October 20, 2009

Buttery Abscesses

I was listening to Dr. Mark Crislip’s daily “A Gobbet o’ Pus” podcast (which currently consists of material from last year’s blog posts), and he had a line that I feel absolutely compelled to share. Apparently, colonies of Streptococcus anginosus, which can cause abscesses in the lungs, are said to smell like buttered popcorn. This is because they produce the chemical diacetyl:

What is cool is that the reason it smells like buttered popcorn is that diacetyl is one of the compounds that gives butter that butter smell, and chardonnay that chardonnay taste. Next time you have that fake butter spread, think to yourself, “I can’t believe its not Strep anginosus!

I can’t wait to find an occasion to deploy that line, though I might have to make friends with more doctors and biologists if I want to actually get a laugh…

You subscribe to the Gobbet o’ Pus podcast here, and check out Crislip’s other two excellent podcasts, the Persiflagers Puscast (reviewing the monthly infectious disease literature) and the Quackcast (excoriating supplements, complementary and alternative medicine).

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