The Opposing Thumb

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Media Roundup

Brave New World

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To commemorate the Brave New World of DIY Faecal Transplants (three guesses what’s in BBC.com’s blender),  an excerpt from a 2012 New Yorker article. An MD’s eureka moment with microbial medicine:

“It was one of those refractory cases,” Goldberg told me recently. “The doctors had tried everything: several types of antibiotics, antifungal drops, the works. That was standard practice, and we were proud of ourselves for doing it.” Goldberg and I sat one chilly August afternoon in a coffee shop across from his office, in the Clinical Sciences Building. He spoke almost wistfully, as if recalling an antiquated practice, like bloodletting. Despite repeated treatments, the man’s ear had not improved. But on this day he walked into the clinic with a smile, and Goldberg soon saw why: the ear looked great. “I have not felt this well in years,’’ the patient said. “Do you want to know what I did?” The doctor assumed that one of the drugs had finally found its mark. “I took some wax out of my good ear and put it into my bad ear, and in a few days I was fine,” the patient said.

“I thought he was nuts,’’ Goldberg told me. He never gave the encounter another thought—until a couple of years ago, when he began to investigate the causes of those common ear infections. Goldberg explained that earwax contains many bacterial species and that antibiotics might have destroyed one or more in his bad ear. “It was actually something like a eureka moment,’’ he said, chuckling. “I realized that this patient was the perfect experiment: a good ear and a bad ear separated by a head. That guy wasn’t crazy; he was right. Clearly, he had something protecting one ear that he then transferred to the other ear. Drugs didn’t cure him. He cured himself.”

 

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