If you don’t like bacteria, you’re on the wrong planet.
The Man Whose Microbiome Got Him Drunk
A 61-year-old man checks into the emergency room with a blood alcohol content of 0.37, almost five times the legal limit. There’s just one catch: He hadn’t had a sip of alcohol all day.
The culprit? He had a brewery inside his gut. This avid home-brewer had come down with a brewer’s yeast infection in his intestines, and any time he ate starch, they fermented it into alcohol inside his body! Yeast is used in all kinds of foods, but usually the cooking process or our stomach acids kill it before it can take up residence.
This guy’s gut microbiome was on permanent spring break. More at NPR.
Bonus: Find out much more about the 99% of you that isn’t you, your microbiome, via It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube.
Wee Yeasty Beasties
Fungi are like Rodney Dangerfields of the microbial world. Funny looking, often oddly round, and they get no respect.
I mean, their name suggests that they’d be rather enjoyable to hang out with*. A new survey of the human skin ecosystem has identified some of their diverse influence on human health and biology.
For as much attention as our microbiome gets these days (need a microbiome introduction? I made a video about it), the bacteria receive most of the publicity. But as the photo above shows, many regions of our bodies are teeming with yeast and other fungi (the blue dots are yeast on a human hair). Understanding their diversity is essential to figuring out who’s a good fungi and who’s a yeast beast.
Not only is it important to understand how these various species lead to medical annoyances like toenail infections, athlete’s foot, dandruff, diaper rash, and, of course, yeast infections, but also how they interact with or are held in check by our bacterial copilots. With as many as 60 to 80 different species living on your feet, who’s welcome and who’s a ticking time bomb for a locker-room itch-fest?
*That’s a “fun guy” joke. I hope you got it. Not the fungus. The joke.
You’re made of 10 trillion cells, but you carry 100 trillion microbes – meet your microbiome.
Hey, that’s me! I love seeing myself on my own dashboard.
I recently cam across a really great article from Carl Zimmer about the hurdles and hopes of using "Bugs As Drugs". You should really go check it out. The more we understand about what we’re made of, the more we can be complete and healthy
A little artwork I did recently: Remember, learn to love your inner ecosystem or they might rise up against you :)
Check out more microbiome goodies in the latest episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube (which you’re all subscribed to, of course).
What does this picture mean, you ask? Our genome has about 20,000 genes in it. But if you added up all the genes in all the species of bacteria that call us home, the number is closer to 2 million genes! We are the <1%
Fellow Travelers - Our Microbiome Illustrated
A little art to go with the latest episode of the YouTube show.
The human microbiome (and microbiomes in general) may just be my favorite subject in biology. This intricate, and in many ways still-mysterious, microbial ecosystem that each of us carry in and on our bodies affects so much of our life! Are we humans, or super-organisms? And to think that we have been completely ignorant of it for so long…
New episode time! Wooooo!! Party!!
This week we take a look at one of my favorite subjects in biology. The microbiome. Throughout history, germs and microbes have been associated with the icky, the bad and the unhealthy. But it turns out we are walking ecosystems, chock full of tiny microbial mates!
Think about it: Ever not felt completely like yourself? There’s a good reason for that. Because a large part of you … isn’t you. Our bodies are home to ten times as many microbes as human cells. We are walking ecosystems, each of us home to thousands of different species on and inside of us.
Sure, some bacteria are dangerous, but without our tiny friends we wouldn’t be here. Literally. Like, they keep us alive.
This episode just scratches the surface of all the awesome microbiome science that’s out there. What do you want to know more about? Leave me a comment over at YouTube or send me a message and we can keep this microbiome party going.
Also, I am particularly proud of my t-shirt in this one.
Enjoy, share with your friends and subscribe to IOTBS on YouTube for more great science.
It’s been a big week for poop science …
Thankfully, most of us don’t go through our day puckered in fear that we might, at any unknown moment, loose our bowels in a Niagara-esque outpouring of one’s colon contents. But for people with Clostridium dificile infections, that is a clear and present danger.
It’s not just the discomfort of frequent and recurring diarrhea that plagues those with C. diff. They are at real risk of damaging their colon tissue from inflammation as well as serious dehydration. Even worse, C. diff. is hard to kill with antibiotics, as it most often rears its anaerobic head when a patient has had their normal gut flora killed off by previous antibiotic treatment, leaving the colon a lawless Wild West for the tiny diarrhea bandits to take over.
There is good news, though (see below)! The Wyatt Earp in this (south)-Western is being played by fecal transplants.
Yep. In a fecal transplant, C. diff colons are seeded with donated (purified) fecal material, and all the healthy bacteria therein, and they fight off the bad guys. Not a very intriguing opportunity, eh? Well, if you’ve ever had a C. diff. infection, I hear you’d change your mind pretty fast.
- A clinical trial in Europe for fecal transplants was halted early … because it worked so well! People in the placebo group were like “Hey, that guy’s getting better really fast. Damn! I’m in the placebo group! Hey doc, give me some of that gravy!”
- A separate team of scientists has developed a “pseudo-poo” to take the “poo donors” out of the equation. By infusing a solution full of the 33 most helpful gut bacteria, two women were cured of their C. diff infections!
These scientists must be swollen full of pride, about ready to gush thanks to this outpouring of amazing results!
But seriously, fighting bad poo with good poo? Nature, you work in mysterious ways. I like that. Keeps it interesting.
You Are Your Microbes
Sure, you feel human, but that’s only mostly right. In and on your body, you’re outnumbered by ten times when it comes to microbes. And many of them have essential duties that we just couldn’t do by ourselves. Here’s a trip through your microbial inner universe … what we call the “microbiome”.
A lesson by Jessica Green and Karen Guillemin for TEDEducation.
Wee (Me) Beasties
This is inside you, right now. You’re looking at a (false-colored, unfortunately) electron microscope image of a colonucopia of gut bacteria. From the common species like E. coli to the still-to-be-discovered, your biology depends a lot on what you’re made of that isn’t exactly you.
In addition to, you know, digesting your food, these little guys can turn your immune system against you and even influence your mood. If you want to dig deeper inside your intestinal tract, there’s a fantastic Radiolab episode called “Guts” you should check out.
Check out more amazing images of the unseen microbial world as as tiny art at National Geographic's Microbes: Small, Small World gallery.
(tip of the electron microscope probe to Science-Based Life)
Source: National Geographic