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Sofa Science — How Bacteria Infect Us


Brittany Fleming is a microbiologist at the University of Utah who studies living things so tiny you can’t see them with the human eye. These would include fungi, parasites, viruses, and—her favorite—bacteria.

In this episode of NHMU's Sofa Science, Brittany introduces viewers to her research on bacteria, how it infects and invades us, and how the human body fights back.

Immune systems respond to any invasion of a bacteria by releasing toxic substances in an attempt to kill the bacteria. However, bacteria have their own arsenal to help them fight back against our immune systems in order to survive. This specifically is what Brittany is studying: how bacteria are able to survive as they are invading a host.

One of the biggest infections seen in outpatient settings, like doctors’ offices, are urinary tract infections. In fact, approximately half of all women will get a urinary tract infection in their lifetime, one quarter of whom will experience a reoccurrence. Brittany has been working with patients suffering from such infections to study what the bacteria are doing.

She has learned that when our immune systems fights back they are successful in some cases, but in some cases are not as bacteria employ a variety of strategies to survive within our bodies.

Watch this episode of Sofa Science to hear from Brittany and learn more about the sneaky tricks bacteria use to infect us.

Sofa Science brings you at-home learning of real-life research and awe-inspiring science stories from scientist at the University of Utah. Each Sofa Science presenter is a participant in NHMU’s Science Communications Fellows Program.

The Natural History Museum of Utah, a part of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our mission is to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it. In addition to housing outstanding exhibits for the public, NHMU is a research museum. Learn more.

Category: Research