Paradigm shift is an overused term. Properly, it refers to a radical change of perspective on a topic, such as the move from the physics of Newton to the physics of Einstein, or the introduction of plate tectonics into geology. Such things are rare. Something which history may come to regard as a true paradigm shift does, however, seem to be going on at the moment in medicine. This is a recognition that the zillions of apparently non-pathogenic bacteria on and in human bodies, hitherto largely ignored, are actually important for people’s health. They may even help to explain the development of some mysterious conditions.
Genomicist Lauren Petersen has been racing mountain bikes since she was 14 years old. But throughout her teens she battled chronic Lyme disease, suffering recurring bouts of illness that sometimes kept her off her wheels. “I’d feel like crap for a month or two, and then the antibiotics would make me feel like crap, and then I’d rebound a little bit and be okay for a while,” she recalls. “It was continuous peaks and valleys.”
The fertile microbiome field is gathering more steam in Europe. Swiss pharma contract manufacturer Lonza is joining forces with Denmark’s bioscience firm Chr Hansen in a joint venture, engineered to enable a supply chain for ‘good’ bacterial strains tailored for therapeutic use.
While you may have grown up without ever hearing of a food allergy, today an estimated 26 million people (including at least six million children) have one. But researchers now think they have the answer to possibly eliminating peanut allergies. How? By feeding kids peanuts early and often. Tony Dokoupil reports on a rare reversal of medical advice.