It’s official. For many years, there have been official state flowers, state birds, state songs, and so on. Now the New York Times is reporting that Wisconsin is the first to have an official state bacterium. The recipient of this unique honor was Lactococcus lactis, the organism used to make several kinds of cheese. (Wisconsin produces more cheese than any other state. Another bill is pending to make cheese the official state snack.) As the Times article points out, there are numerous other official state things: Texas has a state vehicle, and Pennsylvania a state toy. One wonders where this all might end.
The New Scientist also has a report on this development on its “Short, Sharp Science” blog. In case this becomes the next big thing, they have suggestions for appropriate microbes for different states. My personal favorites: for California, Clostridium botulinum, the organism responsible for botulism and BoTox; for Kansas, in honor of its continued efforts to resist the teaching of evolution, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA].