Livin' on the MDedge

Give bacterial diversity a chance: The antibiotic dichotomy


What’s the opposite of an antibiotic?

Everyone knows that LOTME loves a good dichotomy: yin/yang, good/evil, heads/tails, particle/wave, peanut butter/jelly. They’re all great. We’re also big fans of microbiomes, particularly the gut microbiome. But what if we could combine the two? A healthy and nutritious story about the gut microbiome, with a dash of added dichotomy for flavor. Is such a thing even possible? Let’s find out.

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First, we need an antibiotic, a drug designed to fight bacterial infections. If you’ve got strep throat, otitis media, or bubonic plague, there’s a good chance you will receive an antibiotic. That antibiotic will kill the bad bacteria that are making you sick, but it will also kill a lot of the good bacteria that inhabit your gut microbiome, which results in side effects like bloating and diarrhea.

It comes down to diversity, explained Elisa Marroquin, PhD, of Texas Christian University (Go Horned Frogs!): “In a human community, we need people that have different professions because we don’t all know how to do every single job. And so the same happens with bacteria. We need lots of different gut bacteria that know how to do different things.”

She and her colleagues reviewed 29 studies published over the last 7 years and found a way to preserve the diversity of a human gut microbiome that’s dealing with an antibiotic. Their solution? Prescribe a probiotic.

The way to fight the effects of stopping a bacterial infection is to provide food for what are, basically, other bacterial infections. Antibiotic/probiotic is a prescription for dichotomy, and it means we managed to combine gut microbiomes with a dichotomy. And you didn’t think we could do it.

The earphone of hearing aids

It’s estimated that up to 75% of people who need hearing aids don’t wear them. Why? Well, there’s the social stigma about not wanting to appear too old, and then there’s the cost factor.

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Is there a cheaper, less stigmatizing option to amplify hearing? The answer, according to otolaryngologist Yen-fu Cheng, MD, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital and associates, is wireless earphones. AirPods, if you want to be brand specific.

Airpods can be on the more expensive side – running about $129 for AirPods 2 and $249 for AirPods Pro – but when compared with premium hearing aids ($10,000), or even basic aids (about $1,500), the Apple products come off inexpensive after all.

The team tested the premium and basic hearing aids against the AirPods 2 and the AirPod Pro using Apple’s Live Listen feature, which helps amplify sound through the company’s wireless earphones and iPhones and was initially designed to assist people with normal hearing in situations such as birdwatching.

The AirPods Pro worked just as well as the basic hearing aid but not quite as well as the premium hearing aid in a quiet setting, while the AirPods 2 performed the worst. When tested in a noisy setting, the AirPods Pro was pretty comparable to the premium hearing aid, as long as the noise came from a lateral direction. Neither of the AirPod models did as well as the hearing aids with head-on noises.

Wireless earbuds may not be the perfect solution from a clinical standpoint, but they’re a good start for people who don’t have access to hearing aids, Dr. Cheng noted.

So who says headphones damage your hearing? They might actually help.


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