Dr. David Blehert is the Branch Chief of the Wildlife Disease Diagnostic Laboratories with the U.S. Geological Survey, and a world expert on White Nose Syndrome (WNS).  WNS is a fungal disease that is decimating American bat populations.  The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, infects hibernating bats and disrupts their hibernation, leading to high levels of mortality, close to 100% in some caves.  Dr. Blehert is working to study this fungus and come up with treatments and cures for American bat populations before it is too late.  He is joined by Jonah Evans, who with Texas Parks and Wildlife is surveying Texas bat populations for the arrival of WNS.  Dr. Blehert and Jonah discuss how this fungus kills bats, ideas on how to save our bat populations, and how their love of animals and nature drove them into their careers. The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Fabienne Coolidge, a soft-hearted animal lover who gets an infection from her stray cat, Luke Skywhisker.

 

Participants:

Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)

David Blehert, Ph.D. (USGS)

Jonah Evans, M.S. (Texas Parks & Wildlife)

Jesus Romo (UTSA)


 

 

Dr. Jimmy Ballard is professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.  Dr. Ballard is an expert on Clostridia-related diseases, and specifically disease caused by C. difficile, or “Cdiff”.   Cdiff infections result from heavy antibiotic usage, and can cause serious and even fatal disease.   One of the most successful treatments for Cdiff infection is a fecal transplant, where fecal bacteria from a healthy donor are transplanted into the patient.  Dr. Desh Sharma is a gastroenterologist who performs fecal transplants on his patients with Cdiff infections.  Dr. Ballard discusses how Cdiff causes disease, Dr. Sharma discusses exactly how a fecal transplants is performed, and both talk a lot of s*&t.  The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Guera Macarena, a zookeeper who comes down with a strange disease after holding races with some of her zoo animals.

 

Participants:

Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)

Jimmy Ballard, Ph.D. (OUHSC)

Desh Sharma, M.D. (Stone Oak Gastroenterology)

Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA)

Dr. George Dimopoulos is a Professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Helen Lazear is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Dr. Dimopoulos studies mosquitoes, those pesky insects that annoy people by biting them and sucking their blood.  But they also spread a number of diseases, including malaria and dengue virus.  Dr. Dimopoulos is developing various clever ways to prevent mosquitoes from transmitting diseases to humans.

 

Dr. Lazear studies the Zika virus, which is also spread by mosquitoes and has been recognized as a cause of brain defects in infants when it infects pregnant women. Dr. Lazear studies how the virus gets into the nervous system, with a goal of identifying new ways to prevent disease. Dr. Dimopoulos and Dr. Lazear discuss ways to control and prevent malaria, how worried we should be about Zika virus, and how climate change influences diseases spread by mosquitoes.

 

The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Lukey Luke, a lobster fisherman who gets sick after going leaf peeping in New Hampshire.

 

 

 

Participants:

Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)

Helen Lazear, Ph.D. (UNC Chapel Hill)

George Dimopoulos, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins)

Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA)


Dr. Dan Riskin is the host of the Animal Planet show about parasitic infections, Monsters Inside Me, and he also hosts a nightly science show broadcast in Canada, The Daily Planet.  Dr. Riskin studied vampire bats while earning his Ph.D., and to this day is still bat crazy. His career promoting science for general audiences and his entertaining and enthusiastic personality have led him to be a guest on various late night talk shows, and he is the author of the book “Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You”.  Dr. Riskin discusses various topics ranging from his bot fly infection, to the thrill of watching bats emerge from a cave, and touching on how to communicate science to a general audience, will make you want to keep listening!  The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about SouthEast Carwashian, a celebrity who gets a mysterious disease while spending time in a remote village filming an episode for her reality TV show.

 

Participants:

Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)

Dan Riskin, Ph.D.

Jesus Romo (UTSA)

Robert Richardson (Alamo Heights High School)

Jonathan Berman is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health San Antonio, and also one of the organizers for the March for Science.  The March for Science was an amazing global phenomenon that occurred on April 22, 2017, where people all over the world participated in local marches in support of science.  He discusses the genesis of this movement, the politicization of science, how to combat fake information on the internet, dealing with feedback through social media, and his favorite joke when he was a stand-up comedian. The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Helen Wheels, a high powered international lawyer, who gets a mysterious disease when the passenger sitting next to her on an international flight is dragged off the plane.

