2 episodes

We have exploited microorganisms since the Dawn of Civilisation and have benefitted from them without understanding the contribution they have made to improving human life. Indeed, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is central to the baking of leavened bread and in alcohol production to the extent that it is variously known as bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast, depending on its particular role. A minority of microorganisms are, however, responsible for infections, some of which are potentially fatal. These are the focus for this presentation. Perhaps the most devastating of infections historically has been plague, caused by Yersinia pestis. This infection is spread by the fleas that live on infected black rats and was responsible for the deaths of up to one third of Europeans in the middle ages. Indeed, in some locations, entire communities were wiped out by the plague. Central to our understanding of infections was the development of the microscope by pioneers such as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hook. Not everything was as it seemed, spermatozoa were described as each containing a complete person, or “homunculus”, an idea that persisted for many years. This contributed to our understanding of the cycle of infection, whereby a pathogen encounters a new host, affects entry, multiplies inside the host and disperses to a new host. Intoxications are a special type of microbial illness and range from the trivial, such as Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning to the potentially fatal botulism. An extraordinary example of intoxication is afforded by ergotism, caused by a fungus. Ergot can be metabolised to release the hallucinogen LSD. The degree to which pathogens invade the body is illustrated by three potentially fatal infections: cholera, dysentery and typhoid. The role of the human commensal microbiota (the microorganism that live in intimate association with us) is then explored. Their role in dental caries and its link with endocarditis is explored. Another example of commensals gone bad is explored in the description of “honeymoon cystitis”. The presentation concludes with an exploration of the routes of infections and the reasons why some infections are more common than are others.

The History of Infectious Diseases University of Leeds

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

We have exploited microorganisms since the Dawn of Civilisation and have benefitted from them without understanding the contribution they have made to improving human life. Indeed, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is central to the baking of leavened bread and in alcohol production to the extent that it is variously known as bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast, depending on its particular role. A minority of microorganisms are, however, responsible for infections, some of which are potentially fatal. These are the focus for this presentation. Perhaps the most devastating of infections historically has been plague, caused by Yersinia pestis. This infection is spread by the fleas that live on infected black rats and was responsible for the deaths of up to one third of Europeans in the middle ages. Indeed, in some locations, entire communities were wiped out by the plague. Central to our understanding of infections was the development of the microscope by pioneers such as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hook. Not everything was as it seemed, spermatozoa were described as each containing a complete person, or “homunculus”, an idea that persisted for many years. This contributed to our understanding of the cycle of infection, whereby a pathogen encounters a new host, affects entry, multiplies inside the host and disperses to a new host. Intoxications are a special type of microbial illness and range from the trivial, such as Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning to the potentially fatal botulism. An extraordinary example of intoxication is afforded by ergotism, caused by a fungus. Ergot can be metabolised to release the hallucinogen LSD. The degree to which pathogens invade the body is illustrated by three potentially fatal infections: cholera, dysentery and typhoid. The role of the human commensal microbiota (the microorganism that live in intimate association with us) is then explored. Their role in dental caries and its link with endocarditis is explored. Another example of commensals gone bad is explored in the description of “honeymoon cystitis”. The presentation concludes with an exploration of the routes of infections and the reasons why some infections are more common than are others.

    The history of infectious diseases

    The history of infectious diseases

    We have exploited microorganisms since the Dawn of Civilisation and have benefitted from them without understanding the contribution they have made to improving human life. Indeed, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is central to the baking of leavened bread and in alcohol production to the extent that it is variously known as bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast, depending on its particular role. A minority of microorganisms are, however, responsible for infections, some of which are potentially fatal. These are the focus for this presentation. Perhaps the most devastating of infections historically has been plague, caused by Yersinia pestis. This infection is spread by the fleas that live on infected black rats and was responsible for the deaths of up to one third of Europeans in the middle ages. Indeed, in some locations, entire communities were wiped out by the plague. Central to our understanding of infections was the development of the microscope by pioneers such as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hook. Not everything was as it seemed, spermatozoa were described as each containing a complete person, or “homunculus”, an idea that persisted for many years. This contributed to our understanding of the cycle of infection, whereby a pathogen encounters a new host, affects entry, multiplies inside the host and disperses to a new host. Intoxications are a special type of microbial illness and range from the trivial, such as Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning to the potentially fatal botulism. An extraordinary example of intoxication is afforded by ergotism, caused by a fungus. Ergot can be metabolised to release the hallucinogen LSD. The degree to which pathogens invade the body is illustrated by three potentially fatal infections: cholera, dysentery and typhoid. The role of the human commensal microbiota (the microorganism that live in intimate association with us) is then explored. Their role in dental caries and its link with endocarditis is explored. Another example of commensals gone bad is explored in the description of “honeymoon cystitis”. The presentation concludes with an exploration of the routes of infections and the reasons why some infections are more common than are others.

    • 18 min
    • video
    The history of infectious diseases

    The history of infectious diseases

    We have exploited microorganisms since the Dawn of Civilisation and have benefitted from them without understanding the contribution they have made to improving human life. Indeed, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is central to the baking of leavened bread and in alcohol production to the extent that it is variously known as bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast, depending on its particular role. A minority of microorganisms are, however, responsible for infections, some of which are potentially fatal. These are the focus for this presentation. Perhaps the most devastating of infections historically has been plague, caused by Yersinia pestis. This infection is spread by the fleas that live on infected black rats and was responsible for the deaths of up to one third of Europeans in the middle ages. Indeed, in some locations, entire communities were wiped out by the plague. Central to our understanding of infections was the development of the microscope by pioneers such as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hook. Not everything was as it seemed, spermatozoa were described as each containing a complete person, or “homunculus”, an idea that persisted for many years. This contributed to our understanding of the cycle of infection, whereby a pathogen encounters a new host, affects entry, multiplies inside the host and disperses to a new host. Intoxications are a special type of microbial illness and range from the trivial, such as Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning to the potentially fatal botulism. An extraordinary example of intoxication is afforded by ergotism, caused by a fungus. Ergot can be metabolised to release the hallucinogen LSD. The degree to which pathogens invade the body is illustrated by three potentially fatal infections: cholera, dysentery and typhoid. The role of the human commensal microbiota (the microorganism that live in intimate association with us) is then explored. Their role in dental caries and its link with endocarditis is explored. Another example of commensals gone bad is explored in the description of “honeymoon cystitis”. The presentation concludes with an exploration of the routes of infections and the reasons why some infections are more common than are others.

    • 18 min

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