Siouxsie Wiles

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a research scientist with a background in medical and environmental microbiology. She has made a career out of combining her twin passions of bioluminescence (the production of light by living organisms — think glow worms and fireflies) and nasty microbes. In a nutshell, Siouxsie and her team make nasty bacteria glow in the dark to better understand infectious diseases. Originally from the UK, Siouxsie now leads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. She was the 2013 winner of the Prime Minister's Science Media Communicator's Prize. Siouxsie is on Twitter @SiouxsieW

Skeptical Thoughts – Bigfoot, MMS, deja vu & ‘vagacials’ - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 26, 2015

For anyone interested, you can hear my latest Skeptical Thoughts slot with Graeme Hill on his RadioLive Weekend Variety Wireless show here. We cover an eclectic mix of stories, from Bigfoot, using MMS to ‘treat’ autism and deja vu. My favourite story was the appearance of ‘dating guru’ Lisa Palmer on UK breakfast TV show This Morning who claims to have invented facials for a woman’s vagina. According to Ms Palmer, being in a long term relationship can lead to some women neglecting their vaginas, so they become dry and sagging. Excuse me, but isn’t that just what happens as women age/have children?! Ms Palmer’s solution is to steam ‘the area’, then apply a concoction of Vitamin E cream, coconut cream, honey & egg whites. They are being called ‘vagacials’ but to be … Read More

Biolumination: Turning glowing fish poo into art… sort of! - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 22, 2015

Last year I collaborated with artist Rebecca Klee for the Art in the Dark festival, held in Auckland, New Zealand, each year. Our piece, called Biolumination, featured several litres of glowing bacteria, some custom-made glass tubes and three aquarium pumps. A big thanks to Benj from Gather and Hunt who shot some footage of our installation and put together this short video in which I explain why the bacteria we used glows in the first place. Read More

Will new antibiotic Teixobactin save us all? Umm, not quite. - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 08, 2015

Researchers in Germany and the USA have just published a paper in the journal Nature describing a new antibiotic they have called Teixobactin (1). This study is good news; the World Health Organization warned last year that cancer chemotherapy and routine surgery will soon become life-threateningly risky because of the worldwide rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs (2). So will Teixobactin save us all from a post-antibiotic era? Maybe, but not in the way you think it might. Here’s a little FAQ. 1. What is Teixobactin? Teixobactin is a newly discovered antibiotic produced by a previously uncultured soil bacterium called Eleftheria terrae. Teixobactin acts by stopping some bacteria from making their cell wall (their outer coating, if you like). It was found to be active against a range of nasty bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (also … Read More

A gift for someone special – Part III - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 04, 2015

I recently blogged about my experience donating eggs. In this post I want to explain why I chose to write about it. What I have just been through is what some companies are encouraging their female staff to do so they can be ‘career women’ without leaving it too late to have a family. Apparently companies like Facebook and Apple are offering to pay for staff to have their eggs frozen. It’s likely most women will undergo two to three rounds of stimulation to have enough eggs to freeze down for future use. Personally, I’d like to see companies make it easier for people to have families and successful careers, not lull them in to a false sense of security that all will be fine because they have some eggs in the freezer. Putting aside that … Read More

A gift for someone special – part II - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 02, 2015

I recently blogged about my experience donating eggs. In this post I want to explain why I decided to become an egg donor. There are three main reasons: 1. Someone very special to me needed a donor. 2. My family is complete and I’ve no more need of my eggs. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a biologist or an atheist but I’m not particularly freaked out by the idea of my genetic material being used to make a child who won’t be mine. The law in New Zealand is very clear – if a child is made using my eggs, that child is the child of the woman who gave birth to it, not mine. Yes, it may have my green eyes and my dimples, but I won’t be it’s mother. The law is also … Read More

A gift for someone special - Infectious Thoughts

Dec 31, 2014

Regular readers may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet for the last month. I’ve been feeling ‘under the weather’, to use a common euphemism. In reality I’ve been through a really interesting experience that isn’t often spoken about in public. That must make it the perfect material for a blog, right? Right! Warning: I will mention the word vagina at least once. Giggle if you must. Over the last month I’ve put my middle-aged body through quite an ordeal in order to be an egg donor. I’m not talking Easter eggs here, but my ova. The gametes that contain half my genetic material and one of the main ingredients required to make a baby. My journey down this path started almost a year ago, and has involved numerous tests to rule out genetic mutations and sexually transmitted diseases, several … Read More

The science of Rudolf’s glowing nose! - Infectious Thoughts

Dec 24, 2014

Rudolf by Latharion This festive season AUT University Prof’s Steve Pointing and Allan Blackman released a marvelous little video explaining the science behind some of the unanswered mysteries of Christmas. How does Santa get to all those houses unseen in one night? And how does he get down the chimney? I’ve been sent the video so many times as they also cover the science that could explain Rudolf’s red nose. Bioluminescence of course! Except…. they get it a little bit wrong. So I talked to the fantastic Rebecca Watson from Skepchick and explained the real science behind Rudolf’s red nose. Enjoy! PS Slight correction… while we are being pedantic, in the video I say that GFP is excited by UV light. This is true for wild-type GFP but there … Read More

Skeptical Thoughts – acupuncture, Dr Oz & ‘aboriginal’ medicine - Infectious Thoughts

Nov 26, 2014

I now have a regular radio slot, called Skeptical Thoughts, with Graeme Hill on his RadioLive Weekend Variety Wireless show. Here are links to a few of my recent editions: Here, I do my bit for Acupuncture Awareness Week (revealing my own sordid history with acupuncture), talked about Dr Oz’s bad week on Twitter and was disgusted by a story from Canada about a woman’s right to refuse to allow her child’s leukemia to be treated with chemotherapy in preference for ‘aboriginal’ medicine. Did you know high dose vitamin C was ‘aboriginal’? Me neither. Here I talk about drinking bleach and a rather fantastic way of spotting ghosts. Feedback welcomed, as are suggestions for future slots. Read More