Monday, March 30, 2009

Novel Type of Streptococcus pneumoniae Causing Multidrug-Resistant Acute Otitis Media in Children

Here's another interesting article from this month's Emerging Infectious Disease, published by the CDC. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacteria that causes a lot of different illnesses, including pneumonia, otitis media (ear infections), meningitis, and others. S. pneumoniae strain A19 is one of the most common strains found in children, and the same group of researchers writing this article had previously reported a "superbug" version of A19 that is resistant to all FDA-approved drugs for treating ear infections and an additional 8 drugs that are not FDA-approved for the purpose but commonly prescribed. To make matters worse, this superbug is not covered by the childhood vaccine PCV7.

In this article, the researchers wanted to determine how the superbug was spreading and evolving in children. They used a genetics technique called "multilocus typing." Samples were collected from children 6-36 months old with infections, and then the bacteria were cultured to obtain pure S. pneumoniae isolates (40 different isolates total). Next, they picked 7 different sections of the bacteria's DNA to compare between the different isolates they'd gotten from the children. The amount of difference between the sections (called loci) tells the scientists how the bacteria strain is evolving.

Of the 40 isolates of S. pneumoniae, 16 were strain A19. Half of the A19 isolates were resistant to multiple anitibiotics. Most of the resistant strains were very closely related to the original "superbug" strain identified by the authors earlier, and the origin of all of these strains was traced to an isolate identified in 1988 in Spain. In the last 20 years the descendants of that Spanish strain have spread to 18 different countries!

The spread of multidrug resistant bacteria highlights the need to be responsible in our use of antibiotics. Don't take antibiotics if you have a viral infection "just in case" you might get a bacterial infection later. If you need antibiotics, make sure you take the entire prescription even if you feel better. Only taking part of a prescription will only kill off the bacteria that are very susceptible to the antibiotic and leave the ones that are slightly resistant to grow.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Knotty Girl Kreations Hits

While looking at some other crafty blogs online last night, I found a reference to It seems to be a fairly new site that works just like Etsy, except it doesn't charge you to list or sell up to 10 items at a time. It is possible to list more items, but for that you need a paid account with a flat fee of $20 per month. The other major difference is that buyers are not required to register. I can see how this might help attract some customers, but I don't think most people are really bothered by registering on sites online these days. Not a bad site, although I admit I like the look and feel of Etsy a lot more.

Click on the banner on the right side bar to take a look in person!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Knotty Kat Easter Baskets

The latest item to hit my shop - a cat toy sampler Easter basket. I hate to leave the four-leggers out of any holiday!

A HUGE thank you to Sykin at Sykin's One Stop Etsy Shopping Guide for making this a featured product on her blog!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bartonella found in exotic small mammals imported into Japan as pets

As a PhD student that studies the ecology of emerging infectious diseases, I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about interesting "bugs" that are continuously popping up all over the world. Call me crazy, but I think most people would be interested in a lot of these emergences if they knew about them. So, I decided I would start adding news bites about some of these stories I read that I think would be of interest to a broad audience here on the blog.

Today I saw an article in the CDC's journal Emerging Infectious Diseases called "Exotic Small Mammals as Potential Reservoirs of Zoonotic Bartonella spp." Bartonella is a genus of bacteria that infects blood cells. In the wild they mostly occur in small mammals and are passed between those small mammal hosts by blood-feeding arthropods (e.g. mosquitoes, ticks, etc.). Bartonella infection can be cured with antibiotics and generally isn't particularly dangerous for healthy people, but immunocompromised people are more at risk for complications.

