Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here’s what it’s about:

Thousands of years ago (and more), human beings co-existed with a wide range of other species that lived around us and even on our skin and in our bodies. They helped shape our biology, and their effects can still be seen in our health. The appendix, for example, long thought to be a useless vestige with no function, appears to serve as a reservoir for beneficial bacteria that help keep the immune system tuned up. According to the hygiene hypothesis, the absence of parasitic worms from today’s humans may predispose some people to allergies or autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

Genome sequencing has revealed the presence of a whole lot more bacteria on our skin, in our bodies and around our homes than we ever dreamed possible. How does this crowd affect our health?

Guest: Rob Dunn, PhD, is assoicate professor of biology at North Carolina State University. He has written for National Geographic, Natural History, Scientific American, BBC Wildlife, and Seed magazine. His most recent book is The Wild Life of our Bodies.

To participate in his study the website is http://www.yourwildlife.org/

You can learn more at http://www.robrdunn.com/

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for six weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. Christina

    Thank you- what a fantastic program. I have Crohns disease and have heard of the parasite theory. Your presentation, explanation and analogies were a genuine aid for me to understand and be excited for future discovery. I was told my “immune system is attacking itself” 20 years ago when I was diagnosed and yet this explanation always left the question “But, why?!” Why would a system overact to an unseen enemy and in effect, work to killing itself? This is a fascinating possibility/development.

  2. bryan

    what is the name of the anti biotic that is thought to trigger Cdiff?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Nearly any antibiotic could do so, but clindamycin has long been a prime offender.

  3. MJW

    This is one of the most interesting programs I’ve ever heard on People’s Pharmacy. I knew there was a reason I have routinely avoided using those ubiquitous hand sanitizers.

  4. DMH

    I have suffered with aphthous lesions for 13 years and have found some relief in various treatments, pentoxifiline, Vitamin B, etc. Seven medical doctors of various specialties could not relieve this condition. It was not until I listened to the program with Dr. Dunn, Sunday, that I connected this condition to a prescribed treatment of Flagyl and subsequently another drug that has been cited as causing the flora depletion in the intestines with Crohn’s Disease (I don’t remember the name of the drug, but it starts with a “C”)
    My outbreaks also seem relate to stress, and I have had a recent recurrence of these lesions after 3 years of relief from them. I started having a bite or two of sauerkraut before meals since I heard the broadcast and am now relatively pain and lesion free.
    What other things can I do to build up the flora in my system? What probiotics to you recommend? The pain is very motivating and I would like to foster a strong intestinal balance in my system.
    Thank you for this most informative program.
    Diane H.

  5. Katherine T. Brown

    Today’s show featuring Rob Dunn was so fascinating, I now must read his book. How do you keep finding these intriguing experts?! Katherine

  6. J. David Auner

    I think Dr. Dunn missed commenting on the 5 or 15 second rule of food hitting the floor. Perhaps he would like to see the particular house microbe survey first. Dunn’s group should do mass spect on the house samples to evaluate for pesticides/pesticide-like flame retardants which affect microbes.
    One comment needs to be explored further – that is the period in humans after exposure to a new bug between waning IgM levels at one week and good IgG levels at 3 weeks – during which time reinfection or progression of disease (tonsillitis/sinusitis/cellulitis) is a problem. Also the problem with too prompt treatment of Group A strep interfering with good antibody development.
    Like the chicken-egg debate, I think snakes did not have much advantage in colored ectoderm until the retinas developed color sensation first – in adversaries or potential mates.
    Really good show. Now to take the air compressor to the family keyboards.

  7. Linda

    I believe that his reference to probiotics is to the beneficial bacteria that populate the gut; acidophilus and lactobacillus bifidus are two that you may recognize.

  8. J.E.

    Fascinating! And quickly reminded me of a September 2009 interview conducted on “RadioLab” and rebroadcast on “This American Life,” with a man who tamed his formerly debilitating allergies by infecting himself with hookworm. The theory is that the worms calm the hyperactive immune system. (Needless to say, this whole topic is controversial and not FDA-approved.) A transcript of the interview is on the TAL website here; scroll down to “Act Three”:

  9. B.D

    Thanks for again adding a few hundred pixels to my view of the world! So interesting to learn of our interconnection with other species, that each of us is a community, an ecosystem. Three cheers for symbiosis.

