During our time here in the Medical Laboratory Science Program at Mayo Clinic, we have become rather skilled at creating ways to remember everything. While some comparisons might ruin an appetite for certain foods, others bring a smile to your face or just plain confuse you. When you’re given multiple specimens to memorize, it sure comes in handy to compare them to normal, everyday objects.
In class, we learned about the common “trigger words” to aid in identification. These can be items such as the "bull's eye mark" with Lyme disease or the crescent-shaped erythrocytes in sickle cell anemia. To start off, the term “teardrop” appears on multiple pages of my notes. Dacrocytes are red blood cells that look like teardrops.
Giardia is a teardrop-shaped parasite that appears to be smiling at you, though, make no mistake, this little guy is not your friend.
Then, there are lectures where the comparison is made to certain foods. For instance, affected cells that resemble fried eggs can be seen in the bone marrow of a patient with hairy cell leukemia. The conidia of Scopulariopsis species resemble lemons, while Fusarium has banana-shaped macroconidia.
However, sometimes, subjectivity comes to play when the “trigger words” don’t match your own perceptions. A popular topic in our lab is what the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa actually smelled like.
In text books, it is said to generate a grape scent, yet to us, it resembled anything from tortilla chips to new shoes.
When it came to looking at fungi in mycology, it looked like a “paint brush” or “an overly used paintbrush.” If you asked my lab partner, she would tell you some Aspergillus species look like a ball with a bunch of "mini balls" all over it.