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The talks from the researchers in the field of infectious diseases. The podcast is hosted by South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID).


Microbes to the Rescue! Bioremediation with Dr. John Coates
Dr. John Coates, a professor at the University of California Berkeley specializes in environmental microbiology and how microbes can be utilized to resolve problems in industry.  microTalk caught up with Dr. Coates at the ASMicrobe conference in Houston and discussed his research in applied and environmental microbiology.  Dr. Coates discusses an unexpected discovery of how microbes drive the iodine cycle on earth, how sequencing microbes in the oceans has been beneficial for identifying novel biochemical activities, how climate change has stimulated his research into the “bioeconomy”, why he’s optimistic that science can mitigate the effects of climate change, and how Berkeley is a remarkable place to do science. This episode was supported by miniScope, the portable keychain microscope. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) John Coates, Ph.D. (UCSD) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Jesus Romo, Ph.D. (UTSA)
51:21 8/4/23
The Evolution Revolution with Dr. Vaughn Cooper
The study of evolution has experienced a tremendous revolution with the advances in current sequencing technologies enabling e.g. rapid whole genome sequencing.  Dr. Vaughn Cooper, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies evolution in microbes, has taken advantage of these technologies to delve into how microorganisms adapt and evolve in different environments. microTalk caught up with Dr. Cooper at the ASM Microbe conference in Houston and discussed microbial evolution with him.  Dr. Cooper discusses the power of next generation sequencing for the study of evolution, how mutation rates affect evolution, how providing hands-on evolution experiments to high school students can stimulate the next generation of scientists, how scientists need to work to combat public distrust of science, how antibiotic resistance evolves in the presence of immunodeficiency, and how his initial experience with baculoviruses hooked him into a lifelong study of evolution. This episode was supported by Darbie’s pinworm detection kit, to combat nematodes in your bikini bottom. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Jesus Romo, Ph.D. (UTSA)
42:15 7/7/23
Adversary o’ Malaria with Dr. Debopam Chakrabarti
Malaria continues to have a significant impact on humans. The Plasmodium parasites are transmitted through mosquito bites, and the disease has a tremendous impact on global health. Dr. Debopam Chakrabarti, a professor at the University of Central Florida who specializes in malaria. Dr. Chakrabarti discusses the history of the search for antimalarials, the problem of parasite drug resistance, how undergraduates can help to discover the next antimalarials, whether eradication of mosquitoes will eliminate malaria, and his challenging passion in growing roses in Florida. This episode was supported by, for single-celled organisms looking for a steamy time. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Debopam Chakrabarti, Ph.D. (University of Central Florida) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Jim McLellan (UTSA)
41:35 5/16/23
“Ex” Marks the Spot: Exosomes with Ramin Hakami
Exosomes are small vesicles that that facilitate communication between eukaryotic cells. They resemble mini-cells, and act like carrier pigeons, trafficking various “payloads” among cells. Dr. Ramin Hakami is a Professor of Microbiology at George Mason University. Dr. Hakami studies how infectious diseases are modulated by exosome signaling. Dr. Hakami talks about how exosomes can deliver messages to cells, how Rift Valley Fever and Plague affect exosome signaling within infected hosts, how exosomes provide specificity and a “reply all” function to signaling, how being in a Nobel lab affected his approach to science, and his alternate career as a salsa dancer.  This episode was supported by IV Rehydration Therapy, the treatment that prevents explosive diarrhea from inhibiting your social life. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Ramin Hakami, Ph.D. (George Mason University) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
40:55 4/5/23
Coxiella burnettii with Stacey Gilk
Coxiella burnettii causes Q Fever, a zoonotic disease that is rarely acquired by humans. But Q Fever has a history of being developed as a bioweapon because of its ability to be spread by aerosols and cause debilitating but not lethal disease.    Dr. Stacey Gilk is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who studies Coxiella.  Dr. Gilk talks about what makes Q Fever a potential biothreat agent, how figuring out how to grow Coxiella outside of cells revolutionized the study of this bacterium that was thought to only grow intracellularly, how a large outbreak in the Netherlands led to the deaths of thousands of dairy goats, how cholesterol affects the ability of Coxiella to grow, how falling in love with Toxoplasma led her to pursue infectious disease research, and what a wonderful place Nebraska is to do science.  This episode was supported by Gordo Sheepsay’s My Dope Microscope, the kitchen appliance that may literally save your life. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Stacey Gilk, Ph.D. (Univ. Nebraska Medical Center) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Jesus Romo, Ph.D. (UTSA)