  10. Andre C.

    Hey you two, this was one of your most fun and informative shows ever! I am ordering his book and getting his kit to swab down my house. What a find. My kids will love this. We will start to explore the inner world the way we look at the stars. I loved it. Thank you.

  11. Charles Rodenbough

    The 12/10 show with Dr. Rob Dunn was a surprise to me in the scope of the information. I am involved with Dr. Fatimah Jackson, Dept. of Anthropology at UNC/CH in a social study involving slavery between 1750 and 1850 ranging from Africa, through the West Indies, Virginia, NC, Indiana and Canada. We are following a particular group (about 100 people) who followed this same path over the period and have a particular connection to a location in the northern NC Piedmont. We will be using many disciplines, i.e., Archaeology, Anthropology, Sociology, Historical Research etc., to piece together this story and your show gave me a wild idea.
    Might Dr. Dunn’s study be able to produce the kind of biological/biographical outline that, when played against fragments of a historical biography, be able to fill out a human history in some ways like DNA? For example, in Antigua (West Indies) sugar cane was planted in a certain direction with the wind to discourage the spread of “blast”(Magnaporthe grisea) a fungus also damaging to rice in other islands. If in Dr. Dunn’s study of an African American, this fungal trace were to show up, might that not translate to an indication of a regional location in that person’s genealogy?
    This may be out of the question in the case of fungi but might there be biological links, found in Dr. Dunn’s study that, again like DNA, might be used to trace roots in human history or evolution?

  12. JCM

    I enjoyed the show enough to tune in both morning and evening, but I was puzzled by one thing: what is a probiotic? No one explained the term. I went to Dr. Dunn’s website and found this definition:
    “Probiotics are living species (typically bacteria, though I will argue for a broader definition) taken in one form or another by animals (typically though not always humans) in order to improve their health. The great hope with probiotics is that we might eat and favor a suite of living forms that make us healthier.”
    People “eat a suite of living forms”?? What on earth is he talking about?

  13. Eleanor K.

    For most of my adult life I have suffered from intestinal distress – unpredictable and with all the usual horrible symptoms. Last month I read (or heard on your program – I can’t remember which) that overuse of anti-biotics causes an imbalance in gut bacteria. Having chronic sinus problems, I have had years of anti-biotics, sometimes four times a year. After I read the article, I bought milti-flora probiotics and within the first 24 hours my symptoms cleared up and I have not had any distress since. It is a miracle. Ellie K.

  14. ANNE H.

    I want to signup for Dr. ROB DUNN’s yourwildlife.org I was in Egypt last year, picked up a waterborne parasite and was treated there with Flagyl and Streptoquin. I have been having increasing GI problems(IBS). Just had a normal colonoscopy and biopsies at UVA. I take a daily probiotic, 365 from Whole Foods, for a lactose-intolerance. I am concerned, ? relationship between this incident, recolonization of my intestinal tract and my current problems. I was a Medical Technologist by profession in the Clinical Labs at UVA before my retirement.

  15. Jim D.

    So we should dramatically reverse our thinking about bacteria, worms, and other scary creatures, as well as our world and our bodies? Let me applaud the guest (and hosts and producers) for presenting surprising and exciting information that really spurs thought and hopefully points to future discoveries in medicine and science. I can’t count the number of times your programs have changed my priorities for the weekend and beyond, but this is truly another one to accomplish that.

  16. MF

    Great show about a topic I am very interested in. A few years ago I and my daughters took oral probiotics. We are prone to cavities and tartar buildup and I thought it was a decent experiment. Unfortunately we all developed acne pimples. One daughter developed a roaring case of acne at age 19.
    After a long course of antibiotics her skin still shows the scars and she is still struggling with outbreaks. I am convinced the probiotics set this off but I have never heard or seen a scientist address this connection.
    I think the acne is an immune response in overdrive. In this case to the probiotics. Are you aware of any studies in this area??? I have seen entries on the web of others developing acne in response to the use of probiotics. Would love to see some research in this area.

  17. ileen s.

    The other thing that children don’t do anymore is play outside. I have previously considered this only in terms of children’s intellectual and emotional development. After listening to this program, I now wonder if we are also limiting their exposure to helpful organisms?

  18. Lou

    Is standard soap as effective as anti-bacterial wipes or does it have to be anti-bacterial soap?

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