The Germ Guy: Confessions of a Mercurial Microbiologist



Go Go Keto!

It’s been quite the week at the Super Awesome Science Show. We’ve been getting some good attention from the media and the podcast world. Also, if you happen to listen to this week’s show, you may notice something a little different…

(We call it…funding)

This is a huge step for us and we couldn’t be happier to have the ability to continue show the world some SASS.

This week, you’re in for a blast as we tackle one of the biggest health crazes out there…

(The Ketogenic Diet…)

You’ve probably heard of it over the last few years as being one of the most effective ways to lose weight and improve your health. The funny thing is, when it comes to this particular diet, they’re right!

In the first segment, I take you through some of the history of the ketogenic diet including why it was developed in the 1920s and how it went from obscurity to stardom in the 1990s. You’re going to want to listen because I take on a dream job if only for a minute…

(Infomercial announcer…)

All fun aside, we get right into what the keto diet happens to be and how following it can help your health with my good friend and amazing dietitian…

(Desiree Nielsen…)

She’s been one of Canada’s best diet advisers with books, a television show, and an incredibly useful website for anyone who wants to learn about nutrition. You can find it here…

She explains how the keto diet works and tells us what we need to know about one of the most important factors – fat. We even get into the raging debate of…

(Which oil is better?)

Although you may not have known it (but you will after you listen to the first segment), the keto diet was first used as a treatment for epilepsy. Our next guest feels it may have a use to help another major concern. He’s…

(Dr. Roger McIntyre)

He’s a researcher with the University Health Network in Toronto. His work has revealed that adhering to a keto diet may help balance many of the neurochemicals responsible for our…


Although going keto to have a better outlook on life is not ready for prime time yet, Dr. McIntyre suggests with more time and studies, we may one day see a ketogenic styled nutrition plan to help us maintain a healthy mind.

Of course, most of us think of the ketogenic diet as a means to control our…

(You get the idea…)

You hear of all the weight you CAN lose but very few talk ketovangelists talk about how much you will ACTUALLY lose. In our SASS Class, you’re going to find that out with the help of…

(Adrienne Lindblad)

She’s a knowledge translator with the Canadian Family Physicians and she recently published a paper called, “Ketogenic diet for weight loss.” You will want to listen to this interview as it will make you think about whether keto really is right for you.

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Also, if you happen to have a podcast, can you head over to the Canadian Podcast Awards website and give our little show a boost by voting for us here…


If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: Your Emails have been awesome and I look forward to hearing from you about how you are showin’ some SASS.


Finding The Best Way To Sleep…A Bedtime Story

Here’s a question for you. How well are you sleeping?

If you happen to be like many Canadians, it’s probably not like this…

(Although most of us wish it would be…)

On this week’s episode of the Super Awesome Science Show, we attempt to find out why a good night’s sleep can be hard to achieve. To listen along while you read, head on over to the SASS site and click the play button.


Our first guest is an expert in sleep biology…

(Dr. Michael Antle…)

We take a fantastic exploration into the brain and how a small little piece known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (or SCN) is the regulator of the entire process. We also get into how our sleep patterns can be disturbed by various exposures in our daily lives.

But best of all, Dr. Antle also works in psychology and helps us to understand how we might be able to improve our ability to get that good night’s sleep. Without giving too much away, the answer may be less of this…

(Unless you’re in an Empire State of Mind…)

and more of this…

(It’s OMazing…)

Next, we learn of a possibly better way to get those forty winks. It’s officially known as bibliotherapy but we tend to call it…

(Bedtime Stories…)

It may be hard to believe but research has revealed that reading can help us get to sleep as well as if not better than some pills. You get to sleep faster and the quality of that sleep is better.

But there’s something even better than reading by yourself. It’s having someone read a story to you. And that’s where our next guest comes in…

(Kathryn Nicolai)

She is the host of a podcast called “Nothing Much Happens.” People tune in to her and listen to a bedtime story designed for adults. Her goal is to help you fall asleep to her podcast. Which is an interesting ambition considering most of us out in the podcast world are hoping not to see this…

(Remember those ear muffs?)