35:45 12/3/22
Chytridiomycosis: Amphibians and Fungal Disease with Anat Belasen
There have been dramatic declines in amphibian populations around the world, and one of the culprits is the disease Chytridiomycosis.  This is a skin disease of amphibians caused by two different species of Batrachochytrium fungi, and it has decimated frog and salamander populations and even driven some to extinction.    Dr. Anat Belasen is a post-doctoral scientist at the University of Texas Austin who studies Chytridiomycosis.  Dr. Belasen discusses how some amphibians are highly susceptible to this disease whereas others are resistant, why amphibian skin is so important for their well-being, how frogs can be considered a biological indicator of the health of an ecosystem, how farmed bullfrogs may be spreading the disease around the world, how genetic susceptibility screening and microbiomes may be used to try and stop the population decline, and how she’s been a frog lover for her entire life.  This episode was supported by Gordo Sheepsay’s My Brave Little Autoclave, the kitchen appliance that may literally save your life.  Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Anat Belasen, Ph.D. (U.T. Austin) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
42:10 11/19/22
The Largest Bacterium, Thiomargarita Magnifica, with Jean-Marie Volland
Microbiology textbooks teach that bacteria are so small that they cannot be seen without a microscope, and that they do not contain organelles or a nucleus. Then along comes Thiomargarita magnifica and smashes this dogma. T. magnifica is a giant bacterium that reaches 2 cm in length and can be easily seen with the naked eye. These bacteria, about the size of an eyelash, grow in mangrove swamps.  Dr. Jean-Marie Volland is a scientist at the Laboratory for Research in Complex Systems in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.  Dr. Volland has characterized the surprising properties of T. magnifica, and he discusses why T. magnifica is found in mangrove swamps, how it overcomes the limitations of nutrient diffusion that keeps most bacteria small, how sulfur oxidation expands the ability of organisms to live in extreme environments, how symbiotic relationships between bacteria and other cells are ubiquitous despite going against survival of the fittest, how studying in Guadeloupe and Austria influenced his interest in symbiosis, and how looking for things in atypical environments leads to novel discoveries.  The microCase for listeners to solve is about Gordo Sheepsay, the temperamental chef of a cooking competition show who eats something more life-threatening than haute cuisine.   Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Jean-Marie Volland, Ph.D. (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
58:58 11/3/22
Vibrio vulnificus (and other Vibrios) with Salvador Almagro-Moreno
Vibrios are marine bacteria that live in aquatic environments with a lot of other microbes, and occasionally a particular strain will arise that can cause serious disease in humans and can spread through the population in pandemics.  V. cholerae causes large pandemics of cholera, and V. vulnificus causes sporadic cases of necrotizing fasciitis.  Genomic sequencing has allowed scientists to follow the evolution of pathogens as they pass through the human population, and highlighted specific genomic changes that are associated with disease. Dr. Salvador Almagro-Moreno is an assistant professor in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida.  Dr. Almagro-Moreno is studying how pathogens emerge from a background of relatively harmless environmental organisms.   Dr. Almagro-Moreno discusses how Vibrios can arise that cause disease, how the environment can influence pathogenic traits that are advantageous inside of a host, how oysters may be a training ground for Vibrio vulnificus pathogenesis in humans, how growing up on an island in Spain sparked his interest in marine pathogens, how climate change has impacted Vibrio-related disease, and how playing flamenco guitar keeps him sane.  The microCase for listeners to solve is about France Holiday, an anti-vax social media influencer who gets more than she bargained for while promoting an antibacterial drinking straw.  Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Salvador Almagro-Moreno, Ph.D. (University of Central Florida) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Cameron Lloyd (UTSA)
62:36 10/14/22
Get a Whiff of Cdiff: A Discussion About C. difficile with Vincent Young
