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I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
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“Within 24 hours of moving into a new place we overwrite it with our own microbes, turning it into a reflection of ourselves.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“All zoology is really ecology. We cannot fully understand the lives of animals without understanding our microbes and our symbioses with them.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“Speaking of palms, your right hand shares just a sixth of its microbial species with your left hand.19”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“There’s a popular saying among doctors: There’s no such thing as alternative medicine; if it works, it’s just called medicine.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“The brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii is another puppetmaster. It can only sexually reproduce in a cat; if it gets into a rat, it suppresses the rodent’s natural fear of cat odours and replaces it with something more like sexual attraction. The rodent scurries towards nearby cats, with fatal results, and T. gondii gets to complete its life cycle.50 The”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“As palaeontologist Andrew Knoll once said, "Animals might be evolution's icing, but bacteria are really the cake.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“Each animal is an ecosystem with legs,” says John Rawls.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“Much of modern medicine is built upon the foundations that antibiotics provide, and those foundations are now crumbling.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“And the most extreme examples of this mutually assured success can be found in the deep oceans, where some microbes supplement their hosts to such a degree that the animals can eat the most impoverished diets of all – nothing. In”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“Our darkest fiction is full of Orwellian dystopias, shadowy cabals, and mind-controlling supervillains. But it turns out that the brainless, microscopic, single-celled organisms that live inside us have been pulling on our strings all along. On”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“Let’s pause to note how peculiar this all is. The traditional view of the immune system is full of military metaphors and antagonistic lingo. We see it as a defence force that discriminates self (our own cells) from non-self (microbes and everything else), and eradicates the latter. But now we see that microbes craft and tune our immune system in the first place! Consider”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“The mere presence of a guitar in someone’s bedroom doesn’t make them Slash.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“We now know that gut microbes are part of this axis, in both directions. Since the 1970s, a trickle of studies have shown that any kind of stress – starvation, sleeplessness, being separated from one’s mother, the sudden arrival of an aggressive individual, uncomfortable temperatures, overcrowding, even loud noises – can change a mouse’s gut microbiome. The opposite is also true: the microbiome can affect a host’s behaviour, including its social attitudes and its ability to deal with stress.40”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“So females, by mating with the right partners, can suddenly become immune to wasp attacks, which makes Hamiltonella that rarest of things: a desirable venereal infection.28”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“As we have seen, bacteria have ways of hacking into the nervous system.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“These changes are all fundamentally Darwinian. This point is worth repeating: taking any fast or instant evolutionary shifts as a refutation of the slow, gradual changes we associate with Darwin's vision is a fatal mistake because these quick shifts are still powered by gradualism. The woodrats might have been able to resist creosote by picking up the right bacteria, but those strains had to evolve the ability to break the insecticide on their own. Form their perspective, evolution proceeded through the usual stepwise way; from the host's perspective, everything happened in a flash. That is the power of symbiosis: it allows gradual mutations in microbes to produce instant mutations in hosts. We can let bacteria do the slow work for us, and then quickly change ourselves by associating with them. And if these alliances are beneficial enough, they can spread with blinding speed.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“And in maintaining such constancy, microbes are crucial. They affect the storage of fat. They help to replenish the linings of the gut and skin, replacing damaged and dying cells with new ones. They ensure the sanctity of the blood-brain barrier-a web of tightly packed cells that lets nutrients and small molecules pass from blood to brain, but bars the way to larger substances and living cells. They even influence the relentless remodeling of skeletons, in which fresh bone is deposited and old stuff is reabsorbed.”
Ed Yong , I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“When microbiologists first started cataloguing the human microbiome in its entirety they hoped to discover a "core" microbiome: a group of species that everyone shares. It's now debatable if that core exists. Some species are common, but none is everywhere. If there is a core, it exists at the level of functions, not organisms. There are certain jobs, like digesting a certain nutrient or carrying out a specific metabolic trick, that are always filled by some microbe-just not always the same one. You see the same trend on a bigger scale. In New Zealand, kiwis root through leaf litter in search of worms, doing what a badger might do in England. Tigers and clouded leopards stalk the forests of Sumatra but in cat-free Madagascar that same niche is filled by a giant killer mongoose called the fossa; meanwhile, in Komodo, a huge lizard claims the top predator role. Different islands, different species, same jobs. The islands in question could be huge land masses, or individual people.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“We can compare the gut of a person with inflammatory bowel disease to a dying coral reef or a fallow field: a battered ecosystem where the balance of organisms has gone awry.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“So, here’s the irony: toilets that are cleaned too often are more likely to be covered in faecal bacteria. Jessica”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“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.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“When a langur or human gets sick, its problems are akin to a lake that’s smothered by algae or a meadow that’s overrun with weeds – ecosystems gone awry.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“It’s hard stuff, this science business, but someone’s got to do it. For”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“The Earth is 4.54 billion years old. A span of time that big is too mind-boggling to comprehend, so let’s collapse the planet’s entire history into a single calendar year.1 Right now, as you’re reading this page, it is 31st December, just before the stroke of midnight. (Thankfully, fireworks were invented nine seconds ago.) Humans have only existed for the 30 minutes or fewer.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“The citrus mealybug is a living matryoshka doll. It has bacteria living inside its cells, and those bacteria have more bacteria living inside them. Bugs within bugs within bugs.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“The team also worked out how the microbes were affecting the brain. Their main suspect was the vagus nerve. It's a long branching nerve that carries signals between the brain and visceral organs like the gut-a physical embodiment of the gut-brain axis. The team severed it, and found that the mind-altering JB-1 lost all its influence.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“Rebellious, and contemptuous of dogma, she was the consummate scientific iconoclast. “I don’t consider my ideas controversial,” she once said. “I consider them right.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“It allows the team to culture the many gut bacteria that are extremely intolerant of the gas. "If you write the word oxygen on a piece of paper and show it to these bugs, they'll die," jokes Gordon.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“At a depth of 2,400 metres, about a mile and a half straight down, the team found the vents they had predicted, but also something they had not – life, in extreme abundance. . . The team were so unprepared to find life that there wasn’t a single biologist among them – they were all geologists. When they collected specimens and brought them back to the surface, the only preservative they had was vodka.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
“It’s the start of a new era, when people are finally ready to embrace the microbial world.

When I walked through San Diego Zoo with Rob Knight at the start of this book, I was struck by how different everything seemed with microbes in mind. Every visitor, keeper, and animal looked like a world on legs – a mobile ecosystem that interacted with others, largely oblivious to their inner multitudes.

When I drive through Chicago with Jack Gilbert, I experience the same dizzying shift in perspective. I see the city’s microbial underbelly – the rich seam of life that coats it, and moves through it on gusts of wind and currents of water and mobile bags of flesh. I see friends shaking hands, saying’ “how do you do”, and exchanging living organisms. I see people walking down the street, ejecting clouds of themselves in their wake. I see the decisions through which we have inadvertently shaped the microbial world around us: the choice to build with concrete versus brick, the opening of a window, and the daily schedule to which a janitor now mops the floor. And I see, in the driver’s seat, a guy who notices those rivers of microscopic life and is enthralled rather than repelled by them. He knows that microbes are mostly not to be feared or destroyed, but to be cherished, admired, and studied.”
Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

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