Photo credit: Nitikorn Poonsiri / Shutterstock / Big Think
  • Individual bacteria store the genetic information of every bacteriophage they fight off.
  • Somehow, likely by air, this information is being shared globally.
  • Whatever the mechanism is, it's probably helping antibiotic resistance to spread.
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Surprising Science

A pleasure to burn: Why do people like spicy foods?

Spicy foods are enjoyed the world over, but scientists don't know why people partake in culinary masochism.

Image source: Pixabay
  • Humans are the only animals known to willingly eat foods that cause irritation, discomfort, and even pain.
  • Theories for why range from thrill-seeking behavior to an evolutionary adaptation for seeking foods that reduce pathogens.
  • Taste results from an interplay of genes, culture, memory, and personality, a complex design that scientists are only now beginning to understand.
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Culture & Religion

Every step you take, you're likely walking on a world of unseen and undescribed microbial diversity. And you don't need to head out into nature to find these usually unnoticed microscopic organisms.

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Surprising Science

How antibiotics used in factory farming destroy our microbiomes

Good bacteria are our friends. We need to protect them.

  • More and more research nowadays links good gut flora to several health benefits, such as the inhibition of Alzheimer's to a fast metabolism.
  • Since we're over prescribed antibiotics, and because much of the meat we consume comes from animals that were fed antibiotics, we are destroying much of the good bacteria, and often at the risk — because of our diets — of replenishing them.
  • A well-rounded diet that's light in animal protein, high in macronutrients, and supplemented with a good intake of prebiotics can ensure we're keeping probiotics flourishing.
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Bacteria promote lung tumor development, study suggests

Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may help combat lung cancer.

Radiology technologist Mary McPolin looks at a CT scan of a lung with a tumor at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center August 17, 2005 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office
January 31, 2019

MIT cancer biologists have discovered a new mechanism that lung tumors exploit to promote their own survival: These tumors alter bacterial populations within the lung, provoking the immune system to create an inflammatory environment that in turn helps the tumor cells to thrive.

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Surprising Science