What’s your state microbe?

By , April 28, 2010 5:43 am

The state of Wisconsin just passed a bill to name the first state microbe, the bacterium Lactococcus lactis. The rationale seems to be that this bacterium plays a large role in the cheese industry in that state and should be adequately recognized. This leads me to wonder what other microbes are best connected with certain states and could be their state microbes (tongue planted firmly in cheek, appropriate prior to a cheek swab for donating my own microbial flora).

Many of these suggested state microbes were merely the first hit that arose on a google search of the state name and “bacteria”, “virus”, or “protozoa”. Most (well, nearly all) of these microbe selections are not flattering, so if you are offended by how your state is portrayed, then I challenge you to offer a better suggestion in the commentary section below. (Yes there are some repeats – oh well.)  Let’s evolve this list until we condense to an appropriate microbe for each state. No fighting over those eminently useful or particularly diabolical microbes. We’ll start off with the favorite for many of us (after Wisconsin, of course).

1 Wisconsin has already laid claim to Lactococcus lactis as its state microbe.

2 Saccharomyces cerevisae is one of the first that comes to mind as this yeast is used to make bread and beer. The best fit is Missouri (due to the breweries located in and around St. Louis).

3 New Jersey has a large pharmaceutical industry which owes much of its production to the workhorse E. coli used to generate pharmaceutical intermediate compounds.

4 Utah – Halobacterium halobium a halophyte or salt tolerant microbe as found in the Great Salt Lake.

5 Bacillus chitinovorus breaks down chitin and should be the state microbe of Maryland, if not, the state would be covered in crustacean carapaces.

6 North Carolina has a large biotechnology development industry, especially in the Research Triangle Park area. Lentivirus is a viral vector is a widely used vehicle to bring genetic material inside eukaryotic cells and serves as a workhorse for that industry.

7 Ohio is the home to the Cleveland Clinic (located in Cleveland, if you couldn’t guess) and is one of the best cancer diagnostic and treatment facilities. We now know that the cause of some cancers can be due to viral infections such as the Epstein-Barr Virus – the microbe for Ohio.

8 For much of the 19th century, Arizona’s population growth was in part due to people who had been infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis with them moving to Arizona so that the dry and warm climate reduced symptoms of the disease.

9 Microcoleus and some species of cyanobacteria degrade petroleum – good choices for Alaska and Texas; they can determine which goes where.

10 Since Microcoleus works under sunlight while cyanobacteria breaks down petroleum best at night, this suggests that latter as the state microbe for Alaska.

11 Massachusetts has some of the best medical research in the country and so HIV would be a reasonable choice for its state microbe as this scourge has brought many research dollars to Massachusetts.

12 Saccharomyces degredans makes bioplastics similar to the many many products made by 3M (previously known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company).

13 Lactobacillus acidophilus used to produce Yogurt – needs to be the microbe for California.

14 Poria incrassata, called dry rot or the water-conducting fungus, will decay wood which would not be attacked by typical decay fungi, certainly a concern for the timber industry in Oregon.

15 Citrobacter freundii was first identified as a citrus-decaying organism to be avoided in Florida.

16 Amanita strobiliformis, a macrofungal species, was the first eukaryotic organisms known to hyperaccumulate silver, such as that found in New Mexico both in the ground and in seemingly every corner store.

17 Montana is the home to a well known institute for study of biofilms and so should name Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a strong biofilm-forming bacterium, as its state microbe.

18 Phytophthora infestans, a water mold, causes potato blight and was believed to be the cause of the Irish potato famine of 1845; Idaho, as home to more of the US’s potato production than anywhere else, should name this as its state’s microbe as a preventative measure.

19 Helicobacter pylori bacteria causes stomach ulcers: and fits as the microbe of choice for the hoagie loving populace of Pennsylvania.

20 Geobacter metallireducens bacteria “eat” metal ions and were first isolated from the Potomac River on the banks of Virginia. Geobacter species provide a model for iron transformations on modern earth and may explain the massive accumulation of magnetite in ancient iron formations.