One of the consequences of the “Antibiotic Era” has been the increased occurrence of infections caused by Clostridioides difficile, also known as “Cdiff”, which in some cases can be life-threatening.  Antibiotics alter the microbes that live in the gastrointestinal tract (the “microbiome”) allowing Cdiff to thrive and cause disease. Dr. Vincent Young is professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School.  Dr. Young is an expert on Cdiff and its interactions with the microbiome.  Dr. Young discusses how Cdiff infections have increased over the past several decades, how fecal transplants have been wildly successful at treating recurrent Cdiff infections, how banking fecal samples can be beneficial, how the gastrointestinal microbiome can influence Cdiff infection, and how playing keyboard in a band has been an important side job.  The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Speedy Marathon, a cross-country runner who gets more than just a shrimp on the barbie when he runs Down Under.  Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Vincent Young, M.D., Ph.D. (Univ. of Michigan) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)  
52:20 9/22/22
A Career in the Time of Cholera: A Discussion with ASM Lifetime Achievement Award Winner John Mekalanos
Dr. John Mekalanos (Harvard Medical School) has devoted his career to the study of bacterial pathogens, with a special emphasis to understanding Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes the deadly disease cholera.  And what an amazingly productive research path he has followed, from the discovery and characterization of the regulon that controls V. cholerae virulence, to the identification of the pilus that allows the bacteria to colonize the intestine, to the discovery of the bacteriophage that encodes the cholera toxin.  His (relatively) recent discovery of the Type VI Secretion System and characterization of its role in inter-bacterial competition and host modulation has had broad impact on all aspects of microbiology. Dr. Mekalanos received the 2022 ASM Lifetime Achievement Award for all of his tremendous contributions to our understanding of bacterial-host interactions. Dr. Mekalanos talks about the background of some of the seminal discoveries from his laboratory, how important his laboratory personnel (graduate students, postdoctoral fellows) have been to his success, his thoughts on the eradication of cholera through vaccination, and how his love of poker has contributed to his success as a scientist.   Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) John Mekalanos, Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School) Karla Satchell, Ph.D. (Northwestern University)
53:20 7/27/22
"Crypto" currency: Cryptosporidium with Boris Striepen
Watch out for this kind of “Crypto” Currency: Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes diarrheal disease in humans.  Cryptosporidiosis is a common cause of waterborne disease in the U.S., and responsible for serious and potentially fatal infections in HIV positive individuals and malnourished infants.  Dr. Boris Striepen is a Professor of Pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.   Dr. Striepen studies Cryptosporidium and how it causes disease.  Dr. Striepen talks about how Cryptosporidium multiplies rapidly and has sex inside your intestines, how Cryptosporidium is similar to its cousin the malaria parasite, how genetics can help in the search for new drugs, how someone can catch cryptosporidiosis from a swimming pool or a petting zoo, how bacteria influence the virulence of parasites, and how science beat a career as a harmonica player in a blues band.   The microCase for listeners to solve is about the great, fantabulous, one and only Montana Jones, and his adventure in the Congo that almost led to his demise. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Boris Striepen, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Huntyr Menezes (UTSA) Michelle Neiner (UTSA)
52:43 3/23/21
067: The Chicken Runs: Campylobacter Diarrhea with David Hendrixson
Campylobacter jejuni is a major cause of diarrheal disease in humans. However, C. jejuni is also naturally found in chickens and doesn’t cause them any problems, so people frequently get sick from eating undercooked chicken. Dr. David Hendrixson is a Professor of Microbiology at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Hendrixson studies C. jejuni and how it causes disease. Dr. Hendrixson talks about why C. jejuni is preferentially found in chickens and other birds, how C. jejuni is also associated with the paralytic condition Guillain-Barre syndrome, how the motility of C. jejuni helps it cause disease, how the motility appendage (the flagellum) of C. jejuni is a beautiful nanomachine, why C. jejuni microaerophilic growth leads to underreporting of Campylobacter disease, could disease be reduced by preventing C. jejuni colonization of chickens, and how an off-the-cuff comment by his postdoctoral mentor led him to jump into a challenging and rewarding field of research. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Dusty Broome, a curio shop owner who gets a mysterious illness while cleaning out his shed. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) David Hendrixson, Ph.D. (UT Southwestern Medical Center) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
52:05 6/17/20
066: The Eyes Have It: Corneal Infections with Eric Pearlman
