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The new(ish) science of microbiomics

July 15, 2010

I can’t do any better than Carl Zimmer:

In 2008, Dr. Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.

Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

The transplant of bacteria (via stool) from here husband cured the pathogenic infection. Zimmer uses this story as a launching point to discuss the new science of microbiomics that I’ve been talking a bit about recently. Read the whole thing, it’s fascinating.

My favorite part:

Only 13 percent of the species on two people’s hands are the same. Only 17 percent of the species living on one person’s left hand also live on the right one.

What the hell?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2010 9:04 pm

    Thats what I love about Carl. Its damn hard to improve on his articles 🙂

    But I would add– Just think about all the viruses that are taking advantage of all those bacteria! Fleas on the backs of fleas!

    • kevbonham permalink*
      July 15, 2010 9:15 pm

      Yeah, did you see that new Nature paper about that? I was planning on doing a write-up on that this weekend.

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