At the year's end, the media have been paying special attention to microbes. Newspapers, radio, and TV have found microbial stories worthy of their attention. Here is a sample:
Obesity and the gut flora
Practically everyone who listens to or reads any sort of media must know by now that someday we may be able to lose weight by modifying our gut flora. A couple of papers from the lab of Jeffrey Gordon (A and B) point to what goes on in the bowels of both people and mice. Two bacterial groups dominate in the colon, the Gram-negative Bacteroidetes (mainly Bacteroides), and the Gram-positive Firmicutes (mainly Clostridium). Their ratio, however, varies with the host's heft. The F/B ratio is higher in the obese, both mice and human. It looks like the F's are better at breaking down foodstuff and providing more energy to the host. Studies of this sort open a lot of questions but they keep Google busy. Enter gut flora and you get thousands of relevant sites. We must thank Gordon and colleagues for shifting the public's attention from killer spinach to the intricacies of the interactions between microbes and humans in health, not only in disease.