Speaking of sleeping children, our SASS Class happens to focus on of all things…


Our guest teacher for the class has been studying the effects of sleep – or lack thereof on kid’s health including their ability to think and also their weight. She is…

(Dr. Genviève Gariépy)

As you’ll hear, her work has shown that the timing of the opening bell has a significant effect on kids. In essence, starting school later might actually be good for them. While you might think this isn’t a great idea, a story emerged recently that showed she is indeed right. You can read the study here:

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Also, if you happen to have a podcast, can you head over to the Canadian Podcast Awards website and give our little show a boost by voting for us here…


If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’ve already heard from a number of people and their contributions are indeed awesome.

New Year’s Rehabilitation

Happy New Year!!!

Before we get into the show, I wanted to pass on some good news. The show has been nominated for Best Science and Medicine Podcast at the Canadian Podcast Awards!

We’ll have more details on this soon but for now let’s just say…

(I love this shot…)

Okay, so it’s 2019. The old year is gone and the new one brings promise of better times and for many, a healthier self thanks to those…

(Yeah, you know…)

Of course, it all sounds great at first. We’re definitely going to be better! But as many of us have realized in the past, the usual outcome after a few weeks, days and for some, hours is…

(Can you relate?)

This week on the SASS cast, we take a look at why resolutions fail. As the title of the episode implies, the resolutions we make could be better described with another word…


Click above and you can listen to the show while you read along here. Or just click on the following link…

When you think about it, resolutions are really about gaining self control. As we have learned for decades, this is not an easy proposition to make. We can control others but controlling ourselves can be nearly impossible.

It’s why we reached out to a person who has spent his whole life looking at the idea of personal behaviour in the context of consumerism. He is…

(Dr. Lalatendu Acharya)

I had a blast speaking with him on a variety of issues regarding resolutions and how we might be able to achieve them. Although I don’t want to give anything away, the answer to success may be to ensure we never act alone.

If you have known anyone who has gone through recovery from addiction, you’ll recognize how important that is. If not…then you need to watch…

(I love this show…)

Our next guest has another artistic perspective when it comes to why resolutions don’t work. But instead of a fun loving comedy on how to deal with the affliction of addiction, this one has to do with the hardships of…

(Hermione Granger…)

Yes, everybody’s favorite Harry Potter character suffers from a condition we all experience and it can get in the way of completing your New Year’s Resolutions. It’s known as Social Desirability Bias or SDB and it isn’t an easy phenomenon to understand. But thankfully, we have the perfect person to tell us all about it.

(Courtney Bir)

I honestly loved talking with Courtney as we had fantastic discussions on a variety of different topics including…

  1. SDB as it relates to health policy.
  2. SDB and New Year’s Resolutions.
  3. Why no one likes Ron Weasley.
  4. Can SDB happen on a deserted island?

For the record, I think it is possible thanks to…

(Wilson is more than just a volleyball…)

In our SASS Class, we learn about one of the most troubling obstacles to our ability to keep those weight loss resolutions. Making it worse is that it’s an important part of our everyday lives…

(The grocery store…)

Back in 2014, there was a study that revealed our habits when it comes to calories purchased tend not to go down after the Holidays even though we promise to eat less and lose weight. In many cases, the amount of calories goes up!

The person behind this very cold glass of realism is…

(Dr. Lizzy Pope…)

You simply have to listen to her discuss the article and how it applies to every one of us. It’s fascinating to learn about why we can’t seem to buy less and also how our social calendar never really affords us the opportunity to dial back on our eating habits.

We also get into another problem encountered at this time although it may not be considered such by everyone…

(We’re not talking about his diet…)

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. You could even make listening to the show a Resolution that is bound to be achieved.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’ve already heard from a number of people and their contributions are indeed awesome.

The Smells of The Season

We are well into the Holiday Season and on this week’s special episode of the Super Awesome Science Show, we’re going to learn how one of our five senses can impact the celebrations.


To hear the SASS cast, just click on the nose or, if you wish, here:

We all know about the sights and sounds but when you think about it, no Holiday celebration is complete without one or more of the traditional aromas gently wafting into our nostrils.

