• Microbigals

The Microbe Moments of Bob's Burgers!



Good morning class! Today we are going to explore one of the ways the Giants entertain themselves and sometimes even learn about microbes through silly pictures, talking, and music on monitors that they like to escape into! We begin our scene with the three Belcher kids staring at a green blob on the wall above one of the tables at their father's seaside burger joint:


The Microbe Moment of Bob Belcher: Green Mold




'Looks like a pickle slice, but furry', Tina, the oldest states.
'I think it's a message from someone or something trying to warn us about someone or something', Louise states in an alarming tone.
'It's a booger', Gene, ever looking on the gross side declares.
'It's getting bigger!'
'It knows what we're thinking!'

Bob, their dad, and concerned business owner/chef come over to take a peek.


'It's definitely growing, I just hope that it's not...
'GREEN MOLD!'

Of course, now they have to close down for mold mitigation and end up spending a hilarious Weekend at Mort's! But really, does green mold mean that the restaurant is uninhabitable? Well, their obnoxious, newly 'Mold Certified' inspector says so, but what's the real deal with Green Mold?


What is Mold?


It's not necessarily an indicator of toxicity. Molds grow where there is a lot of moisture and can grow pretty much in and on anything, including both dirty and clean surfaces. Since it was growing on the restaurant's drywall, chances are there is a leak in the piping behind the wall - or maybe just the sea air. Some people are sensitive to molds and exposure causes allergic symptoms for them. Occasionally, severe symptoms occur with high exposure (farmers) causing fever and shortness of breath. Giants that are immune suppressed due to lung disease are more susceptible to a fungal infection. The most common green molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.


There are more than 40 named species and over 180 named strains of Cladosporium. It can appear as black, yellow, or green spots and it can be found in almost any terrestrial and marine environment. Interestingly, many establish symbiotic relationships with plants and animals, and some strains

of Cladosporium sphaerospermum promote plant growth and increase fruit yield!


Penicillium is a blue or blue-green colored mold and has more than 200 species! P. nonatum, was the penicillin strain that Alexander Fleming discovered. But it was P. chrysogenum that was used to mass-produce penicillin. The Giants would have been in big trouble without this, although it did plummet us into the dark ages of antibiotics. ! Read more about penicillin here and listen to Part 1 and Part 2 here!


The most well-known species of Aspergillus is Aspergillus Niger, also called ‘dark mold'. To date, they have discovered around 180 species of Aspergillus. It was first discovered by a minister who named it after a holy water sprinkler (aspergillum) A. oryzae, one of its strains, is used to make sake (Japanese alcohol made from fermented rice) and A. wentii is used to process soybeans. When it's growing on the wall inside a Giant's home, they do worry about getting sick, but most people don't get sick. It is possible for someone who is immunocompromised to develop infections, so they should be cautious about letting mold grow in their home.


There are actually many different types of mold that are called 'Green Mold' There are toxic molds out there, but those are mostly uncommon in Giants' households. It is pretty much impossible to distinguish them from one another and expert testing needs to be done with a microscope to identify which type of mold is actually growing on the wall of Bob's Burgers.


How can Bob keep this from happening again? Well, he could try to get his landlord, Mr. Fischoedor, to keep humidity between 30-50%, provide enough ventilation, fix any leaks, reduce the use of carpets, clean up and dry out any spills/flooding/etc. within 48 hours - but we know that's not going to happen. If the kids notice it again, wipe it down with bleach (or even just vinegar if the spot is small enough!) before the inspector gets there!


The Microbe Moment of Linda Belcher: Wine Mom!

'Hey, open up wine, Linda's coming in!' - Linda

Here we have the mom of the Belcher family, who I think could give Chef Ferme a run for his money on the subject of wine drinking!


Linda surely loves her wine and spends a lot of time drinking it! Many Giants imbibe in a variety of alcoholic beverages (most of which would not exist without us microbes!) to relax and have a good time. It can make the Giants act silly, but it can also make them forget things, and fight, and some of them end up being addicted to it ruining their lives. But not Linda who says, 'Mommy doesn't get drunk, she just has fun!' and has asked Bob 'Are you drunk enough to have fun yet?'

