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A World Without Microbes: An Apocalyptic Thought Experiment | I Contain Multitudes

A world without microbes seems at first like a utopia without bacterial infections, mildew, or mold. But let’s take a deeper look.

On Tuesday, March 6th join Jack Gilbert for a Reddit AMA on r/science! Jack will be teaming up with Mark Smith, our guest expert from an upcoming episode on Fecal Matter Transplants. Follow us @TangledBankHHMI for more updates.

Living without stomach bugs, ear infections and moldy shower curtains sounds great! But in reality, a world without microbes would be a scene straight out of a disaster movie. We wouldn’t be able to digest our food properly without our gut bacteria. Crops around the world would start to die without the nutrients generated by microbes. Dead fish would float to the surface of lakes and oceans, and ocean life would be extinguished. Ed Yong and professor Jack Gilbert from the University of Chicago guide us through this frightening thought experiment to better understand how invaluable microbes are to the world as we know it.

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