Our eyes are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodies, and they are constantly bathed in microbes, and yet we rarely get eye infections. However, certain microbes can take advantage of minor injuries to the eye and cause very serious infections that can lead to blindness. Dr. Eric Pearlman is a Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of California Irvine and the Director of the Institute for Immunology. Dr. Pearlman studies how the immune system is able to fight against bacteria and fungi that manage to infect the cornea. Dr. Pearlman talks about how the eye is a specialized site that is resistant to microbial infections, what types of microbes can infect the eye, how neutrophils help protect the eye, how fungi can cause more serious eye infections due to lack of effective antifungals, why damage to the cornea results in so much pain, why everyone chopping wood should wear eye protection, and how his fascination with parasites led to him studying river blindness. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Ally Louia, whose mid-life crisis leads to an exotic vacation and a potentially deadly disease. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Eric Pearlman, Ph.D. (University of California Irvine) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
65:15 4/16/20
065: Cheese Please! The Cheese Microbiome with Rachel Dutton
Cheese is delicious, and also the product of a complex mixture of microbes. Different communities of microbes produce the wide variety of cheeses made around the world. Dr. Rachel Dutton is an Assistant Professor at the University of California San Diego who studies cheese microbiomes. Dr. Dutton talks about how cheese is made, how the cheese microbiome is a great model for understanding how microbes interact with each other, how the microbial community determines what type of cheese is made, how her experience working on a cheese farm influenced her research, how the long history of cheesemaking practices gives great insight into microbial interactions, where the holes in Swiss cheese come from, and how studying the cheese microbiome has the added benefit of being able to eat your experiments. microTalk was pleased to be joined by Dr. Jimmy Ballard (University of Oklahoma Health Science Center) when this podcast was recorded at the ASM Microbe 2019 conference in San Francisco, CA. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Houser Sampson, whose voracious appetite for sushi causes him to come down with a mysterious illness. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Rachel Dutton, Ph.D. (University of California San Diego) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Jimmy Ballard (OUHSC)
54:13 4/4/20
064: Fun(gus) in the Sun(gus): Fungal Infections with Neil Clancy
Candida albicans is the most common cause of fungal disease in the United States. C. albicans can cause serious and often fatal systemic infections, especially in hospitalized patients with underlying conditions. Dr. Cornelius Clancy is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the Director of the XDR Pathogen Lab. Dr. Clancy talks about the clinical implications of fungal infections, how a physician should communicate with patients, how the unique perspective of a clinician enhances research, why there is a lack of effective antifungal drugs, why the societal cost needs to be factored into the cost of antimicrobials, why there has never been a better time to do science, and what the right motivation is to choose medicine as a career. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Alf Viddersane, who gets sick along with all his family and friends at his 50th birthday party. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Cornelius Clancy, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
51:57 2/25/20
063: Tick Schtick: Lyme Disease with Tim Sellati
Lyme Disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States.  The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted to humans through the bite of a deer tick, and can lead to the debilitating disease that most commonly is associated with arthritis, but can also cause heart and neurological problems. Dr. Tim Sellati is the Chief Scientific Officer at the Global Lyme Alliance (GLA).  GLA is dedicated to development of more effective diagnostics and treatments of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.  Dr. Sellati talks about how people can avoid Lyme Disease, what typically happens when someone is infected with Borrelia burdorferi, how the immune response against the bacteria is the cause of disease symptoms, why people in the Northeast U.S. are more likely to get Lyme Disease, whether tick eradication is a possibility for the elimination of Lyme, how the internet can spread misinformation that inhibits the control of this disease, and what the likely prospects are for a Lyme Disease vaccine.  The microCase for listeners to solve is about Wandering River Spirit, a young hippie who comes down with a potentially debilitating disease while trying to volunteer with a global health charity. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Timothy Sellati, Ph.D. (Global Lyme Alliance) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Subscribe to microTalk via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, Email or RSS and never miss an episode!
