Medical Fun Facts Episode 27: Something beginning with the letter L

Medical Fun Facts Episode 27: Something beginning with the letter L

Before I get to my chosen L-word, I’d like to wish everyone happy new year. Today’s show is dropping on Monday 2 January 2017.

I have some news too. Medical Fun Facts is now on Stitcher so if you don’t like using the iTunes podcast app, especially if you use an Android device, you can download the Stitcher app and listen to Medical Fun Facts in Stitcher. Android users should be able to find the Stitcher app in the Google Play store.

I’ll put the link in the show notes. Like iTunes, if you visit the show on the Stitcher website and leave a review, the Stitcher algorithms will improve the show’s ranking and more people will be able to find it. Feel free to share the link via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other social media platform.

The Stitcher link is

One of the most relaxing things I can do is sit down behind a microscope and look at a rack or two of Gram’s stains. I find reading Gram’s stains from female genital swab specimens really satisfying. As much as I love to see pathogenic bacteria and parasites, I really like looking at the normal flora in such specimens. My favourite non-pathogenic genital bacteria are lactobacilli. I find lactobacilli such pretty bacteria to look at. They are so neat and uniform in appearance. They take up the crystal violet really well and resist decolourisation almost completely.

Species in the genus Lactobacillus are, Gram-positive bacilli and prefer an environment relatively low in oxygen like the vagina or deep protected crevices in the mouth. Lactobacilli don’t form spores and they convert sugars to lactic acid.

Clinically, lactobacilli are important because the hydrogen peroxide they elaborate inhibit the growth of Candida species. Candidiasis also known as thrush produces a nasty thick cheesy discharge which in severe cases can look like cottage cheese. I remember the very first vaginal examination I did. I was a medical student and doing some time at the Brisbane Sexual Health Clinic. The patient I was assigned to was a sex worker who quite graciously and generously volunteered to let me examine her. The most vivid memory I have of that examination was the volume of thrush in her vagina. In 1995, in my final year of pathology training, I spent every Monday afternoon at the Brisbane Sexual Health Clinic. Most of the patients I saw on those afternoons were couples wanting sexual health checks and patients with penile warts that needed to be removed.

Lactobacilli can also be found in the oral cavity and have been associated with dental caries. Brush your teeth people.

The other important thing about lactobacilli is that they have been used as starters for fermentation in the making of cheeses, yoghurt, and other fermented foods. Sourdough bread depends on a symbiotic relationship between lactobacilli and yeasts.

On the subject of bread and fermented foods, the other interest I have is food blogging. Please feel free to check out my blog at

And so ends another episode of Medical Fun Facts. You can find the show notes for every episode at my blog

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