"Every one of us is a zoo in our own right – a colony enclosed within a single body. A multi-species collective. An entire world."
In this episode, we chat to science writer Ed Yong about his upcoming book and The New York Times Bestseller, 'I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life'.
It's a book about the trillions of microbes that live on us and within us; microbes that build our bodies and organs, protect us from disease, shape our behaviour and drive the processes for life on earth.
Every year, hundreds of millions of patients across the world are affected by Healthcare-associated Infections, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). These infections can result from a surgery, or from the use of a medical device like a catheter, for example, and cause significant mortality and economic losses.
One of the things that hospital staff can do to prevent these infections is effective handwashing. In this podcast we spoke to Professor Didier Pittet, who has been leading a WHO campaign to promote the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser in hospitals and clinics across the globe.
Image credit: Bananastock/Thinkstock
Fungal diseases cause an estimated 1.5 million deaths each year – more than malaria. Despite this, fungi are often overlooked compared to other pathogens like bacteria and viruses.
In this extra edition of the podcast, we sent Anand Jagatia along to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition to find out more about the dangers of killer fungi, and the world's biggest Petri dish...
On 6 July, the spacecraft Soyuz MS-01 is scheduled to blast-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, headed for the International Space Station (ISS). On board, will be Dr Kate Rubins, who, along with Anatoli Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi, will be part of the 48th expedition to the ISS, due to return in November this year.
Before training with NASA, Kate worked as a microbiologist, most recently at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where she worked on emerging viruses such as the Ebola and Lassa viruses.
For this month's podcast, we caught up with Kate as she prepared for her mission, and chatted about the experiments she'll be undertaking in space, what it's like to train to be an astronaut, and whether a pipette works in microgravity...
Image credit: NASA, public domain
Podington Bear – Bountiful
Alex Fitch – Ronny
Dengue is one of the world's most devastating infectious diseases.
Around half of the entire planet's population is at risk from dengue infection, which can lead to excruciating joint pain, haemorrhaging and, eventually, death.
There is no vaccine for dengue, so current efforts to stop its spread involve trying to control the mosquito that transmits it, Aedes aegypti. But this is by no means easy – Aedes aeygpti is notoriously resilient and extremely well adapted to urban environments.
Which is why scientists in Australia are currently testing a new method of preventing dengue that could be revolutionary – using a strange group of bacteria called Wolbachia.
We spoke to Professor Scott O'Neill, leader of the Eliminate Dengue programme, to find out more.
Music: Karl Yates (Precog18 on SoundCloud)
Image credit: Penn State
In 2010, a medical case report was published about a man with inflammatory bowel disease. The man had a serious case of a condition called ulcerative colitis, and was facing the prospect of having a section of his intestine completely removed.
But remarkably, the man was able to cure himself and achieve almost complete remission – by infecting himself with parasitic worms.
This month's episode is about new research which may shed light on how a parasite can end up curing disease, rather than causing it.
Ryan Cross – Inso
Keinzweiter – Mircoobee
Asthmatic Astronaut – Body Language
Jahazzar – sketch (vlad)
Asthmatic Astronaut – UP
This week has seen the Society decamp to Liverpool for our Annual Conference 2016. It’s been a fantastic event with over 1,400 delegates in attendance and more than 300 scientific presentations and posters.
For this month’s edition of Microbe Talk, Anand and I got to speak to a few researchers about the work they were presenting at the Conference.
Up first is Dr Lucy Gilbert from the James Hutton Institute, who told Anand about her work investigating how climate change will affect tick distribution and disease risk.
Next up is an excerpt from an on-stage interview I did with Professor Philippe Sansonetti, this year’s Prize Medal winner. Philippe has had a long and distinguished career, and has published hundreds of research papers. I asked him to describe a key experiment that stood out to him throughout his work.
Finally in this month’s edition of the podcast, I spoke with Professor George Weinstock, one of the first researchers to use genomic sequencing to better understand microbial processes. We talked about the early days of modern DNA technology, and the direction that current microbiome research is taking.
In the modern world, the spread of diseases like MERS, SARS, avian flu, Ebola, and Zika virus seems almost unavoidable.
But to stop outbreaks spiralling out of control into global disasters, researchers, doctors and public health professionals need to know what’s happening and where in real time.
That’s where ProMED comes in. PROMED is an online early warning system for emerging diseases that can be used by anyone in the world.
People in the field report on disease outbreaks that are happening close to them, so that information about new threats can be rapidly disseminated online, and people at all levels can start to take the steps that could ultimately save lives.
Ben spoke to the editor of ProMed, Dr Larry Madoff, about how the system is used, why disease outbreaks seem to be happening more frequently, and what we can do to stop them.
VYVCH – On And On
Little Glass Men – Kelp Grooves
It’s a well-known fact that the number of bacteria in, and on, a person outnumber the actual human cells present by 10:1, right? While this ratio often appears on presentation slides across the world, is it actually true? In this month’s podcast, Anand spoke to Professor Ron Milo from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who has recently co-authored a Cell paper that is examining this well-used estimate to see if it holds up…
Image credit: Antti-pekka Lehtinen/Thinkstock
Music credit: The Bread Is Hard As Crackers by Velella Velella and Springtime by Podington Bear, both under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license
Nature is full of patterns that follow fundamental mathematical rules – from nautilus shells to spiral galaxies, lightning bolts to blood vessels.
In the first podcast of 2016, Anand spoke to Prof Raymond Goldstein from the University of Cambridge about the mathematical principles that describe both bacteria and electrons.
Raymond is an author on a recent paper in Nature Physics, which explores the patterns of swimming in bacteria, and how they might be related to the spin of electrons in magnetic materials.
Chris Zabriskie - I am running down the long hallway of Viewmont Elementary
Poddington Bear - Bright White
The Fish Who Saved The Planet - Marimbo
Little Glass Men - Biolumina
Lee Rosevere - Illuminations
Ropewalk - Worm and Parcel with the Lay
Little Glass Men - Play Pelagic (imported)
Image credit: Courtesy of the researchers