65:40 1/6/20
062: The Rules of Attraction: Bacterial Magnetosomes with Arash Komeili
Some bacteria have the amazing ability to orient themselves using the earth’s magnetic field, due to the presence of an intracellular organelle called the magnetosome, which are estimated to have evolved 3 billion years ago.   Dr. Arash Komeili is a Professor at the University of California Berkeley who studies bacterial magnetosomes.  Dr. Komeili talks about how magnetotactic bacteria were discovered, how the earth’s magnetic field orients the bacteria in the aquatic environment, whether a Martian meteorite had bacterial magnetite in it, how bacterial magnetosomes can be exploited for targeting cancer cells, and whether bacterial magnetosomes could be used to generate energy.   microTalk was pleased to be joined by Dr. Marvin Whiteley (Georgia Tech) when this podcast was recorded at the ASM Microbe 2019 conference in San Francisco, CA. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Randy Farmer, a businessman who comes down with an uncomfortable disease after a trip to Bangkok. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Arash Komeili, Ph.D. (University of California Berkeley) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Marvin Whiteley, Ph.D. (Georgia Institute of Technology)
52:01 12/16/19
061: TB or not TB? That is the Question… for Bill Jacobs
Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in the world, with approximately 10 million people becoming sick and 1.5 million people dying every year from Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Dr. William Jacobs is a Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and member of the National Academy of Sciences who studies M. tuberculosis. TB is notoriously difficult to treat, due to the slow growth and persistence of the bacteria in the lungs, requiring extensive antibiotic treatment over a long period of time. Dr. Jacobs talks about the history of tuberculosis (“consumption”) in humans, how M. tuberculosis can hang out in the lungs for an entire lifetime, how slow growth is a bacterial strategy to avoid killing by antibiotics, how growth in armadillos is required to study the closely related M. leprae (causes leprosy), just how scary drug-resistant TB strains are, and how dirt from the Bronx Zoo was hiding a genetic tool that was a game-changer for the study of TB. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Ella Copta and Lana Jorgia, two internet vloggers who become ill after visiting an African shaman. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) William Jacobs, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Abigail Blaschke (UTSA) Jacobi Brown (UTSA)
48:09 12/2/19
060: Geezer Germs: Geriatric Bacteria with Steve Finkel
What happens when a bacterium gets old? Continuous culture of bacteria without any added nutrients can reveal the dynamics of “old” bacteria. Dr. Steve Finkel is a Professor at University of Southern California who studies what happens beyond “stationary phase” in bacterial cultures. Finkel studies the Growth Advantage in Stationary Phase (GASP) phenotype, which dominates in “old” bacterial cultures, and which represents adaptive evolutionary change. Finkel talks about how studying old bacteria gives insight into aging in other organisms, whether bacteria can divide forever, how bacteria choose not to divide unless they are certain they can finish dividing, how carbohydrate modifications in old bacteria can help illuminate diabetes, how small differences in bacterial growth conditions can result in huge differences in bacterial physiology, and how building Mission Control in his kindergarten class ignited his passion for science. microTalk was pleased to be joined by Dr. Marvin Whiteley (Georgia Tech) when this podcast was recorded at the ASM Microbe 2019 conference in San Francisco, CA. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Yakov Smirnov, a Siberian lab worker who comes down with a life-threatening disease at work. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Steve Finkel, Ph.D. (University of Southern California) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Marvin Whiteley, Ph.D. (Georgia Institute of Technology). Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Steve Finkel, Ph.D. (University of Southern California) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Marvin Whiteley, Ph.D. (Georgia Institute of Technology) Visit for more.
