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"Imagine a friend of a friend brings his family to stay with you — his family of tiny survivalists. For weeks or months you all live quietly side by side with no problems. You share meals. Your kids play together.

Then one day you get sick — maybe felled by a bad cold or the flu. Suddenly certain the end is near, your jittery houseguest breaks out an armory’s worth of chemical weapons. He abandons his community to save himself and hunt for a new home, wreaking havoc on the way out the door.”

this is a really cool piece from this week’s TWiM (this week in microbiology podcast) found here.  it’s about Streptococcus pneumonia, or pneumococcus, and how it goes from harmless commensal organism to virulent agent of pneumonia and meningitis.

most people think of pneumococcus as a pathogen, but, really, it’s found as normal flora of the nasopharynx in many perfectly healthy individuals.  it usually exists in a biofilm, but certain triggers can cause the bacteria to be released from the biofilm and go on to cause infection and disease.  one of these triggers was good ol’ influenza A.

primary source: mBio

(Source: NPR)

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