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When people ask, I say “We lost my grandfather due to bone cancer.” to keep it short. However, I know that multiple factors played a part in his death. We lost him also because his body wasn’t producing any red and white blood cells anymore, the cancer must have spread to the bone marrow where blood cells are produced. He was immunocompromised due to cancer, in addition, he acquired two multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria in the hospital. I knew that there was no going back from that…

Laying in his hospital bed, he asked me “How are these bacteria like, my beautiful?”. I didn’t have a chance to explain him all about the opportunistic bacteria and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in detail because it was too late. Moreover, could you ever tell someone you love that there wasn’t much left that could be done? Hardly pushing back my tears, all I could say was “They are very stubborn grandpa, so should you also be”.

When the powerful interventions such as antibiotics fail, immunocompromised patients are not at the winning side of the fight against microbes… I have written about MDR and opportunistic bacteria in the introduction of my PhD thesis, at the front page of the reports, articles I prepared; I have talked about them many times in my department, at scientific conferences, yet I never thought that one day I would see it exemplified in my life.

A few years later, here I am in Paris, it is spring 2020, beginning of April. Cherry trees must have started to blossom… We are locked down in our houses due to the Covid-19 pandemic since 3 weeks already. I seem to have written this post on the last day that I have walked freely on the streets of Paris (I started to stay at home except for the purposes of food shopping a few days before the curfew started):

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I still have the same thoughts and feelings, however, don’t think that I am an eternal optimist. The first week of the confinement was quite difficult for me psychologically. Luckily, I wasn’t cut down from the world all of a sudden, I had two ongoing trainings that could be carried out online. However, I could hardly focus on my courses as I experienced some symptoms (headache, throat pain, muscle and joint pain, slight burning on the chest) one after another despite having a normal temperature, no difficulty breathing and no exhaustion. I couldn’t be sure whether I’ve gotten the virus from someone else shopping in the supermarket the day before the beginning of the curfew as there were no preventive measures yet and we queued for at least half an hour… I tried to reassure myself that the symptoms wouldn’t come out the next day right away. Then came the news from one of my coursemates: after consultations with her doctor, they have reached the conclusion that she is probably SARS-CoV-2 -which is the virus causing the Covid-19 pandemic- positive. With that news, fear rushed in but so a strange feeling of calm as if I preferred battling and getting done with it to the days spent in paranoia.

I don’t know if I have had and recovered from it, maybe those were “fake” symptoms and I played a game against my psychology. I am going to continue to be cautious as before but I will resist getting paralyzed by fear. What about you? This pandemic is surely triggering some sort of reaction in you too. You may deny it, you may ignore it and try to go on with your daily life, you may fear it, you may be curious about it… Maybe you wish that you knew more about viruses and all the invisible organisms that surround us? If you are scientists like me, maybe you are feeling an increasing desire to tell everyone what you know?

Years of research conducted in the lab, exchanges with other experts, collaborations, innovations… We, scientists, do not find the time to relay our discoveries to the general public. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the urgent need to communicate science to everyone. Therefore, with a team of expert scientists, talented illustrators, non-biologists and non-experts with a keen eye to help assure that articles are comprehensible, and finally with editors with a taste for writing, I will present you the microbial world from the biological and historical points of view and the technologies widely used in the laboratories in SIMPLE terms.

I hope that you find the posts useful and share the information with your loved ones.

Take care,

Hazel Silistre, Ph.D.

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