63:06 11/19/19
059: All Hail Females: Women in Science with Joan Bennett
Despite comprising half of the population, women are underrepresented as scientific professionals. The reasons for underrepresentation are multi-factorial. Dr. Joan Bennett is a Professor at Rutgers University who studies fungi; she is a past president of the American Society of Microbiology, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Throughout her career, Bennett has taken a special interest in the advancement of women in science and she continues to work on behalf of women’s issues at local, national, and international levels. Bennett talks about how women’s scientific accomplishments have been frequently overlooked, what individuals can do to address gender disparity, how she’s proud of the ASM for promoting female scientists, how studying mycotoxins took advantage of the knowledge of antibiotic production by fungi, how fungal volatile compounds make mushrooms taste delicious, and how fungi got their revenge on her after Hurricane Katrina. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Tess Tamoni, a retired teacher who gets a nasty infection while on vacation at a tropical resort. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Joan Bennett, Ph.D. (Rutgers University) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
57:01 11/7/19
058: Biotechnology Ideology: Genomics Technologies with Joe DeRisi
Genomics-based technologies have revolutionized science. From microarrays to next-generation sequencing, genomics technologies are having a tremendous positive impact on all aspects of human health. Dr. Joe DeRisi is a professor at the University of California San Francisco and co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. DeRisi has been at the forefront of developing and using genomics-based technologies to address infectious disease challenges. DeRisi talks about how genomics helped solve the mystery of dying leopard sharks in San Francisco bay, how a “virochip” array helped identify the SARS virus, how genomics can help identify unknown causes of encephalitis, how the sewer may hold the key to predicting infectious disease outbreaks, how computational capabilities represent the current bottleneck to global benefit from genomics technologies, and how the early mysteries surrounding the AIDS epidemic led him into science. microTalk was thrilled to be joined by Julie Wolf, “Meet the Microbiologist” podcast host from ASM, when this podcast was recorded at the ASM Microbe 2019 conference in San Francisco, CA. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Tess Tamoni, a retired teacher who gets a nasty infection while on vacation at a tropical resort. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Joe DeRisi, Ph.D. (University of California San Francisco) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Julie Wolf (ASM)
59:02 10/21/19
057: Undone by Fungi Again: The Mycobiome with Mahmoud Ghannoum
One reason is because the overwhelming bacterial members of the microbiome keep the fungi in check. Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum is a professor at Case Western University and the director of the Center for Medical Mycology, who studies fungal pathogens, such as Candida, Aspergillus, and Cryptococcus. Ghannoum talks about how changes in the bacterial microbiome cause the fungi to overgrow and cause disease, how bacteria and fungi can “play together” to cause problems, how diet, lifestyle, and probiotics can help keep the bad fungi from overgrowing, how scientific data is needed to analyze the effect of diet and probiotics on the microbiome, and how if he wasn’t a scientist, he’d like to be Anthony Bourdain. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Nirvana, a young yoga prodigy who gets a potentially fatal disease while trying out a difficult yoga pose. Get ASM's 2019 Fungal report now available at Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D. (Case Western University) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Anish Saikumar (UTSA) Richardo Sanchez (UTSA)
45:58 9/30/19
056: Lilliputian Evolution: Bacterial Evolution with Stanley Maloy
The presence of bacterial toxins in a remote coral reef got Stanley Maloy thinking about the evolution of pathogens, and where “emerging diseases” come from. Dr. Stanley Maloy is a professor at San Diego State University who studies Salmonella, which causes gastrointestinal illness as well as more systemic disease in various hosts. He is the associate vice president for research and has been involved in the development of a number of biotech companies, and he’s a great storyteller to boot. Maloy talks about how thinking about bacterial pathogens from the bug’s point of view provides new insight into pathogen evolution, how “Muller’s ratchet” can explain Salmonella pathogen evolution, how metagenomics allows scientists to see new “worlds” that hadn’t been imagined before, how the environment in San Diego stimulates collaborative and international research, and how his first use of a Bunsen burner almost led to the lab burning down. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Kong Ill King, the dictator of a secretive nation who gets a potentially fatal disease while on a visit to an amusement park. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Stanley Maloy, Ph.D. (San Diego State University) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