You probably know most of them simply by sight…

(Can you name them all?)

When you inhale their fragrance, you can be brought into a sense of calm, peace, and expectation of good tidings. How this happens is in a word…awesome.

We first get into the science of smell, known as olfaction, with an expert on the topic…

(Dr. Leslie Cameron)

She takes us through how we smell and how an odour impacts our brain. She also helps us to understand how we may be able to recognize a certain aroma and yet not be able to put a name to it. It’s more common thank you think. In a recent study, Dr. Cameron revealed the only smell that is instantly associated with a name happens to be…

(Who would have thought?)

While naming odours may not be our strong suit, we do have an apparently magical ability to pick up an aroma and be transported in memory to a previous time and place. To talk more about this, there is no one better than the “Smellosopher” herself…

(Dr. Ann-Sophie Barwich)

Dr. Barwich has spent much of her time examining how our brains decode odours in a philosophical way. She explains the concept of “autobiographical aromas” and how she herself can be taken to places and times simply through detecting a certain fragrance such as…


For the record, this particular scent brings me to European Christmas Markets and the joy of celebrating the Holidays with friends and loved ones abroad.

In our SASS class, we examine how the use of both recognition and memory can be used to help us to increase not just our levels of joy but also our…

(Holiday spending…)

To help us understand how smells can lead to more purchases, I speak with one of the researchers in this area…

(Dr. Jenny Lin)

She uses neuroscience to help marketers figure out how we interpret odours and how that may convince us to stay in a store and maybe spend a little more. Her research is a fascinating combination of two very different fields and a must listen to anyone who wants to figure out how to avoid the temptation to shop spurred on by following one’s nose.

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and tell everyone about the show during your Holiday celebrations.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’ve already heard from a number of people and their contributions are indeed awesome.

The Blockchain Boon

If you’ve ever surfed the web, you’ve no doubt heard about a technology that has been gaining momentum around the world. It’s known as…



It’s been around for a decade although it’s only gained any significant momentum over the last few years. It’s an ingenious concept that changes the way we do transactions as it combines transparency and security. The end result is one small package…or block…that is tied to others via a rather interesting component.


On this week’s SASScast, we dive into the topic of blockchain to give you an idea of what it is and its potential in the future.

In a word, it’s awesome.

We first talk with one of blockchain’s best explainers-in-chief…

(Olivia Lovenmark…)

She gives us an introduction to the technology and helps us understand how money fits into the equation. You might be familiar with the concept of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, but as you’ll hear, the reason for giving people a financial reward is less about getting people rich and more along the lines of…

(Dollars to donuts…)

The idea of becoming rich from blockchain, while seemingly enticing, isn’t realistic for the majority of people. Yet, that doesn’t mean blockchain isn’t going to be involved in our lives. To attain a better idea of how you and I can get into this realm, I am joined by a pioneer in achieving widespread adoption of this technology…

(Duane Conners…)

I met him at a conference a few months ago and he blew my mind with his vision. I simply had to have him on the show.

His idea isn’t to bring people to blockchain using money, but something known as incentivization. As the name implies, it’s all about giving people something for getting involved. When you listen to him, you’ll realize, the future is so bright…

(You get the idea…)

One of the most important areas for blockchain development is our health. Although we are inundated with recommendations on how to live better, sometimes, what we hear seems to make no sense. Imagine the study on alcohol that stated the only beneficial amount is none. Or a recent announcement from another study that proclaimed…

(Limburger fans rejoice!)

Figuring out how to avoid these unfortunate outcomes requires transparency as well as a secure environment to share information with others. Blockchain offers that and our next guest provides us with some insight into how the technology may revolutionize health…

(Brian Magiersky…)

He’s the co-founder and President of Nano Vision, which hopes to use blockchain to improve clinical trials and other areas of healthcare. You have to listen to where health is heading.

Finally, in our SASS Class, we reach out to a guest teacher from Singularity University…

(Anne Connelly)

She’s been a star in this world for years and an expert in an incredible way to use blockchain to improve our local and global world. It’s a completely different type of economy based not on money, but impact.