Discussants (in alphabetical order):

Jonathan Berman (UTHSCSA)

Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)

Jesus Romo (UTSA)

Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA)

 

Jonathan Berman visited the Department of Biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio

Dr. Damian Krysan is a physician and an Associate Professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Krysan studies fungi, which in addition to their known roles in e.g. food spoilage and alcohol fermentation, can cause significant disease in humans.  Fungi typically cause serious and potentially fatal disease in immunocompromised people, which presents a challenge to the medical community to come up with ways to treat and prevent fungal infections in this population. Dr. Krysan is doing research to identify new anti-fungal medications. Dr. Krysan discusses fungi and fungal infections, the difficulty of identifying new anti-fungal drugs, and his interest in tiny bugs stemming from his father’s career as an entomologist studying bigger bugs. The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about LaFontaine Miraculous, the superstar baseball player with the San Antonio Fire Ants, who comes down with a mysterious illness after riding his ATV.

Discussants (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Karl Klose (Professor and director of STCEID, UTSA)
Dr. Jose Lopez-Ribot (Professor and Associate director of STCEID,  UTSA)
Dr. Floyd Wormley (Professor, STCEID, UTSA)

 

Dr. David Bisaro is a Professor at the Ohio State University. Dr. Bisaro studies plant viruses, which are a major source of economic loss for farmers.  Plants, just like humans, can be infected with viruses, but unlike humans they don’t have antibodies and immune cells to fight off virus infections.  This can be devastating for farmers who can lose large amounts of their crops from plant viruses.  Dr. Bisaro studies how plants can survive virus infections by their own type of immune system, which suppresses the virus once it gets inside the plant. Dr. Bisaro discusses how plants protect themselves from viruses, and talks about genetically modified plants, epigenetics, and how he almost became a career musician. The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Snowflake, a young vegetarian child who gets very sick after eating spinach salad.

Discussants (in alphabetical order): 
Dr. Karl Klose (Professor and Director of STCEID,  UTSA)
Jesus Romo (PhD candidate of STCEID, UTSA)
Dr. Garry Sunter (Professor of STCEID and Chair of the Biology Department, UTSA)

 

Dr. Sangkon Oh is an Investigator and Adjunct Professor at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research in Dallas. Dr. Oh studies dendritic cells, which are critical cells of the immune system that are typically the first cells to recognize invading microbes and alert the rest of the immune system to develop a protective response to eradicate the threat.  In this regard, they act as a “burglar alarm”, and by manipulating and shaping the dendritic cell response during vaccination, the immune system can be coaxed into providing protection against not just invading microorganisms, but also autoimmune diseases and cancer.    Dr. Oh discusses some of the exciting possibilities of targeting dendritic cells to vaccinate against cancer and autoimmune disease, and philosophizes whether humans can keep curing diseases until they live forever. He talks about his passion for science that led him to sleep in the lab so he could do more experiments.  The MicroCase for listeners to solve is about Sally, who got very sick after eating a can of beans.

Discussants (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Neal Guentzel (Professor and Parliamentarian of STCEID, UTSA)

Dr. Karl Klose (Professor and Director of STCEID,  UTSA)

Dr. Alex Berezow is a science reporter, he works with the American Council on Science and Health to report on scientific discoveries and current issues. He discusses some of the difficulties associated with reporting on science to an increasingly skeptical and/or distrusting general public.  In the era of fake news, conspiracy theories, and the internet, it has become increasingly difficult for scientists to convey the importance of their research, and the benefit to society.  Alex discusses how the internet both supports and undermines science, how to restore the public’s trust in scientists, and what he would be doing if he weren’t reporting on science.

Discussants (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Neal Guentzel (Professor and Parliamentarian of STCEID, UTSA)

Dr. Karl Klose (Professor and Director of STCEID,  UTSA)

Whooping cough, caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, is an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal disease for infants.  We rarely see this disease anymore because everyone is routinely vaccinated against it with the DPT childhood vaccine.  But there has lately been a resurgence in whooping cough cases, caused primarily by a reformulation of the vaccine to make it safer, which unfortunately also made it less protective against this disease.  Dr. Rajendar Deora is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Wake Forest University. Dr. Deora’s research involves improving the whooping cough vaccine. Dr. Deora is studying how to improve this vaccine back to pre-reformulation levels of protection, without reducing its safety. Dr. Deora discusses vaccines, whooping cough, and his scientific career choice.  Dr. Deora reminds everyone that “Vaccines Work!”

Discussants (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Neal Guentzel (Professor and Parliamentarian of STCEID, UTSA)

Dr. Karl Klose (Professor and Director of STCEID,  UTSA)
Dr. Janakiram Seshu (Associate professor, STCEID,  UTSA)