69:12 9/10/19
055: The Age of Phage: Phage Therapy with Graham Hatfull
Bacteriophages (“phages”), or bacterial viruses, are the most abundant biological entity on the planet, and the microbial world is shaped by these predators and parasites. The ability of bacteriophages to specifically target and kill their prey is being explored as an alternate therapy to antibiotics against various bacterial diseases. Dr. Graham Hatfull is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and the phages that infect it. Hatfull directs the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program along with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Hatfull talks about how the SEA-PHAGES program has allowed entering students at more than 100 colleges and universities around the country to discover thousands of new phages, how phages isolated from the program were used to save the life of a patient infected with Mycobacterium, what the prospects are for phage therapy being used as treatment for other diseases, how bacterial resistance to phage infection impacts phage therapy, and how important research experience can be for students. microTalk was joined by Dr. Jimmy Ballard when this podcast was recorded at the ASM Microbe 2019 conference in San Francisco, CA. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Buck Shott, an aging Western movie stunt double who comes down with a potentially fatal infection after filming an action scene for “The Old, the Ancient, and the Geriatric”. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Graham Hatfull, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh) Jimmy Ballard, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
66:00 8/19/19
054: Urine Trouble: Urinary Tract Infections with Harry Mobley
Frequent urges to go “number one” can be the symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI), one of the most common types of bacterial infections in humans. Usually the treatment of UTIs is quick and effective, but sometimes the organisms causing the infection can get into the kidneys and cause serious and even fatal disease. Dr. Harry Mobley is a professor at the University of Michigan who studies UTIs caused by Escherichia coli and Proteus mirabilis. Mobley talks about the mystery of why some people get recurrent UTIs, the amazing ability of P. mirabilis to swarm, how E. coli in the GI tract is a source of UTIs, what are the prospects of a vaccine against UTIs, and how a trip to the CDC set him on his career path. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Chad, a young college graduate who goes to his namesake country Chad, only to come down with a horrifying infection. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Harry Mobley, Ph.D. (University of Michigan) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA) Stephen Sinatra (UTSA)
44:07 8/5/19
053: Vibri-Oh-No! - “Flesh Eating” Vibrios with Karla Satchell
Summer brings warm beach weather, and with it come gruesome news reports of “flesh eating disease” that people catch from the ocean. Vibrio vulnificus is a marine bacterium that prefers warmer seawater, and it can infect wounds and cause necrotizing fasciitis, also known as “flesh eating disease”, that can rapidly turn into a fatal infection. Dr. Karla Satchell is a professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University who studies the toxins made by V. vulnificus and other Vibrios that allow them to cause disease. Satchell talks about how people get infected with V. vulnificus, who is most at risk for catching flesh eating disease, how global warming is increasing V. vulnificus infections, how MARTX and other toxins help V. vulnificus cause disease, why oysters are a source of V. vulnificus, and how a scientist from Oklahoma sparked her interest in research. microTalk was joined in this discussion by Karla’s son Grant Satchell. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Wolf Burns, a celebrity survival expert who comes down with a potentially fatal disease while trying to make his way out of the Ozark Mountain wilderness. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Karla Satchell, Ph.D. (Northwestern University) Grant Satchell Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)  
62:20 7/22/19
052: Goodbye Guinea Worm: Guinea Worm Eradication with Adam Weiss
