Wisconsin has selected Lactococcus lactis as its official state microbe:
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows: SECTION 1. 1.10 (3) (t) of the statutes is created to read: 1.10 (3) (t) The bacterium Lactococcus lactis is the state microbe. SECTION 2. 1.10 (4) of the statutes is amended to read: 1.10 (4) The Wisconsin Blue Book shall include the information contained in this section concerning the state song, ballad, waltz, dance, beverage, tree, grain, flower, bird, fish, animal, domestic animal, wildlife animal, dog, insect, fossil, mineral, rock, soil, fruit, and tartan, and microbe.
As any self-respecting Packer fan could tell you, Lactococcus lactis is a critical part of making cheese, in particular the state’s famous cheddar.
And though the bill passed last week, I have three remaining very important questions:
What were the other contenders? When I think Wisconsin and microbes (which I do several times a day), probably the first bug that occurs to me is Borrelia burgdorferi (Wisconsin is a notable non-New England/Mid-Atlantic epicenter for Lyme Disease), followed shortly thereafter by Diphyllobothrium latum (think various marinated and uncooked fish popular in northern European diets). Did these get any votes?
What will Massachusetts choose? I could see Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, though perhaps Maine has a stronger claim to this lobster-related bacterium than we do — we’d better have a back-up in place, such as Babesia microti or Cyclospora cayetanensis, though for the latter the reference might be a bit obscure.
Will other states go for the obvious choices? Legionella pneumophila for Pennsylvania, Coccidioides immitis for Arizona, Vibrio vulnificus for Louisiana. You get the idea.
Finally, note that Wisconsin has both a state mineral and a state rock. In these tough economic times, you would think one or the other would be sufficient.
Paul Sax is the Clinical Director of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His blog HIV and ID Observations, is part of Journal Watch, where he is Editor of Journal Watch AIDS Clinical Care.
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