If you don’t know Moises Velasquez-Manoff, you really should. He is a science and technology journalist for the NYT, among other papers, and wrote the great book I am presently tearing to shreds called An Epidemic of Absence (expect a full review on this in upcoming weeks).
He’s looking to crowdsource for a new article he’s working on about anthropologist Jeff Leach’s “Quest for Our Ancestral Microbes”, so lick your thumbs and snap out some fresh benjamins to help out please:
Using the Hadza as our nearest living hunter-gatherer model, the idea is to profile (yet another) thing that is fast going extinct due to encroachment and pollution by the industrial world: the microbes that live in and on us when we live the way we did during our evolution. Scoff you may, but we are only beginning to scratch the surface regarding how our gut microbes control, alter and shape our bodies. By the time we have things figured out (if that’s even possible), these ancient microbe populations will surely be gone forever.
You didn’t think civilization would discriminate as it kills planet-wide diversity, did you? Why stop at animals and plants? Why leave out the most major player of all?
Jeff Leach is planning to live with the Hadza and document what that does to his microbes. Lucky SOB! His and Manoff’s working theory is that the dirtier and less sanitized the environment (read: the lower the antibiotic exposure), the less susceptibility to autoimmune disease and allergies: that means the stronger the organism.
Here’s a scrumptious mouthful of dirt to get you oriented: The Hygiene Hypothesis.
At the very least, this project will raise awareness about how important it is to preserve diversity both around us and INSIDE us. Both Leach and Manoff are personally affected by autoimmune disease. Even if you don’t have a personal dog in this fight, knowing the ancestral microbe populations will give us a base for developing an understanding of autoimmune disease and why it’s skyrocketing in the “modern” world.
And I know I don’t have to tell you how bad it’s getting…