Sunday, September 16, 2007

More Microbiology in the News

Friends, when you are traveling in Arizona or New Mexico (or anywhere, really) where there are prairie dogs, do not play with them. They may look cute, but in reality they are disgusting, disease-mongering vermin who deserve to be shunned. If you insist on playing with these nasty creatures, you may contract the bubonic plague. Yes, the plague, which wiped out most of Europe several hundred years ago. The Black Plague, which is still 50% fatal if you contract the pneumonic form. So, if you play with prairie dogs on vacation, then go home and start feeling "flu-like" symptoms, be sure you tell your doctor where you traveled so you can get the right antibiotics pronto.

In case the above isn't nerdy enough, this article discusses the link between resistance to Yersinia pestis and the HIV virus, which scientists may be able to exploit in future HIV prevention/treatment research.

Yes, this is how I spend my Sunday evenings.


Anonymous said...

I hope you know more aobut medicine than you do prairie dogs because you don't have any factual information. Pathetic for a 4th year med student. Are you getting this off the back of a cereal box? Do some research. What an embarrassment.

Tiny Shrink said...

Wow, that was such an informative comment. Could you learn to spell, please?

Midwife with a Knife said...

I've heard that prarie dogs, other wild rodents, and mountain lions, all of which are cute from a distance, can host the fleas that carry Y.pestis.

There are a few cases annually in the desert southwest, I'm told.

Maybe anon is a prarie dog lurking to give us the plague? ;)

Tiny Shrink said...


After the anon incident, I did a brief lit search on Y. pestis, and what you're saying is essentially true. Almost any "burrowing rodent", mouse, rat, ground squirrel, etc., can carry Y. pestis-carrying fleas. In fact, many people who get plague get it from their own pet, who got fleas from local fauna. Also, plague outbreaks in prairie dogs & rodents are fatal (and I did know that); they may be caused by local foxes & other predators carrying the fleas from rodent group to rodent group, etc.

There are a few cases every year in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and even Texas; DNA tests on the victims are used to identify local wildlife or pets who carry genetically-similar Yersinia. Often, dead prairie dogs are a clue that plague is around. Altitude, weather conditions, and drought all play roles in plague outbreaks.

Vix said...

Am I the only who noticed that the illustration accompanying this post LOOKS LIKE A DILDO?! Come on, people. Get your heads out of a prairie dog hole and back in the gutter where it can do some good.