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No. 113: Sep-Oct 1997

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Who's In Charge Down There?

A microscopic ecosystem thrives in your intestines. This menagerie of tiny organisms boasts more than 400 species of bacteria. Not all of these bacteria are content to wait around until we eat something that they like. Molecular biologist P. Falk and colleagues discovered that some of the bacteria inhabiting the intestines of mice send chemical directives to the mouse's intestinal cells, causing them to synthesize those sugars the bacteria require. Since the bacteria that make a living in the intestines of mice are very similar to those in humans, the same phenomenon is probably occurring in your innards as you read this.

(Anonymous; "Bac Talk," Discover, 18:23. February 1997.)

Comments. There doesn't seem to be much you can do about your presumptuous intestinal bacteria. Maalox won't dissuade them.

Even though we are infected with bossy bacteria and bend to the commands of "selfish genes", we still imagine we possess free will!

From Science Frontiers #113, SEP-OCT 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss