Wednesday, June 7, 2017

BOOK: I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (9 h 52 min)

This was fun! And I'm not really a biology person, but I do like science. The information in this book felt very up to date, like listening to cutting-edge science. What do we know about microbes? Not very much overall, but it seems to be a developing field.

I've never been an anti-bacterial soap person, and, anecdotally, I'm fairly bacteria-free, having only had several doses of antibiotics in my life. I do pick up viruses, but I seldom get bacterial infections. I must host a well-rounded multitude of microbes! 

Have you seen the microbe stuffed animals? They make microbes almost look adorable.
I'm not even completely sure about all I listened to, but Yong had a great writing voice and narrator Charlie Anson was engaging and enthusiastic with the material. I would read more, or at the very least, re-read this and feel like I am still learning new ideas. There is just so much to learn about the interactions between good and bad microbes, the evolutionary skills of bacteria and virusus and phages, symbiosis, and probiotics (the opposite of antibiotics).

My favourite microbe that appears throughout the book was Wolbachia, present in insects and sometimes is good and sometimes is bad. I'm not even sure what it does, but it seems necessary, and there was something funny to me about how often Wolbachia kept showing up in a new chapter. 

Think of all the television shows which showed - 'how many germs/bugs are present on your (fill in the blank)'. The problem was these were presented as bad things, as dangerous microbes, when in reality, the balance of microbes is necessary. So there are billions of microbes - they are supposed to be there! And many of them are the good ones, necessary to deal with the bad ones. This wasn't presented in the book, it is my analysis and opinion of things, which is why I've never been an anti-bacterial soap, or Purex person. 

Microbial scientists are doing great work, and fighting a battle against society's inherent disgust over these bugs. More people should read this book to get on board with these invisible creepy crawlies.