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Closer to Truth : Explore All Episodes :
Microbes -- Friend or Foe?
 
Microbes -- Friend or Foe?
 They're both and more. 

Bacteria become resistant to our antibiotics. Viruses evolve with blinding speed. Prions may lurk in our meat. Anthrax is put into our mail. Stranger yet, could microbes be causing other illnesses, like cancers and heart attacks?


“We're going to make Cipro useless, and that was the big danger of this particular, very mild attack with anthrax.”

Lucy Shapiro
molecular biologist


It's no wonder there's a common fallacy in our society: "we must beat the microbes!" But maintaining a microbial balance of power is the key to a sustainable world: without microbes in the soil there would be no agriculture; without microbes in our cells processing oxygen, we would not be able to breathe. And just as microbes naturally evolve to combat others, we can now engineer beneficial microbes to evolve to combat dangerous microbes.

The threats are real: antibiotic drugs can spawn species of superbugs when natural mutations cause drug resistance; biowarfare can deliberately introduce lethal microorganisms toxic to human life; and bacteria and viruses may play a part in some cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and dementias. But surprising strategies including the use of probiotics (the opposite of antibiotics) could just as well keep the balance of power in our favor, plus dramatically improve health in third-world countries.


Learn More!
Delve deeper into this episode’s content.
agnes day Agnes Day Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. Howard University
Agnes Day discusses the dangers of household disinfectants, bacterial infections, and early triumphs in gene therapy.

paul ewald Paul Ewald Ph.D.
Prof. Biology, U. Kentucky
Autism & heart diseases caused by infectious agents?

alice huang Alice Huang Ph.D.
Microbiologist, Sr. Councilor, External Relations, Caltech
When cleanliness can be a detriment.
Video Clips

a microbial arms race Low bandwidth Real movie.High bandwidth Real movie.
A microbial arms race.

the dangers of a clean water supply Low bandwidth Real movie.High bandwidth Real movie.
The dangers of a clean water supply!

Transcript

Acrobat format

Key Terms

Amino acids

Antivirals

Microbial Antagonism

Helicobacter Pylori

Pathogen

Peptide

Plasmids

Symbiosis

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