synthesize an enzyme called beta-lactamase, that could destroy the beta-lactam ring of Penicillin. And, to our utter surprise, a pleasant one, it could no longer kill us. We had won a battle and sounded our bugle! Mankind proceeded to discover several other antibiotics, and each time we would find a way to resist its bactericidal effects. Some of were termed infamously as the MRSA- methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the VRSA, vancomycin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and so on. We have found ways to survive against cephlosporins, flouroquinolones, daptomycin and linezolid. The mechnisms of resistance that we have evolved include enzymtic dectivation of the active compound, Binding of protein to the target that reduces the affinity of the antibiotic with the target and trapping of antibiotic molecules and efflux pumps. The mec elements and the vanA operon in the Staphylococcal chromosome have been obtained through horizontal gene transfer and have conferred antibiotic resistance in Staphylococus (Pantosti, Sanchini, & Monaco, 2007). The battle rages on, as the scientists and pharmaceutical companies discover drug after drug and pour millions of dollars into research, the mighty Staph lives on. It is with a smile that we welcome phrases such as - the difficult to treat MRSA increases morbidity and prolongs hospital stays. Even manual therapists have to exercise caution due to us (Green, et al., 2012). We may look innocuous little beings under the microscope, sprawled and squished under the cover slips but when we have the might to defeat the thousands of scientific brains that work in laboratories around the world, day and night, contemplating our next assault on mankind.
But antibiotic resistance is a gift that we received from you almost on a platter. The injudicious use of antibiotics, not taking the complete dose, popping antibiotic pills even when you have viral infections, such as, flu gave us the chance to develop mechanisms that protect us from antibiotics. Viruses do not even have cell walls, and so are not bothered by antibiotics. I shudder to think of how much we would have suffered had mankind used the antibiotics carefully.
An emerging threat for our race is that the humans are now working tirelessly to design a vaccine against us. So many people fall prey to infections due to us that it is becoming difficult to treat people, particularly those with MRSA infections. Vaccines will prove to be a boon for you and a bane for us almost akin to razing down our living quarters, snatching away our source of nutrition and sustenance. We hope the complexities of skin immunology will keep the vaccine at bay (Lacey, Geoghegan, & McLoughlin, 2016).
At first they classified us as part of the plant kingdom, then they put us among the Monerans, but how I wish that they classify us as animals..... That way we would be eligible for animals and folks from PETA would have fought for our rights to live vociferously. We would have animal rights activists by our side whenever people in white coats poured disinfectants over our petriplates and autoclaved us to get zero count sterilization. But alas! I do not think we our as lucky as dogs, elephants, rats, monkeys and guinea pigs. You do not break the code of ethics when you kill us in millions, with disinfectants, alcohol wipes, antibiotics, autoclaves, even laminar flows, it hurts to get stuck in the HEPA filters. But this is life and we struggle and emerge winners every time we become resistant to that one more antibiotic.
De Alwis, W., Pakirisamy, P., San, L., & Xiaofen, E. (2012). A Study on Hand Contamination and Hand Washing Practices among Medical Students. ISRN Public Health, 2012:251483.
Green, B. N., Johnson, C. D., Egan, J. T., Rosenthal, M., Griffith, E. A., & Evans, M. W. (2012). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: an overview for manual therapists. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 11(1), 64–76.
Kim, H., & Oh, S. (2010). Performance comparison of 5 selective media used to detect Staphylococcus aureus in foods. Food Sceince and Biotechnology, 19(4):1097–1101.
Lacey, K., Geoghegan, J., & McLoughlin, R. (2016). The Role of Staphylococcus aureus Virulence Factors in Skin Infection and Their Potential as Vaccine Antigens. Pathogens, 5(1), 22.
Pantosti, A., Sanchini, A., & Monaco, M. (2007). Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus. Future Microbiology, 2(3):323-34.
Pittet, D., Hugonnet, S., Harbarth, S., Mourouga, P., Sauvan, V., & Touveneau, S. (2000). Effectiveness of a hospital-wide programme to improve compliance. The Lancet, 356:1307-1312.
Tan, S. Y., & Tatsumura, Y. (2015). Alexander Fleming (1881–1955): Discoverer of penicillin. ,. Singapore Medical Journal, 56(7), 366–367