'Wine helps me drink!', Linda Belcher

Linda would not be able to drink wonderful wine if it wasn't for microbes! We are what makes wine! It can start with grapes, honey, rice, and other fruits, which of course we microbes are essential to, but the real magic happens when the diverse microbes interact with each other in a process called 'fermentation' which turns sugar into alcohol, which is what creates the altered mental status in the giants they seem to enjoy so much. The various combinations of the microbes and processes are what create a wide variety of flavors and colors of wine. Hear about making Mead, which is wine made with honey.


So how do microbes make wine? Well, yeasts such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae feed on the sugars of crushed grapes, and the byproducts are alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeasts are eukaryotic microorganisms that are added to the mix to do their fermentation thing, and the giants basically need to keep the yeast happy with the proper temperature (lower than 40 degrees Celsius) and environment so they can survive and thrive and ferment it into wines that are pleasant to taste and produce the desired effects. Many giants study how to make wine and some wines are very expensive, depending on how hard they have to work to keep their wine-making microbes happy. Other giants make a hobby of tasting wine and learning all about it, but I think Linda just likes to drink it - A LOT!


'I've only had 1/2 of 4 bottles of wine!' - Linda after Bob accuses her of being drunk.
'I just need one more sip of my seance wine!'

Bob and Linda do a Wine-Tasting Train where they are supposed to learn more about wine, but really they just wanted to be away from their kids and restaurant and drink - they didn't really care much for all of the snobberies and I won't tell you what the guy drank at the end of a 'wine-off' between him and Bob. I'll just leave you with Bob's wine quote:


'The Red pairs nicely with the White' - Bob

The Microbe Moment of Tina Belcher: Mononucleosis


Tina’s microbe Moment comes in her acapella group 'The Hormone-iums' season 6 episode 14. With a dream of being the lead in the Hormone-iums, Tina was thrilled to find out the main soloist came down with a case of Mono! Eager to take advantage of the situation, the guidance counselor, Mr. Frand quickly appoints Tina as the new soloist and devices a whole musical around the dangers of kissing and Mono. It stars Tina as Mona Nucleosis who contracts Mono and in the play dies from it all because she kissed someone. Tina is faced with making a choice between demonizing the microbial world and being shunned by her classmates or living out her dream of being a lead soloist of the Hormone-iums.

Mononucleosis is often shortened to “mono”, or more colloquially as the kissing disease. It is a contagious disease most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus. Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infects the Giant's B lymphocytes and sometimes the epithelial cells. EBV is one of 8 herpes viruses the Giants have discovered. And like all herpesviruses, EBV has a relatively large genome made up of double-stranded DNA.


Symptoms can take about 4-6 weeks and include all the symptoms of a typical cold or fever:

  • extreme fatigue

  • Fever

  • sore throat

  • Aches

  • swollen lymph nodes

More serious forms of the disease can also include swelling of the spleen and liver and a rash.


It is typically a problem in high schools and colleges where teenagers are often found swapping saliva through ‘kissing’. But the virus can be transmitted through other bodily fluids as well. But not all Giants that come in contact with Epstein Barr virus will end up with symptoms. Kenneth M. Kaye, MD at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital says the Epstein-Barr virus infects 50% of children before the age of 5! Furthermore, 90% of adults carry the virus but the viruses within the Giants are too low to create symptoms or spread.


But Mono is not the only thing Epstein-Barr virus can manifest in, in a recent article in Science they state Epstein-Barr virus can also be associated with cancers and sclerosis.


A recent review article on Epstein-Barr Virus by Paul J. Farrell, states that “about 0.01% of B lymphocytes are infected” in normal carriers. But in cancers associated with EBV, all of the malignant cells are infected with the virus. Because of the association with cancers, researchers are actively developing a nanoparticle vaccine against this virus. At the time of this lecture, they have seen positive results in mice, ferrets, and nonhuman primates.


As for Mona’s ultimate demise in Frond’s play….not very likely. Death occurs in <1% of people. And it’s usually from another complication like the spleen rupturing. And while Tina may not have been aware of this fact, she did choose not to demonize our world…although she did do so in a fairly unconventional way…


The Microbe Moment of Gene Belcher: Bioluminescent Microbes!



