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The Artful Amoeba

The bacteria that cause syphilis and Lyme Disease have something extraordinary in common: they manage to propel themselves through their environment in spite of the fact their tails are located inside their bodies.

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For bacteria, they're also unusually shaped and active. In this movie, you can see the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease moving like living, squirming cavatappi .

Syphilis and Lyme Disease -- which together have two of my very favorite Latin names -- Treponema pallidum and Borrelia burgdorferi -- belong to a group of bacteria called spirochetes that look like squiggles and move like corkscrews. Spirochetes don't just inflict misery on humans and other animals, though. Many of them do just fine on their own in rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans. Here's one captured from a salt marsh in San Francisco Bay.

Today, we know that only some of them are actually helical like corkscrews, while others like T. pallidum and B. burgdorferi are flat waves like Outlet Choice Cashmere Silk Scarf TRIGGERED NINA by VIDA VIDA Cheap Sale Comfortable Discount Countdown Package For Nice Online gky9cCGD
and cosines. In this slow-mo video of a tethered B. burgdorferi (the scientists somehow pinned it down) you can see how the bacterial profile briefly flattens as it turns. The first part of the video is in real time. The second slows the action down. Watch the third rotation in particular very carefully.

So how do bacteria that appear so athletic manage their acrobatics with tails planted quite firmly (and seemingly uselessly) inside their bodies?

Whatever their shape, all spirochetes have tails, or flagella, of the same type that other bacteria have: a long Sneaker smooth leather Hole pattern Logo brown Tom Ford View Big Discount Discount Pictures Discount Looking For View Nbu0boS
joined by an L-shaped connecter called a hook to a motor embedded in the cell's membrane. In most bacteria, these tails protrude from the back of their owners into the environment. They are rigid and rotate, powered by the motors at their base. These flagella function much like a corkscrew called a Screwpull -- their rotation generates thrust. In the case of the screwpull, the torque is used to extract a cork from a bottle.

In the case of bacteria, the torque pushes the bacteria forward or pull it backward, like the Modal Scarf GOLD TREASURE Scarf by VIDA VIDA Outlet Huge Surprise HsYR5r

The many tails of spirochetes -- they usually have several -- are embedded in rows near each end of the organism and coil back around the body, terminating somewhere near the middle. Stripped of their flagella, these bacteria revert to straight rods, so the rigid tails must act like skeletons that bend the bacteria into their characteristic shapes. In this schematic of a flat-wave spirochete, the purple flagella are clustered together into band-like ribbons:

Blood culturing was performed at the attending physician’s decision comprising 1 venipuncture per episode (40 ml of blood distributed in two aerobic and two anaerobic bottles for adults and 8 ml in pediatric bottles for small children; BACTEC®, Becton-Dickinson, Sparks, MD, USA). In case of a positive blood culture, a physician of the Department of Clinical Microbiology notified by telephone the treating physician of the patient concerned, giving the results of the Gram staining and the motility examination, and also supplying recommendations about antibiotic therapy, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures etc. Another contact with the treating physician was made the following day to provide the results of susceptibility testing and bacterial identification. The positive blood culture was sub-cultured, and the identification of the various strains was done using standard methods [ 21 ]; subsequent serotyping was performed using serotype-specific anti-sera and/or was tested at the National Reference Laboratory at Statens Serum Institut. Susceptibility testing was performed by disc diffusion methods (Oxoid, Hanks, UK), according to zone diameter break-points set out by the Swedish Reference Group for Antibiotics (SRGA: http://www.srga.org ). β-lactamase production was determined by use of Cefinase™ paper discs (Becton Dickinson, NJ, USA) to identify resistance to benzylpenicillin and aminopenicillins. Cefuroxime-resistance was confirmed by subsequent MIC determination (E-test®, bioMérieux, Marcy l’Etoile, France).

Clinical and laboratory information were collected retrospectively from medical records. Hospital admission and discharge records including date of death were confirmed in the National Hospital Registration Database. The study was approved by the Danish Data Protection Agency (Record 2008-41-2688) and followed the guidelines of the local scientific committee.