21 Kansas, known as America’s bread basket, should name the bread mold fungus, Rhizopus stolonifer.

22 Listeria ivanovii is an uncommon food-borne pathogen of ice cream such as the very delicious frozen treat from Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont.

23 Ferrobacillus ferrooxidans participates in microbial-influenced corrosion of ferrous and copper alloys, appropriate for the rust belt state of Indiana.

24 Species of Geobacter bacteria can eliminate petroleum contamination in polluted water and convert waste organic matter; good reasons to name this the microbe for Louisiana.

25 Leptospirosis is found worldwide but is more common in tropical areas like Hawaii. Leptospira bacteria can live for long periods in fresh water and mud.

26 Bacterial spot is caused by a bacterium, Xanthomonas campestris, which can be a contaminant on tomato seed and has been problematic to agriculture in North Dakota.

27 A cellulose-degrading bacteria, Brevibacillus, was found in the deep subsurface of the Homestake gold mine, Lead, South Dakota.

28 Enterococcus faecalis and other enterobacteria (that normally inhabit vertebrate intestines that can sometimes be found in bodies of water) have been a frequent problem on the beaches of lakes in Iowa.

29 Cladosporium resinae is commonly present in jet fuel, living at the water-fuel interface and causing corrosion to plastic and rubber parts – Atlanta is one of the country’s busiest airports thus leading Georgia to name this microbe as its state enemy.

30 Researchers have used Geobacter sulfurreducens to reduce uranium in the groundwater at Rifle Mill – nearby aquifers are heavily polluted by U(VI) leaching from this uranium mine in Western Colorado.

31 Wyoming has more cows than people; imagine what that does to the amount of E. coli 0157:H7 per person.

32 Lactobacillus curvatus, Lactobacillus sakei and Pediococcus cerevisiae are sausage fermenting bacteria which has helped to make Hamtramck (and it’s high concentration Polish descendants) a favored spot in Michigan.

33 Nitrosobacteria and nitrobacteria are in part responsible for the richness of soils in Nebraska (originally identified in a 1913 thesis by Putnam).

34 In 2004, Alabama was found out of compliance with the Clean Water Act due to presence of E. coli and enterococci at beaches.

35 In May 2006, a patient from a small city in Oklahoma was diagnosed with vancomycin-intermediate resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VISA) associated bloodstream and surgical site infections. This was Oklahoma’s second confirmed case of VISA. The first documented VISA case occurred in Japan in 1996 and 18 cases have now been documented in the United States.

36 One of the “Leading Factors for Bad Breath in Connecticut” (yes this was the first hit on a google search) is the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori.

37 An abundant seed population in bottom sediments has set the stage for a significant bloom of the toxic alga Alexandrium fundyense in the gulf of Maine.

38 An outbreak of H1N1 influenza virus spread through schools in Chicago, Illinois in 2009.

39 Flavobacterium acidurans has been found as part of hetrotrophic bacteria in acid coal mine water in West Virginia.

40 Arkansas, the home to more than a few chickens, should name Salmonella as its state microbe.

41 The Cytophaga-Flavobacterium bacterial group is known to be abundant in aquatic ecosystems in Delaware and to have a potentially unique role in the utilization of organic material.

42 New Hampshire lays claim to Largemouth Bass Virus, one of more than 100 naturally occurring viruses in fish.

43 Coccidia are intestinal protozoans that invade and infect the lining cells of the small intestine found in cats in Rhode Island.

44 Algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico are caused by microscopic marine algae called Karenia brevis; much of the nutrients are believed to be brought by the River that bears the name, Mississippi.

45 West Nile Virus, now found throughout the US, was first seen in the U.S. in 1999, in the New York City area of Queens and so garners the state microbe claim.

46 Giardia has worldwide distribution and is not uncommon in South Carolina.

47 Legionella is a concern for hot tubs in Tennessee.

48 In the 1990s, there were several reported cases of food-borne illness and death from tainted Washington apple cider linked to E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria.

49 Probiotic microbes, such as Bifidobacterium bifidum, are used in Kentucky to reduce the incidence of colic in horses due to their delicate digestive systems.

50 Nevada, home to legal brothels, regrettably should name Neisseria gonorrhoeae as its state microbe.

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