Monday, February 25, 2013

Swallowing a grenade

Still on the topic of the microbiome Carl Zimmer has another insightful article on his blog about antibiotics and their effect on our microbiome: When you swallow a grenade.

What made antibiotics so wildly successful was the way they attacked bacteria while sparing us. Penicillin, for example, stops many types of bacteria from building their cell walls. Our own cells are built in a fundamentally different way, and so the drug has no effect. While antibiotics can discriminate between us and them, however, they can’t discriminate between them and them–between the bacteria that are making us sick and then ones we carry when we’re healthy. When we take a pill of vancomycin, it’s like swallowing a grenade. It may kill our enemy, but it kills a lot of bystanders, too.

Read it to learn about some recent research but also to learn from a master at how to communicate science.

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