The bacteremic episode was defined as community-acquired or hospital-acquired according to CDC criteria [ Leather Zip Around Wallet Cathedral by VIDA VIDA Buy Best Cheap Sale Order Many Kinds Of Free Shipping Really cfIp50WH
]. In addition, a healthcare-related group was defined for patients who had been hospitalized within 30 days prior to the bacteremic episode, or who regularly visited the hospital (e.g. for chemotherapy or hemodialysis) [ Cheap Sale Huge Surprise Real Cheap Online SKIRTS Knee length skirts Fly Girl Buy Cheap Clearance Store Browse Cheap Online Clearance Extremely VvskNj
]. Polymicrobial episodes were defined as isolation of a separate significant agent from blood cultures within two days of the bacteremic episode. Hospital departments were divided into medical -, surgical -, intensive care unit (ICU) or other departments (e.g. pediatric, gynaecological and ear-nose-throat departments). The focus of the infection was registered on the basis of clinical, radiological and microbiological findings.

Comorbidity at time of hospitalization was assessed for each individual patient using the Charlson comobidity index scores: 0 points = low, 1–2 points = medium and >2 = high [ 24 ]. Patients were defined as being immunosuppressed if they had cancer or had received immunosuppressive therapy. Alcohol abuse was defined as an alcohol intake of more than 14 units per week for women and more than 21 units per week for men. Patients were considered to have either never smoked or smoked at least once. Shock was registered if a patient had clinical evidence of shock (e.g. hypotension and tachycardia) and/or received vasoactive drugs. The case fatality rate (CFR) was defined as the all cause mortality rate within 30 days after the positive blood culture was taken.

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Rare Disease Information / Meningitis
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Subdivisions of Meningitis

General Discussion

Meningitis is characterized by inflammation of the membranes (meninges) around the brain or spinal cord. The disorder can occur in three different forms: adult, infantile, and neonatal. This inflammation may be caused by different types of bacteria, viruses, fungi, or malignant tumors. Chemical reactions to certain injections into the spinal canal can also cause Meningitis. This inflammation can begin suddenly (acute) or develop gradually (subacute). Adult forms of Meningitis are characterized by fever, headache, and a stiff neck, sometimes with aching muscles. Nausea, vomiting and other symptoms may occur. Treatment with antibiotics is usually effective against the infection.

Meningitis in adults and children is often preceded by respiratory illness or a sore throat. In its acute form, the disorder is characterized by fever, headache, a stiff neck, and vomiting. Adults may become seriously ill within 24 hours. In children, the course of the infection may be even shorter. Symptoms among older children and adults may progress from irritability through confusion, drowsiness, and stupor, possibly leading to coma. Dehydration often occurs, and collapse of the blood vessels may lead to shock (Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome), especially when the Meningitis is caused by meningococcus bacteria which spreads to the blood (septicemia). Paralysis of one side of the body (hemiparesis) is uncommon early in the course of Meningitis, but may occur later as a result of tissue death in the brain (cerebral infarction). Meningitis may recur even after treatment with antibiotics.

Infantile Meningitis: The course of the disorder is less predictable among infants between 3 months and 2 years of age. Fever, vomiting, irritability, and convulsions usually occur. A high-pitched cry, and a bulging or tight soft spot (fontanel) on the crown of the head (where the parts of the still unhardened bones join) may also occur. Since the incidence of Meningitis is highest among this age group, any unexplained fever needs to be closely watched. Cerebral fluid may accumulate just inside the tough outer membrane covering the brain (subdural effusions) after several days. Typical signs of Meningitis include seizures, a persistent fever, and an enlarging head size. A brain abscess or subdural pus accumulation may also occur. Water accumulating in the brain (hydrocephalus), deafness and slowed mental and physical development are possible effects of Meningitis on the central nervous system.

Neonatal Meningitis: Meningitis in newborn babies can begin during the first 4 weeks of life. It may be caused by infections in parts of the body other than the brain or spine. Some cases may arise from complications occurring at birth. The disorder is characterized by subtle and non-specific signs such as jitteriness, interrupted breathing (apnea), vomiting, diarrhea, and a yellowish skin color (jaundice). Usually signs of infection elsewhere in the body (e.g. middle ear infection) are also present. The cerebrospinal fluid can be tested for a definite diagnosis.

Meningitis due to Group B pneumococcus bacteria may be present in the first 10 days of life, when it frequently accompanies a lung illness. Usually, however, this form of Meningitis occurs after 10 days of age as an isolated illness. Neonatal Meningitis is also characterized by symptoms such as fever, drowsiness, and seizures.

Meningitis can be caused by different bacteria, viruses and organisms such as Neisseria meningitis, Hemophilus influenzae b, Streptococcus (Diplococcus) pneumoniae, Group A Streptococcus, Escherichia coli or other gram-negative organisms (chiefly Pseudomonas), and Staphylococcus aureus.

