Commensals

Category archives for Commensals

[This is my latest review for Download the Universe] Honor Thy Symbionts, by Jeff Leach. Kindle In 2003, the Human Genome Project–an effort to sequence every gene in a human being–was completed. The success, announced to great fanfare, was supposed to herald a new era in health care. Unfortunately, the promises of personalized medicine, in which treatments…

[This question was originally asked on www.reddit.com/r/askscience on Jan 17, 2013] Why do microorganisms only begin breaking down our tissues after death? What stops them from doing so whilst we are still alive? The main reason is that our body maintains a multitude of barriers that largely prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from gaining entry.…

There’s a great post at the Sciam guest blog describing the science of antimicrobial cleaners, and it doesn’t look promising: perhaps the most comprehensive study of the effectiveness of antibiotic and non-antibiotic soaps in the U.S., led by Elaine Larson at Columbia University (with Aiello as a coauthor), found that while for healthy hand washers…

You’ve all heard of Malaria. It’s bad. It infects hundreds of millions of people, mostly in developing nations. It rarely leads directly to death*, but the resulting illness can lay people out for days or weeks, increasing an already heavy economic burden on many of the poorest countries in the world. Folks from affluent regions…

More on the microbiome

When I first got into blogging, I thought I could carve out my niche talking about the microbiome – that enormous ecosystem of trillions living inside and on every one of us. However, it’s become increasingly clear that writers far more skilled than I have also decided to tackle this weighty (2-5lbs on average) subject.…

I saw this link on a friend’s facebook page, and left that tab open in my browser for a while, intending to write a post on it. Professor Charles Gerba, the lead researcher, swabbed the handles of 85 carts in four states for bacterial contamination. Gerba says 72% of the carts had a positive marker…

I started writing a lengthy response to a reader comment on one of Heather’s posts, but decided it could use a post of it’s own. The question: As to being pathogenic, is it possible that many bacteria are pathogenic if given sufficient opportunity? [snip] It seems largely to me that the line between pathogenic and…

The best offense is a good defensin

If you were going to design the perfect immune system, what would you do? This question is often posed to beginning immunology students, and the best answer may be so obvious that it doesn’t occur to most. The best immune system is one that prevent pathogens from ever gaining access to your squishy bits in…

Well I never…

PalMD has a great post about vaginas. More specifically, about the wonderful commensal bacteria that help keep a vagina at the proper pH, and what happens when they get booted out: From time to time, this normal balance of bacteria is disrupted. When this happens, the normally dominant Lactobacilli are outgrown by various anaerobic bacteria.…

An so proceed ad infinitum

The vermin only teaze and pinch Their foes superior by an inch. So, naturalists observe, a flea Has smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite ‘em, And so proceed ad infinitum*: -Jonathan Swift Even though I study the immune system, it always amazes me just how many creatures make…