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Chapter 31 : Blatant Opportunism
Every human generation has to recognize a new, and if possible anticipate, the relentless opportunism of bacteria, viruses, and other animalcules. Whatever changes occur in the way one live their lives or modify the biosphere or physical environment, they will provide novel niches for microbial occupation. In each case, microorganisms have taken advantage of newly available conditions or substances, exploiting individual's designs and often thwarting their purposes. It was two veterinarians from the United Kingdom who discovered that Mycobacterium marinum could proliferate in the inland bearded dragon, too. Once the mycobacterium was identified in the fish, however, the cause of the dragon's malady became obvious. About 10 years ago, reports on the microbial contamination of stem cell collections began to appear. The outcome, documented in Letters in Applied Microbiology, is disquieting reading. Both passive and active air sampling, together with monitoring of surfaces, revealed that the main contaminants were coagulase-negative staphylococci and other opportunistic pathogens. The majority were normal inhabitants of the human skin, mucosa, and oropharynx, but they included organisms capable of causing bacteremia, septicemia, otitis media, and meningitis. Finally, there was a case in which both pathogens and spoilage bacteria were threatening to take advantage of the modern trade in ready-to-use vegetables.