Monday, October 18, 2010

Microbe Monday: 1/2 lesson, 1/2 rant

Last week at the International Conference on Gram-positive Pathogens, there were talks (and posters) on Bacillus anthracis and Clostridium difficile. While listening to some of these talks and poster presentations, I was forced to endure a phrase that grinds my nerves. What is that you ask? It's the phrase: "The dormant spore."

It bugs me because it's (1) incorrect and (2) redundant.

(1) Why the phrase is incorrect.

Bacteria don't make spores. Members of the genera Bacillus and Clostridium undergo sporulation, but the product is an endospore, not a spore. A spore is the result of asexual reproduction, an endospore is not.

Now, I realize that if you are giving a talk about endospore or sporulation that you are going to say the word endospore multiple times. I don't think it is a big deal if people drop the word endospore for spore for the duration of the talk if they at least refer to it correctly in the beginning. This is fairly common. Referring to an endospore as a spore didn't even use to bother me at all until I met multiple people working on endospore-forming bacteria that did not realize the difference.

(2) Why it's redundant.

An endospore is a dehydrated, highly-refractile product resulting from a series of biochemical and morphological changes known as sporulation. Endospores are resistant to ultra-violet radiation, extreme temperatures, chemical disinfectants, dessication and pressure. They are metabolically inactive, i.e. dormant.

Using the phrase dormant spore (or dormant endospore) is the same as saying frozen ice.

It might seem silly, but it bugs me.

Anyone want to share their scientific pet peeves?


Anonymous said...

I've worked on multiple endospore-forming bacteria. Typically the phrase "dormant spore" is used to drive home the message that the spore is not transcribing anything. The "endo" is a reference to it being made within the mother cell, so once it's out of the mother cell one could argue it's not really "endo"? I don't know anyone in the field who really has a beef about either "spore" or "dormant spore" being used.

chall said...

ahh... I can't come up with anything right now (early morning before breakfast coffee) but I would agree with the "dormant spore" - never mind endospore or not.


microbiologist xx said...

anon - I've worked on them too, but working on them doesn't mean you know the difference as I have sadly found out.
Like I said, I didn't use to get all that fired up about endospore until I realized people didn't know the difference even though they worked on bacteria that undergo sporulation. While yes, endospore is "endo" because it's formation occurs within the mother cell, it is still an endospore. Whether inside the mother cell or outside the mother cell it's still not a product of meiosis and still not a spore.

I know multiple people who do find dormant spore grating. I only know a few who get all up in arms about spore vs. endospore.

chall - I totally understand the need for AM coffee. :))

quietandsmalladventures said...

la! this totally made me laugh (after coffee of course)!!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I don't like "amplify up" or "PCR up". It's just amplify...

microbiologist xx said...

QASA - Glad to hear it. :) That always makes my day.

Cath - THose are good ones. On a similar note - PCR reaction kinda bugs me too.