This study tested nearly 550 small mammals that had been imported into Japan to be sold as pets from 8 countries in 4 geographic regions: Asia (China, Thailand, and Indonesia), Europe (the Netherlands and Czech Republic), North America (United States), and the Middle and Near East (Egypt and Pakistan). 367 of the animals had been captured in their natural environment and 179 had been bred in the exporting countries. Species that were imported from the US included red squirrels, southern flying squirrels, and a couple others that were "unidentified". 26% of the animals in the entire study and 40% of the US animals were infected with at least one strain of Bartonella. The majority of the infected animals were wild caught (less than 3% of the animals from breeders were infected). That's likely because animals from breeders are usually not exposed to the biting arthropods that are needed to transmit the bacteria between mammals.

Apparently none of these animals went through quarantine, and there was no mention of any of the animals having symptoms of illness. If Japan has such poor control and screening of exotic pet imports, I wonder if the US is any better? This article reminds me of the monkeypox outbreak a couple years ago here in the US from prairie dogs that were housed with infected African pouch rats. Don't get me wrong, I know a lot of people love and care well for exotic pets, but I'm a big fan of the good old fashioned cat and dog. They've been selectively bred for thousands of generations to make them what they are - good pets - and I have a hard time finding a solid justification for confining wild animals as pets.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Knotty Kat Klients

A big thank you to Arielle in Texas for sending me photos of one of her cats, GIR, enjoying his his new Squiggle and Katpon!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Knotty Kat-spiration

To date (and in the foreseeable future), all of the cat toys I make for the shop are my original design. I've made several sales now and gotten great feedback from all of my customers. The Squiggles in particular have been a big hit with the four-legged clients, although I've gotten the most comments from the two-leggers on the Katpons. Currently I've got two ideas simmering on the back burner (I'm seeing ... feathers ... and cotton swabs ...) and one under development (working on adding my own special twist to the classic toy mouse).

Several people have asked where I come up with my ideas for the cat toys. Really, I only have four main sources: Laz, Deej, serindipity, and my biology background.

Laz and Deej inspired both Ringy Thingys and Katpons with their lust for feminine health and beauty products. Since I started actively looking for ideas for new toys, I've noticed myself analyzing their habits even more closely. It stands to reason they would be the possible source of ideas on what a cat finds entertaining.

Serindipity stepped in and handed me the Squiggle, which so far is my best seller - I've even had a customer come back for a second because her cats were fighting over the one she'd bought! I came up with the Squiggle when developing Ringy Thingys. I was trying out various sizes when I noticed how a largish one was starting to curl and viola! The idea was born!

When actively trying to come up with ideas, I tend to fall back on my training as a biologist. What do cats do in the wild? What types of things do they like to hunt? Play with? I'm using this approach with my mouse design I'm working on. I want the finished product to mimic all of the characteristics that say real live mouse to a cat. Unfortunately, all of my prototypes thus far have been soundly snubbed by the Test Team, so I keep going back to the drawing board. Fortunately, adversity only makes us stronger (or in this case, builds a better mouse)!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Me, my shop, and I

My newly relaunched store is on its way to becoming more than it ever imagined it could be in 2006 when I first opened an Etsy account with the help of my four-legged inspiration, Laz. I joined Etsy back then at the urging of an old roommate who had a boyfriend involved with the site's tech crew. I posted a couple of things (purses, if I remember correctly) that never sold and more or less forgot about the site as I became immersed in my master's degree project.

Fast forward nearly three years and I've finished the master's, acquired a fantastic boyfriend and step cat, moved a bit farther east to Atlanta, and I've reopened the store. Knotty Girl Kreations is getting a face lift and a whole new inventory. Just this past week I sold to my first three customers, and I can't wait to find out if their cats enjoyed their toys as much as the Knotty Kat Test Team did! Probably the best thing about finally having customers was the fun of hearing about their cats' personalities and quirks. I love knowing that the teal-colored Squiggle is going to coordinate perfectly with Rufus's fur, and imagining Chester thoughtfully dunking his Squiggle in his water bowl before bringing it back to his favorite human to throw again.

Check back here and at the store regularly -- the Dear Boyfriend (DB) should be finishing up the new banner for the store any day now!