Monday, January 9, 2012

Just an appendix...

Cholera cases by region. The size of a region shows the proportion of all cholera cases found in that region

We barely had time to get started with Cholera today but there was an interesting article on the Scientific American blog last week about how the appendix may not be as useless as we previously thought.

The essence of the argument is that in the presence of serious diarrheal diseases like Cholera the appendix forms a refuge for beneficial gut bacteria that are being purged from your intestines (hopefully along with the Cholera bacteria).

(T)he appendix serves as a nature reserve for beneficial bacteria in our guts. When we get a severe gut infection such as cholera (which happened often during much of our history and happens often in many regions even today), the beneficial bacteria in our gut are depleted. The appendix allows them to be restored.  In essence, Parker sees the appendix as a sanctuary for our tiny mutualist friends, a place where there is always room at the inn. If he is right, the appendix nurtures beneficial bacteria even as our conscious brains and cultures tell us to kill, kill, kill them with wipes and pills.

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