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Friday, May 11, 2007

The Indestructible Salmonella

It was one of those cold winter evenings. Or as cold as winter evenings get in the tropics. Whatever. This isn’t a weather report.

Our heroine was in depths of despair. She paced the room, looking for a way out. There were none. She was trapped. She suppressed a groan. On thinking it over, she decided to groan louder. Several loud ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ later, her mother heard her. Mission success.

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“I think I’m coming down with something. I’m feeling really tired. And there’s this weird ache all over.”

“Don’t you have an exam tomorrow?”

Damn! She had to remember that. Switch to plan B.

“That’s what, Mama. I can’t concentrate. Probably because of this fever.”

“Hmmm... No temperature. Are you shamming?”

What an idiotic question.

“Would I do that?”

There goes her brow. Now why didn’t I inherit that?

“I can’t understand any of this nonsense, Mama. I’m sure I’m coming down with something. I don’t feel good. (Groans.) Besides Microbiology is pure nonsense.”

“Nonsense? Don’t talk about your studies that way.”

“But Micro is nonsense, Mama. It’s really tough.”

“I’ve heard it’s really interesting.”

“You listen to Manu too much.”

“A brilliant young doctor doesn’t throw away a lucrative career in surgery for one in Microbiology if he didn’t feel strongly about it.”

Yeah, whatever.

“Hey, why don’t I ask him to come over and teach me something? Maybe some of that enthusiasm will rub off on me. Now, why didn’t I think of that earlier?”

“I hope he gets something into that thick skull of yours.”

“I’m not thick skulled. I got into medical school.”

“But you’re having hard time staying in. Ring him up, then. Do you need a tablet for the ‘fever’?”

Man, is she sarcastic.

“Yeah. (Groans.) I’d like some hot coffee too. Sore throat. (Coughs.)

Acetaminophen never killed anybody. Or did it? Gulp!

* * *

“Hi, Manu. I have a test on bacteriology tomorrow. Can you come over and teach me something? I don’t know anything. Please?”

“Come on, don’t be so pessimistic. I’m sure you know the basics.”

Yeah, right.

“Please, coz. You’ve got to help me.”

“Sure. Be there in an hour.”

“Thanks a million. You’re a lifesaver.”

* * *

“Teach me something, coz. I really need to pass this one.”

“Did you flunk the previous one?”


“Errr... Barely scraped through.”

“Let’s see. Bacteriology, right? Hmmm… Ok. Let’s start with Salmonella. What do you know about Salmonella?”

“It’s a bacteria.”

“And I was thinking it's a virus. Thank you for enlightening me on that point. And bacterium is singular, wiseass. What disease does Salmonella cause?”

“Ooh, serious diseases. Pretty bad ones, you know, where you can even lose the patient. Severe disease. Salmonella is a bad bacteria. Bacterium. It causes horrible diseases. You know, a really severe-”


“Typhoid, yeah. I know that. I was just going to say typhoid. Now typhoid is a bad disease, you know. It’s a really serious disease. You-”

“Stop. Please. What organ does it primarily affect?”

Salmonella? Typhoid? It's a very bad disease, you know. Pretty serious. You can even lose the patient. Really bad when it affects the... The brain.”

“Your brain is definitely affected, assuming that you have one, of course.”

Sarcasm certainly runs in the family.

“ Shut up. Lungs, then. Respiratory infection. It causes a necrotising haemorrhage into the-.”

Oh, man. How can such anyone outside the Mafia look so murderous?

“Enteric fever. FYI, that means the GIT. I hope you know what the GIT is.”

“Gastro-intestinal tract. I’m not an idiot.”


He can do the single brow lift too?

“Very well. Salmonella causes typhoid, an enteric fever.”

“What is the diagnostic test for typhoid?”

“Err… A blood test?”

“Oh, my God! Have you heard of the Widal test?”

Why dal??? Sounds like a culinary disaster.

“Of course I have. I’m not an idiot.”


“Knock it off, coz. Tell me about the Widal test.”

“It's used to measure the level of certain antigens in the blood. Which ones?”

Whoa! Antigens? S for Salmonella, so there’s probably an S antigen. And he said antigens, so there’s more than one. T for typhoid.

“S antigen and T antigen.”

“Where did you get that from?”

This isn’t going well at all.

“The textbook.”

“Which one? The last I checked, it was H and O.”

“I knew that… I confused it with something else. H stands for ‘heavy’, right?”

The book hit her squarely on the head, and the last thing she remembered as she lost consciousness was the sound of frenzied swearing.

NOTE: The characters and incidents in the above account are blah blah blah blah blah. You know the rest. And no, this is not an autobiographical account.