Thursday, April 2, 2015

Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser *****

Consider the following sequence:
1. Sterile Stomach: Until the 20th century, the stomach was considered too acidic to support life. No microbes could survive there.
2. Evil Stomach: Helicobacter pylori live in the stomach and cause ulcers and gastritis. A Nobel prize was awarded for this discovery in 2005.
3. Good Stomach: H pylori have coevolved with homo sapiens and protect us from obesity, asthma, heartburn, and possibly ASD, peanut allergies, celiac disease, diabetes, and several sudden death scenarios.

Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser heralds phase three in this sequence and describes the latest research and speculations in science's quest to better health. As Blaser is exploring health problems that impact people of all ages and social/economic classes, one might expect him to be a medical super star, but this has not happened...
We published these ideas and the supporting evidence in ... a well-respected journal, but the article received very little attention--another big yawn.
This book and The Pied Pipers of Autism: How Television,Video and Toys cause ASD share a public health approach. They place more emphasis on how to prevent disease than how to cure it. Thus, the large number of people who are living with these problems find little hope or direction, thus the "big yawn."

Both books are really addressed to policy makers with suggestions to reduce the use of antibiotics or personal electronics. A hard sell for sure, and with the primary impacted people "yawning," the authors can't fail to let some of their frustration show in their writing.

Still, an educated public should take the time to read both books.

Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser explores the health impacts of (overuse of) antibiotics. Blaser's research goes beyond the issues of antibiotic resistant "super" bugs. His research makes a convincing connection between antibiotics and obesity, asthma and heartburn. He does this both through controlled experiments, and elucidation of disease mechanisms to explain the experimental results.

Blaser is also clear that there is no simple answer to the issues he raises. One one hand antibiotics have saved countless lives since the wide-spread use of penicillin began over 70 years ago. However, over these years we seem to have exchanged one set of health problems for another.

Anyone interested in either the health of their children or the children across the world should read this book.

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