One of the more gruesome parasitic infections is that of the guinea worm: these 3 feet long worms typically emerge from painful boils in the feet to release eggs, and have to be slowly wound onto a stick over the course of days to weeks to pull them them out of the infected person’s leg. This debilitating infection afflicted 3.5 million people per year in 1986, when the Carter Center (founded by President Jimmy Carter) took the lead in the effort to eradicate guinea worm disease. Through concentrated effort, this disease is now on the brink of extinction with only a handful of cases in a couple of countries. Adam Weiss, MPH, is the director of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program at the Carter Center. Weiss talks about how debilitating guinea worm disease is for infected people, how the worms seem to evade immunity, how the guinea worm has been eradicated without vaccines or drugs but rather behavior modification, how seeing the disease first-hand led to President Carter’s and Weiss’ passion for eradication, how dogs have recently been found to act as a reservoir, and how being in the Peace Corps led him on his life path. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Brad and Janet, a newly engaged couple who both come down with a disease during planning for their polar bear-themed wedding. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Adam Weiss, M.P.H. (Carter Center) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
70:53 7/11/19
051: Microbes in Hot Water: Climate Change with Sanghoon Kang
The earth is warming up, and many aspects of life on earth are changing with the changing climate. Increased global temperature has multifactorial impacts on living organisms, including microbes. Dr. Sanghoon Kang is an assistant professor at Baylor University who studies climate change and its effects on microbial communities. Dr. Kang talks about impacts of climate change on infectious diseases, how increased ocean temperatures lead to increased human infections and destruction of corals, how scientific literacy can help combat climate change, how sustainability is key to human survival on the planet, how Waco TX is trying to build a biotech sector, and about his missed opportunity of becoming a movie star. The microCase for listeners to solve is about May O’Naise, a commercial pilot for a budget airline who becomes sick on a quick flight from Dallas to Fort Worth. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Sanghoon Kang, Ph.D. (Baylor University) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)
51:35 5/17/19
050: Into the Matrix: Fungal Biofilms with David Andes
Candida albicans is the most common fungal infection of humans. C. albicans can cause superficial infections like thrush or vaginitis when it overgrows within healthy individuals, but it causes much more serious disease when it infects immunocompromised individuals. C. albicans can form a matrix-encased biofilm on indwelling medical devices that serves as a source to seed systemic infections in patients. Dr. David Andes is a professor at the University of Wisconsin and also the chief of Division of Infectious Disease who studies fungal infections. Dr. Andes talks about the problem of fungal biofilms and antifungal resistance, how the biofilm matrix protects fungi from antifungals, the critical importance of developing new antifungals, and how mixing clinical duties and laboratory research is important for the advancement of fungal treatment. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Sartha Mewart, a TV and media personality who gets an infection after her stint in prison. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) David Andes, M.D. (University of Wisconsin) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Jose Lopez-Ribot, Ph.D., Pharm.D. (UTSA) Daniel Montelongo Jaregui (UTSA) Maggie Donohue (UTSA) Katie Quigley (UTSA)
47:10 4/24/19
049: Trivia About Chlamydia: Sexually Transmitted Disease with Mary Weber
Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial disease in the U.S. Chlamydia infections in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, and in the worst cases ectopic pregnancy or sterility. C. trachomatis are obligate intracellular bacteria, which has made studying the genetics of virulence particularly difficult. Dr. Mary Weber is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa who studies C. trachomatis. Dr. Weber talks about some of the difficulties studying this unusual obligate intracellular bacterium, how recent advances are providing hope for new therapeutics and vaccines, why antibiotics are not sufficient to prevent Chlamydia infection, how vaccines against STDs also need to also address the social issues surrounding sexual activity, and how reading “Outbreak” led to her career in microbiology. The microCase for listeners to solve is about Jim Bagg, a not-very-talented college football player who gets an infection during practice that could be life-threatening. Participants: Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA) Mary Weber, Ph.D. (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA) Daniel Montelongo Jaregui (UTSA)
55:23 3/28/19