If there is one thing we can all relate to, it's feeling misunderstood or underappreciated, and these are the exact feelings Gene Belcher was having right before his microbe moment. The episode starts with Gene coming back from detention for playing "annoying" music. To cheer himself up Tina, Louise, and Gene head to the oyster bar. Where they see a giant green ugly blob that Gene immediately makes a connection to. This green blob was an "annoying' eyesore for the yacht club.


At night, Gene returns to the blob and discovers that this 'annoying' blob was actually emitting something wonderful! What Gene saw is called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is a biochemical reaction that allows some organisms to create their own light, like fireflies of Vibrio fisheri: The Light Sabers of the Ocean. Gene, Louise, and Tina then set up on a rescue mission, a rescue mission to save the blob!



How Does Bioluminescence Work?


There are multiple ways animals and microbes have evolved to create their own light. One way is with the chemical luciferin, which in the presence of oxygen will create light. Some animals can't create light themselves, but to the Giants, it appears they do! Some organisms like the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid form intimate relationships with their microbial friends that do have the ability to create light.


But microbes don't create light always they must all communicate with each other. Only when they communicate with each other in a process known as quorum sensing can the microbes create enough light for the Giants to see.


But what Gene saw was bigger than us, he found glowing algae known as dinoflagellates. These are protozoa that produce light when disturbed by motion. And like bacterial bioluminescence, Giants can only see the light when the dinoflagellates grow together in high concentrations.


But what is the purpose of the light?


Excellent question. Well, in the deep ocean there is not a lot of light. When there is a sudden burst of light or something glowing up ahead it can be startling to the creatures of the sea who are not used to it. In addition, just like the giants, these simple macroorganisms are attracted to light. The light may serve as a way for the bioluminescence organism to attract an organism 2 up on the food chain. To attract something to eat the something that eats them. So, light can be a very powerful superpower, and defend ourselves from the rest of the world.


The Microbe Moment Of Louis Belcher: Bacillus anthracis


Within Season 2 episode 3 “Synchronized Swimming”, Louise Belcher has 2 microbe moments. This is the episode where the kids decide they don’t want to go to PE class anymore, so they convince Mr. Frond, their guidance counselor, to let them do an ‘independent study’ in synchronized swimming. The kids goof off a bit thinking they pulled a fast one on both the school and their parents. But soon Mr. Frond is looking for a “graded performance” of their ‘independent study". Louise tries to cancel the graded performance by grabbing some baby powder and squirting it in Gene's face yelling “Anthrax! Run for your life” And that my friends are where we begin the microbe portion of today’s programming.


Anthrax is caused by a gram-positive rod-shaped bacteria: Bacillus anthracis. It has this special ability to create spores of a protective shield where it can hide out for years. It is commonly found in soils and livestock. But due to vaccines, it’s pretty rare to hear about an Anthrax case in the developed world. But it’s not obsolete, people and animals can contract the disease if they come in contact with the Bacillus anthracis spores. This can happen when spores entered:

  • a cut on your skin (cutaneous anthrax) - the most common

  • Your lungs through inhalation - deadliest

  • Your gut through ingestion - uncommon

  • Your bloodstream via an infected needle -rarest

Symptoms for anthrax can be slightly different depending on how the spores enter a body. Most common symptoms include:


  1. Fever chills

  2. Chest pain

  3. Shortness of breath

  4. Dizziness

  5. Cough

  6. Nausea

  7. Headache

  8. Sweats

  9. Tiredness

  10. Overall body aches

  11. Swelling of the abdomen, neck, and glands, or infection site

  12. Sore throat

  13. Blisters

  14. Read face and eyes


Bacillus anthracis is a huge reason why Robert Koch is knowns as the “Father Of Microbiology” and also had a special role in the life and research of the Great Louis Pasteur. It is the microbe that helped Koch come up with his now the gold standard, Koch’s Postulates, which the Giants still use to connect a member of our own Society of Symbionts' to their most-wanted list!


Well, we hope you enjoyed this little trip to explore the Microbe Moments of the Belchers of Bob's Burgers! Let us know your favorite TV microbe moment in the comments below!



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