In the philosopher Daniel Dennett’s book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea he explains that humans “all exist as fruits of a single tree, the Tree of Life,” which “created itself, not in a miraculous, instantaneous whoosh, but slowly, slowly.”
The image of the tree, with branches and leaves that grow into whatever space is available to find the sunlight they need to survive, is such a good one because it mirrors how life on Earth, in all of its forms, has been sculpted to adapt to and exploit every environment it can.
But natural selection moves faster in some species than in other. It takes humans until puberty, and frequently much later to produce a next generation. It takes E. coli bacteria about 20 minutes.
In a talk tonight at the Biotech Without Borders neetup called “Barbarians at the Gate: The Truth About Antibiotics,” Dr. Sandra Breum Andersen will explain how, in a feat of natural selection, bacteria are evolving to be resistant to some of the antibiotics we use to kill them.
“The two main problems we are now facing are antibiotic resistance and disturbance of our beneficial microbes,” Andersen writes in the event’s intro. “I will explain how resistance arise and spread, and how the loss of ‘friendly’ bacteria from our gut may lead to problems with obesity, diabetes and asthma.”
Breum is a postdoc fellow at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, where her work focuses on the “intricate social lives of Helicobacter pylori stomach bacteria.”
The talk is free and open to the public at 33 Flatbush Ave., in Downtown Brooklyn.