Whether the subject happens to be international development or a bartering system in Toronto, Anne provides us with a glimpse into how blockchain can make not just our lives but our world better.

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and tell all your friends, family, neighbours, and computer geeks (they’ll love the donut analogy, trust me).

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at:

Believing in Climate Change

Last week on the pandemic SASScast, we touched on a subject making quite a few headlines these days…

(Climate Change…)

When you examine the definitions of a pandemic, you can see how climate change is akin to a worldwide scourge.

But getting people to believe in climate change, much like a pandemic, is not easy. You need more than data and statistics. You need to have reasons that impact your personal lives to be convinced.

This week, we focus on belief in climate change and what is being done to help convince people they should not only have credence in the phenomenon, but also get involved to help reduce the impact of the consequences.

We first start by examining one of the most incredible events that has occurred in our history. It involves the merger of two very different worlds. One is science. The other is…

(The Vatican…)

For hundreds of years, the two have not seen eye to eye but last year, the Vatican became a true believer in climate change and the effect of humanity on its progression. It all happened during the…

People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility
Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health Workshop

For me, as a scientist, the existence of this event seems to contradict everything I’ve learned about the rift between science and religion. I needed to know more about how this came about and what happened.

Which is why I have on the show…

(Dr. Lise Van Susteren)

She’s a noted psychiatrist and a climate change expert. More importantly, she was at the Vatican during this workshop and she takes us into the room as the workshop occurred.

I was fascinated at what she told me and I am sure you will want to hear what happened and why now is the perfect time to, as she says, let bygones be bygones.

We also talk about how climate change may be affecting more than you think. There’s a good change the consequences may be having an effect on your…

(Mental health…)

Although this subject doesn’t get much media attention, in the scientific world, there is a growing interest in how everything from higher temperatures to the increasing display of disasters can affect us emotionally.

Thankfully, Dr. Van Susteren also happens to be an expert in this realm and we have a fascinating discussion on how the effects can impact each and every one of us. She also explains how we may be able to counter the internal problem by taking action at a local level in order to make a difference on a global scale.

In our SASS Class, we take a look at one of the most depressing consequences of climate change. We may be at risk of losing…


In a recent study, a group of researchers suggested that climate change may affect barley much like it has rice, corn, and wheat, leading to a lack of the main ingredient in this staple of human consumption.

Our guest teacher is one of the authors of that paper…

(Dr. Nathan Mueller…)

He takes us through the paper and also what we need to know about the future of this beloved beverage. He also explains how we may be able to help avoid the so-called, beer crunch in the future. Hint: It’s not a matter of hoarding the two-fours.

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and tell all your friends, family, neighbours, and heck, even your local pharmacist (I did this week and she is now a fan!). We are having a blast putting the SASScast together and we want everyone to take part in the fun.

Oh, and one more thing. This episode was inspired by a listener who asked me about how we can find a way to increase belief in climate change.

If you have an idea for a show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at:


A Pandemic State of Mind

Today, on the Super Awesome Science Show, we delve into a topic that is near and dear to me…


If you haven’t listened to the show, just click on the image above and you’ll be taken straight there.

As I’ve been involved in this subject for some time, I decided to take a walk back in my own professional career to bring a different light to the subject.

First, we discuss the most common name when it comes to pandemics…


I’ve written quite a bit on this in the past both in the literature and also in the media. Now, I get to share one of Canada’s research treasures on the virus.

(Dr. Earl Brown)

While I was in Ottawa, we worked together on several fronts. Now, he offers some valuable perspective on the topic of the pandemic potential of the flu and also where we may be heading in the world of vaccination.

Next, do you remember from a few months ago headlines that went along the lines of…

horsepox(DIY horsepox created from mail-order DNA)

Well, the researcher behind this is…

dave-evans(Dr. Dave Evans)

He’s also someone I’ve known for close to thirty years. He was even my supervisor way back in the 1990s. I reach out to him to clarify some of the details of his work and how the headlines, although eye-catching, may not have been entirely accurate.

Finally, in the SASS Class, I talk with another old colleague about the…


His name is…

charles-greer(Dr. Charles Greer)

And for longer than the three decades I’ve known him, he’s been looking at the microbes in that frozen layer.

