Missing Microbes - Martin J. Blaser, MD
Humans are losing "ancient microbes" from the overuse of antibiotics and medical practices like Caesarian sections, warns Blaser, director of New York University's microbiome program and a researcher whose study of one pesky pathogen, H. pylori, helped lead both to the discovery of its link to ulcers, and to the troubling changes triggered by early-life exposure to antibiotics. The average American child receives nearly three courses of antibiotics by age two and has about 17 courses by age 20, Blaser writes. But we pay a devastating price for this assault on the "invisible zoo living on and inside" us: rising rates of obesity, asthma, diabetes, celiac and Crohn's diseases, and quite possibly, autism, he says. There may come a day where we make peace with H. pylori, reintroducing it to the human microbiota, along with other banished organisms. In the meantime, Blaser urges doctors to curtail the use of antibiotics and use narrow-spectrum drugs instead; to limit C-sections to cases necessary to save the life of mom or baby; and for farmers to end to the use of antibiotics on animals whose products we eat. It's an engrossing examination of the relatively unheralded yet dominant form of life on Earth.