Recurrent Meningitis occurs in special situations: 1) When there is a communication between the brain and the exterior that may be inborn or occur after an injury; 2) When infection occurs in areas close to the meninges as in mastoid infection, sinus infection, brain abscess, accumulation of pus under the outer meninge (subdural empyema), or spinal epidural abscess; 3) When the patient has impaired immunity against bacteria or other causes of illness.

Aproximately 3,000 cases of Meningitis have been reported in 1997. Meningitis caused by Hemophilus influenzae occurs most often in children before the age of five to six years.

Neonatal Meningitis usually occurs during the first four weeks of life, and predominantly affects infants of low birth weight who have had complications at birth. This form of the disorder occurs in approximately two out of 10,000 full-term infants, and in two out of 1,000 low birth weight infants. This form of Meningitis predominantly affects males.

Symptoms of the following disorders may resemble those of Meningitis. Comparisons may be useful for a differential diagnosis:

Encephalitis is a brain infection. There are different types of this disorder which are caused by different types of viruses. Encephalitis may also be caused by hypersensitivity initiated by a virus or other protein that is foreign to the body. Symptoms may include headache, drowsiness, hyperactivity, and/or general weakness. This disorder may have some symptoms similar to those of Meningitis such as a stiff neck, altered reflexes, confusion, speech disorders, possible convulsions, paralysis and coma. (For more information choose “Encephalitis” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)

Meningitis is usually treated with different types of antibiotics used against the specific bacteria causing the infection. These may include ampicillin, chloramphenicol, gentamicin, penicillin, moxalactam, nafcillin, or in tuberculosis cases isoniazid.

Children more than two years of age can be immunized against Meningitis with the Haemophilus influenzae type b polysaccharide vaccine.

A vaccine composed of attenuated bacteria with added protein, has been approved for use in children under two years of age to protect them against Haemophilus influenzae type B Meningitis.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Prevnar vaccine for the treatment of meningitis. Because of the high cost of the drug, the FDA limited the potential recipients to children less than two years of age and children from high risk groups (i.e., Native Americans, African Americans, Alaskan Americans, and individuals with HIV, sickle cell anemia, and immunodeficiency disorders.

The orphan product, Amphotericin B Lipid Complex, has been sponsored by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., P.O. Box 4000, Princeton, NJ, 08543, for the treatment of Cryptococcal Meningitis.

Information on current clinical trials is posted on the Internet at www.clinicaltrials.gov. All studies receiving U.S. Government funding, and some supported by private industry, are posted on this government web site.

For information about clinical trials being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, contact the NIH Patient Recruitment Office:

Tollfree: (800) 411-1222

TTY: (866) 411-1010

Email: prpl@cc.nih.gov

For information about clinical trials sponsored by private sources, contact:


Supporting Organizations


No author, A pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for infants and children. Med Lett Drugs Ther. 2000;42:25-7.

Peate I, Meningitis: causes, symptoms and signs and nursing management. Br J Nurs. 1999;8:1290-5, 1298.

Santosham M, et al., Prevention of haemophilus influenzae type B infections in high-risk infants treated with bacterial polysaccharide immune globulin. N Engl J Med. 1987;317:923-9.

Parke Jr., JC, et al., Capsular polysaccharide of haemophilus influenzae type b as a vaccine. Pediatr Infect Dis Journal. 1987;6:795-8.

Granoff DM, et al., Prospects for prevention of haemophilus influenzae type b disease by immunization. Journal Infect Dis. 1986;153:448-461.

1988, 1989, 1992, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009

The information in NORD’s Rare Disease Database is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician or other qualified medical professional.

The content of the website and databases of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) is copyrighted and may not be reproduced, copied, downloaded or disseminated, in any way, for any commercial or public purpose, without prior written authorization and approval from NORD. Individuals may print one hard copy of an individual disease for personal use, provided that content is unmodified and includes NORD’s copyright.

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) 55 Kenosia Ave., Danbury CT 06810 • (203)744-0100

Report Index


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NORD's Rare Disease Database provides brief introductions for patients and their families to more than 1,200 rare diseases. This is not a comprehensive database since there are nearly 7,000 diseases considered rare in the U.S. We add new topics as we are able to do so, with the help of rare disease medical experts.

If you are seeking information about a rare disease that is not in this database, we would suggest contacting the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) at the National Institutes of Health. NIH has the most complete database of rare diseases in the U.S.

Representatives of patient organizations whose medical advisors are interested in assisting NORD in creating a report on a disease not currently covered in this database may write to orphan@rarediseases.org .

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