You might think we’re going to discuss the potential of finding a pandemic virus of bacterium that could end us all. But we discuss a very different kind of pandemic…

global-warming(Global Warming…)

I know…I know…pandemics are supposed to be all about viruses and bacteria and other microscopic organisms. But when you look at the definition of a pandemic, which I discuss in the show, you realize that chemicals can be just as troubling.

Global warming is all about carbon dioxide and methane and as these levels rise, we face significant problems. But, as Dr Greer points out, the bacteria living in the permafrost may be able to help reduce the chances of disaster thanks to their appetite for these chemicals.

But while this may be a short term solution, it probably won’t be the answer.

The SASS team and I had a blast putting this episode together and I hope as you listen, you are able to share in the enthusiasm we had making it.

If you like the episode, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform as each week, we’re going to take a unique look at how science affects our lives. I guarantee you’ll see science in a different light and maybe, like germs, love it. Because as we know and want you to agree, when it comes to science, it is without a doubt…


It’s Time To Show Some #SASS

Hey everyone,

As you might remember, back in July of 2017, I announced I was moving from Toronto to Edmonton as Anastassia Voronova – my better half – was taking on a position at the University of Alberta as a professor.

We made the move and it took some time to get back on our feet. But as we head towards our one year anniversary here, we are feeling much better and ready to continue the good work we do.

Before I came here, I had an idea as to how to do something a little different with science communication. An experiment if you will. Now that has turned into the Super Awesome Science Show and I am hoping you will love it as much as I do.

How I got here has been a wonderful journey and I want to share it with you.

Let’s start with…

The Background

I had spent the last five years trying to get people to love something that was foreign to them. I think you might know what that topic happened to be…


(This is such a cool cover, don’t you think?)

In addition to the posts on this blog, I was able to see some good success. As I travelled to various places in the world, I witnessed a change in the way people see microbes. It was heartening to see a goal come to fruition.

The Problem

While my journey has been positive, the same cannot be said for the rest of science. Over the last few years, this branch of knowledge has been dealing with some rather difficult times. To put it lightly, science has been going dealing with…


(You get the idea…)

When you are constantly defending science, it’s difficult to convey the joys of this world. It get harder when you are being flanked by non-scientific campaigns that don’t care if they bend or ignore the evidence.

This isn’t new, mind you. Throughout history, science has had to deal with this issue. It’s been going on for centuries.

Earlier this year, I shared my thoughts on how to approach this challenging landscape in  the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.

Tetro-JMBE(It’s light fare despite the long title…)

As you’ll see when you read the article – and I hope you do – there are ways to deal with the opposition to science in a way that is not antagonistic. Instead, we can use science to show how it matters to the public. When we do that, there’s a surprising turn of perception.

To put it succinctly,  when communicated right, science becomes…


The Design

As I was planning to move to Edmonton, I wanted to find a way to convey how awesome all of science happens to be in the same way I did for microbes. I went through a variety of ideas and talked with several people and realized the appetite had changed. People wanted something short, fun, and to the point.

In the words of a Tim I know and cherish…


(The other Tim also said something similar…)

This led to the idea of putting together a show that would focus on science and how it mattered to the person listening.

A few ideas were thrown around and eventually, the right mix of the objectives in my JMBE paper above – which if you’ve read it you already know – came in the form of a podcast. It had all the right elements and had the right accessibility so anyone in the world could take part in the joy of hearing about science that mattered to them.

The Principal Investigators

As with any scientific experiment, one needs to have a team to achieve any kind of success. When I first came up with the topic, I had great ideas but honestly, didn’t have the experience to put it together.

Enter Kelsey Campbell…


(My mentor)

Kelsey is a radio executive producer, host, and all around audio genius in the station. If there is anyone who can help me get to this goal, it’s her.

She knew about my aspirations as far back as Toronto. Since I arrived, she has been guiding and directing me from writer and stage performer to studio host. Let me just say I’m not an easy student but this old dog can definitely learn new tricks.

