I, Microbes – my Radio 4 talk on the hordes of microbes inside us

By Ed Yong | October 19, 2011 4:35 pm

I have this image that someone, somewhere, tuned into Radio 4 at about 8.54pm tonight, heard the words “poo transplant” issue from my mouth, and promptly started writing a complaint letter.

I did my first ever radio skit tonight for a series called Four Thought, a set of talks about interesting ideas that include a mix of personal storytelling. I elected to witter on about one of my favourite topics: the microbiome. That’s the legion of bacteria and other microbes (and their collective genes) that live inside us, and affect our health, lives and minds. As the official description reads: “he asks whether he should be seen as a human, or a universe of bacteria in a “human shaped sack”?”

It was fun to record, the audience were great, I got to meet David Baddiel, and I follow in the footsteps of such scientific luminaries as Steve Rose and Charles ffrench-Constant.

If you’re in the UK or Ireland, you should be able to listen to it on iPlayer soon enough. You can also download a podcast of the actual talk. Or if the thought of hearing me speak fills you with dread, you can read an edited version of the talk script on the BBC website.

And for more on the topic, check out the slideshow below for links to my previous posts.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Bacteria, Microbiome

Comments (7)

  1. Rosy Mitchell

    Fascinating insight into the world of our bacteria. What I found enlightening was the influence that the various bacteria colonies have on how we respond to what we do and what happens to us. And there I was thinking that I was in charge of me!!

  2. Kate

    Heard it – v interesting, and you were great! And SO much better than a couple of weeks ago in this slot. Hope they get you back. Thanks for script link.

  3. Dudley Fish

    Don’t forget about one organ many people overlook: our skin. It is our first line of defense against certain pathogenic organisms. The last I heard, nearly 200 species of microbes have been recovered from samples of skin. I wonder how many of those species assist the skin to do its job?

    On the other hand, if you go about 72 hours without brushing your teeth, you may have between 10 to the 10th power and 10 to the 12th microbes per milliliter of saliva.

  4. Epinephrine

    Here’s a question I’ve been wondering about: one of the current recommended treatements for PMS is calcium carbonate. Of course, calcium carbonate is also an antacid, and could affect the microbiome, and we know that gut bacteria can affect our behaviour and mood. Do you know if anyone is working on how these two interact? Does the gut microbiome vary with the menstrual cycle, and could some of the benefit of calcium carbonate treatment be due to a normalising effect on the gut biota of daily CaCO3?

  5. Gordon MacKay

    Do our microbial cells really outnumber ours ten to one?
    If they do perhaps this is a good place to start with losing weight?

  6. Yes, but they’re each much smaller and lighter.

  7. James

    this is truly fascinating stuff and very well presented Ed, keep up the good work. This research will hopefully will lay foundations for improved treatment in a variety of illnesses, sooner rather than later I hope

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