Latest Helen Blackwell Stories

2012-08-23 00:50:44

Acinetobacter baumanni, a pathogenic bacterium that is a poster child of deadly hospital acquired infections, is one tough customer. It resists most antibiotics, is seemingly immune to disinfectants, and can survive desiccation with ease. Indeed, the prevalence with which it infects soldiers wounded in Iraq earned it the nickname "Iraqibacter." In the United States, it is the bane of hospitals, opportunistically infecting patients through open wounds, catheters and breathing tubes. Some...

2010-12-07 13:56:50

Bacteria are among the simplest organisms in nature, but many of them can still talk to each other, using a chemical "language" that is critical to the process of infection. Sending and receiving chemical signals allows bacteria to mind their own business when they are scarce and vulnerable, and then mount an attack after they become numerous enough to overwhelm the host's immune system. This system, called "quorum sensing," is an interesting example of sophistication among microbes, says...

2008-08-18 15:05:00

By ELIE DOLGIN When bacteria start talking, bad things happen. Many bacteria release chemical signals in search of their "friends." When chemical levels remain low, the bacteria don't make much mischief. But when the bugs congregate, chemicals build up, which alerts the microbes that there are enough of them to kick off an infection. These collective infections can be especially severe and hard to treat. But Helen Blackwell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of...

Word of the Day
  • A unit of saved energy.
Coined by Amory Lovins, chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute as a contraction of negative watt on the model of similar compounds like megawatt.