Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fun-1-day 9: Fungus among us

This is the quilt block that I sewed yesterday morning.  It has 2 different types of yeast or fungus that can cause problems in our bodies.  On the left, is my attempt at the yeast, "Candida albicans", the main cause of genital  and oral (thrush) yeast infections. "Trichophyton rubrum", on the right is the main cause of skin fungal infections, including ringworm (which is NOT a worm, but does make a ring-shaped patch on the skin), athletes foot, and jock itch.

In the lab, the doctor will order a "KOH prep" to be performed on skin scrapings, or swab to detect these.  KOH, or Potassium Hydroxide, lyses, or dissolves all other cells, and makes the fungal cells easier to see.  It's done as a "wet prep", where the sample is directly examined under the microscope without drying and staining it first. Once again, I used a little creativity, and a little variegated yellow thread for the background.  The yeast and fungus is stitched in grey.

Just like bacteria, yeast and fungus live all around us and in us, normally causing no problems.  In fact, yeast is used to make wonderful food and drinks, like bread,  blue cheese, beer and wine.  This is NOT the same yeast that cause infection though, and it concerns me that when I searched yeast on Google tons of information came up on "yeast free diets", and the like.  Just like this blog, you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet!

Yeast and fungal infections can be a particular concern in immunocompromised patients.  These patients have a weakened immune or disease fighting system because of cancer treatment, or diseases like AIDS, which affect the immune system.  Yeast and fungi are superb at taking advantage of the change in the immune system, and can rapidly multiply and cause symptoms in large numbers.  In the gut, a course of antibiotics will kill off all the competition for food by killing bacteria, thus allowing the yeast to rapidly multiply, causing yeast infections.  Once again, "icky" subjects, that become beautiful under a microscope...

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