Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mucus & Sputum Are Your Friends

I heard this on San Diego Public Radio today, and was delighted to see how easy it was to look up:  the mucus in human noses and throats (and elsewhere in our bodies) helps to protect us from bacteria by harboring viral phages that prey upon bacteria (bacteriophages).  You can read about it here in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science of the United States of America (link), or here, in the Journal of Immunology (link).

Those pesky scientists...  testing theories...  using scientific method and publishing peer reviewed articles... taking up tax payer funded government grants...  what do they know?  Shouldn't they just be reading their fundamentalist religious texts and trusting everything to the creator in which they should be placing their faith?  =)

I am glad that Jeremy Barr, Rita Auro, Mike Furlan, Katrine Whiteson, Natasha Talago, Lauren Paul, Marcella Erb, Joe Pogliano, Aleksandr Stotland, Roland Wolkowicz, Andrew Cutting, Kelly Doran, Peter Salamon, Merry Youle,  and Forest Rohwer DID test their theories, and used rigorous scientific methods to show that the phages symbiotically help protect the underlying epithelium from bacterial infections.  Considering the massive amounts of soap, Purell, and bleach I've personally used in the last 2 weeks both at MUSC and at my son's home, and the active upper respiratory infection I was sporting throughout my trip that was causing me to cough and blow my nose whenever a nurse was not present, I am happy to hear that all that mucus was laden with viral phages that were actively working to kill off any bacterial invaders who tried to gain entry.

I wonder how much the phages liked the generic guaifenesin (Mucinex) I was taking?  Old old family allergist, 20 years ago, used to say guaifenesin acted like a 'super highway' making mucus long and stringy, more stretchy, and mobile, less "sticky".  He said that initial trials of guaifenesin with women who were trying to get pregnant helped to thin out and elongate the uterus mucus so that sperm could swim more easily up the walls and get to the fallopian tubes and the precious eggs they were seeking (definitely an "off label" use).  Keep that in mind the next time you cough up some sputum...  lol!

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