Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Nice feature on the human microbiome in the SF Chron w/ a little Toxoplasma error

Nice article in the SF Chronicle by Erin Allday on human microbiome related topics.  It features some Bay Area scientists working on the issue - David Relman, Janet Jansson, Les Dethlefsen, and Michael Fischbach.  See:100 trillion good bacteria call human body home - SFGate.

It has some nice pictures of Relman in the lab (though I think he could use some new lighting in there ...).  There is one microbial error in there
At least one bacterium - toxoplasmosis gondii - has been shown to affect behavior. The bacterium reproduces only in cats, and studies have shown that when mice or rats are infected with it, the bacterium makes them less afraid of cats, and they are, therefore, more likely to be eaten by them.
Alas toxoplasmosis is caused by a microbial eukaryote known as Toxoplasma gondii (it is a relative of the causative agent of malaria Plasmodium falciparum).  But otherwise the article is a good read.  I like the end

Fischbach at UCSF is perhaps facing the most difficult challenge: caring for his days-old daughter and nurturing her infant microbiome. He's in the tough position of having both too much and not nearly enough information. 
"My wife and I have tried to pledge to each other that this is going to be our baby, not our experimental subject," Fischbach said with a laugh. "At the same time, my thinking is influenced by the things going on around me. The cast of characters in her is changing dramatically week to week, day to day. I do wonder, where are most of the bacteria that she's got in the gut coming from?"
And as a bonus there is an interview with Relman too:  Sequencing of human microbiome fills knowledge gap

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