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Friday, April 28, 2017

Is snot our newest Superhero?

I’m hoping there are a few of you who like to shock, awe, or gross out your family, friends and colleagues.  Juvenile perhaps, but is there anything better than watching people squirm when regaling a tale?  I take great pleasure in grossing people out by talking about something I find fascinating, knowing others likely don’t feel the same.  By noon today I had was able to hit on 3 different stories – screwworms in Key Deer, the topic for today’s blog and my Sunfish story (message me if you want to hear that one!).

I will admit talking about boogers, snot, mucous, and phlegm is gross.  Truthfully, it grosses me out, but yesterday I came to realize that snot may be our newest superhero friend in the fight against antibiotic resistance!  According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology we may have found a new way of combating problematic pathogens.  If we think of this logically, mucous is everywhere in our body (mouth, eyes, lungs, nose, digestive tract, etc.) and microbes are also widely found within (e.g. digestive tract) and on our bodies (e.g. skin flora).  By understanding the functions of the slimy substance we refer to as snot or mucous, the researchers were out to determine how it works to protect us.  It’s not our next silver bullet for killing, but it seems to be excellent at taming pesky pathogens.

As the study describes, when looking at two different bacteria known to compete for dominance in human mouths, synthetic mucous impacted bacterial populations. They found that when the samples were grown outside of the synthetic mucous the bacteria known to cause cavities prevailed. However, when the samples were grown in the presence of the synthetic mucous the bacteria associated with good oral health prevailed.  From this, it would appear that mucous could be key to maintaining a healthy microbial diversity in other areas of our body.  Furthermore, work is being conducted around the world looking at how and if the synthetic mucous can in fact help control problematic pathogens both inside and outside of the body.

Perhaps the next time you see someone picking their nose and wiping it on a surface or hacking up phlegm and spitting it out, while still gross and generally unacceptable from a social perspective, you’ll wonder how quickly it tames whatever pathogenic bacteria are present.  The possibilities could be endless!  Will synthetic snot be our next antimicrobial surface coating? We’ve gotten over the ick factor of fecal transplantation for C. diff management…perhaps we’ll be popping phlegm pills in the future!

Either way, I think this is a fascinating topic and look forward to keeping up with where the research goes!

Bugging Off!


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