Chapter 61 : Self-Frustration

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R. V. Jones, recounted an example of what he described as self-frustration in , one of several wartime tactics that had the very opposite effect of that which was intended. Indeed, the evolution of microbiology over the last century has been accompanied by many more examples of what R. V Jones calls self-frustration. One of the oddest examples of self-frustration concerns the viruses, bacteria, fungal spores, and protozoan trophozoites and cysts that can stick avidly to clothing. Decades ago, the piping hot temperatures used for the weekly wash at home, and in commercial laundries, were sufficient to sterilize garments of all but the most resistant spores. Then came two entirely laudable ecological concerns. First, growing anxiety about energy saving triggered a shift away from washing with scalded fingers toward much lower temperatures, which are tolerated by most microorganisms. Second, environmental researchers traced the eutrophication of rivers and lakes to salts in the water discharged into these natural water systems. At a study conducted in Milan, Italy, on microbiological dimension of encrustation, it was found that the degree of microorganisms sticking to the fabric after laundry, varied according to the fabric, but encrustation clearly enhanced the adhesion of bacteria, the two phenomena being directly proportional to each other. Plating and selective culture techniques were undoubtedly cornerstones for the development of both medical and non-medical microbiology, yet they also encouraged styles of thinking, reflecting growing understanding of how microorganisms behave in pure culture, that were founded upon artificiality.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. Self-Frustration, p 288-291. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch61
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1. Bisset, K. 1950. The Cytology and Life-History of Bacteria. E&S Livingstone, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
2. Fox, C. H. 1999. Hot zones. Science 284: 261.
3. Ghione, M.,, D. Parrello,, and C. Granucci. 1989. Adherence of bacterial spores to encrusted fibres. J. Appl. Bacteriol. 67: 371 376.
4. Jones, R. V. 1965. Impotence and achievement in physics and technology. Nature 207: 120 127.

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