|Issue No. 19 "Microbes"
|For hundreds of thousands of years, microbes have evolved
to take advantage of their human hosts. Our bodies are complex ecosystems
that house thousands of bacteria and other microbes, most of which are harmless,
if not helpful, to us. But a few types, such as Salmonella, the bacteria
species responsible for food poisoning and typhoid fever, can cause sickness
and sometimes death. The "black plague," one of the most fearsome
diseases in human history, is caused by a bacteria that is spread to humans
from the fleas of infected rats. Untreated, the infection is nearly always
fatal; during the middle ages, the plague was responsible for killing three-quarters
of the population of Asia and Europe in just twenty years.|
Many microbiologists who study pathogenic, or disease-causing, microbes
concentrate on the microbe itself, looking for specific genes that cause
infection and disease. But for Stanley Falkow, a professor at Stanford Medical
School and the incoming president of the American Society of Microbiology,
that reductionist approach is not very satisfying. He prefers to spy on
the microbes in action, watching their guerrilla warfare with host cells
as it unfolds. Using a video camera attached to a high-powered microscope,
Falkow and his colleagues are looking at how bacteria invade our cells and
what they do once they're inside.
Last Month: "A Memory Artist: Painting to Remember" and
"If You're Going to Rob a Bank, Wear a Wig... exhibit"
About This Issue:
We hope you find the subject of "Microbes" as interesting as we
do. If you'd like to find out more and are in the San Francisco area please
visit the Exploratorium's "Hidden Kingdoms: The World of Microbes"
exhibition. This exhibition allows visitors to peer into this world in a
hands-on way to discover how and why we are so dependent on microbes.
"Hidden Kingdoms" runs from June 1st until September 7th 1997.
For more information about "Hidden Kingdoms," please read the