Posts tagged: viruses

Micro links 2: what’s in grandpa’s gut and mom’s nose?

Some more quickies:

Healthy old people have healthy gut bacteria – Makes sense, right? But the logic behind it is very chicken-and-egg. The authors say that when somebody goes into a nursing home, they start eating institutional food, their diet affects their gut bacteria, and their gut bacteria affects their health. I find this theory appealing, especially if it convinces the institutions to provide better food: “Mashed potato and porridge were the only staples in this diet type that were consumed daily,” says one of the authors.

But it could be the other way around: they get sick, then enter the nursing home, where the diet changes their gut flora. Or, they get sick, which changes the gut flora, and also leads to their move to the home. The title of the actual paper sticks to the bare facts: Gut microbiota composition correlates with diet and health in the elderly – which is exactly what they found. Causation TBD.

Parents are resistant to cold and flu viruses – and the effect lasts even after their kids have long since left home. This seems only fair, since children are little disease vectors, ferrying germs to and from school (or, in my case, day care). The funny thing is, the study found that parents have the same levels of antibodies to the viruses as non-parents, but are still less likely to get sick when a researcher shoves viruses up their nose.

Their theory: parents are happier and less stressed (haha). My thought: there’s a lot more to the immune system than antibodies, so maybe one of those other aspects of immunity gets strengthened by frequent exposure.

Twitter chat about germs today (Thurs) at 1:00pm EST. Follow #germchat. It’ll be like sitting at the cool kids’ lunch table, except the table is, um, full of germs.

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