Whenever you hear my voice in the podcast, you can be sure that tone and cadence is thanks to Kelsey’s wonderful training.

She also brought the show to a point where it could go to the team at…

curiouscast-logobanner(Podcasts for Curious minds)

At this point, three new faces came into play.

(Dila Velazquez, Rob Johnston, Chris “Dunner” Duncombe)

Dila is a script genius. 
She has guided me to develop scripts that are engaging and fun.

Rob is a master of music.
At times you might think you’re listening to a movie.

Dunner is the man who runs it all.
He’s supported Kelsey and me from the moment we first talked.

These three have given me the opportunity to put together a show that is beyond anything I would have expected.

Add In Some SASS

During my campaign to get people to love germs, I’ve found that incorporation of humour and snark seem to work best to get people to listen and to act. Some have jokingly called it fecal fomenting. However, the Fecal Fomentor Show, regardless of how cool it may sound to me was well…

1288540801000(not going to happen)

But thanks to Kelsey, a new title came about that just worked in every way possible.


It had all you could ask for in a title. It was direct, it was engaging, and best of all, it had an acronym that I loved.


It was everything that Fecal Fomentor was not. You could turn it into a hashtag, you could use it for promotion. And it made for a great catchphrase to end the show.

Make sure to show ’em some #SASS.

Theme-ing The Plot

When we were putting the ideas together for shows, it became clear that a run of the mill news program wouldn’t work. This was a podcast and we didn’t have to adhere to the news cycle. It also meant we could avoid the perils of being listed as…

fake-elaine(News that is…)

As we schemed towards a model, the idea of themes came to mind. As this happened, it became clear that one subject could go dozens or hundreds of ways. This opened the door to qualifying the themes a little more.

The topics will be broad in general but have certain specific branches that can help us all to understand what is happening and how it involves our lives. We may visit the same theme over the course of the show but no two will be alike. Each one will be a new experience and offer new ideas for you to ponder.

Throw in a SASS Class

In every episode, I want to have something that you can take with you after the show ends. When we discussed how this was going to happen, it was suggested that it become a lesson of a sort. A class if you will. The SASS Class was born.

Initially, it was going to be my class as the “Professor,” so to speak. The idea was to use a model like Julius Sumner Miller…

professor-cremasco(I’m sure you know about because you read my JMBE paper, right?)

But as I started looking into the various syllabuses, I realized having a guest teacher works so much better.

When you listen to the show, you’ll be certain to have at least one detail that will stick with you presented to you by an expert on the topic. When class is dismissed, you’ll have something you can talk about with family and friends and maybe use as a means to liven up a dinner party.

It’s Time To Get Started

In the lab, when I was ready to run an experiment, I would get my energy up and prepare for the tasks to come. I would always say, “It’s time to get started…” It would look kinda like this…

(I’m such a drama lab rat…)

As I view the podcast as an experiment in science communication, I use the same saying in every episode. When you hear that line, you know I’m in the zone and I am going to give you the best I can to make your experience for that half hour enjoyable, entertaining, and useful.

Making SASS a Success

Although so much time and effort has gone into making this show, we have no idea how it will do. That all depends on the audience…and you.

That’s why I’m adding in this post a request.

Help me show the world science is awesome.

Share the podcast with your family, friends, work colleagues, school teachers, parliamentarians, and whoever else you happen to know. If you’re on social media, share it with the world so they too can experience the joy of science in their lives.

Also, if you can, please subscribe to the show so we can demonstrate to those who control our destiny that we have an audience who believes science matters. It’s free and on pretty much every podcast platform.

Finally, if you happen to have a catchy name for the #SASS listeners, share it with me below. As we move forward, I want to reach out to everyone of you as an equal. It doesn’t matter how…sassy…it may seem, let’s see what we can create together.

Enjoy the Show…

Now that you know more about the history, it’s time to move forward. I hope you enjoy the show and find it as much fun to hear as I had to make. Feel free to share your thoughts with me here in the comments or at As many of you who have already contacted me know, I respond to every Email…it may just take a day or three.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for listening to the podcast in advance. Much like the books, I hope this will be a fun and wondrous experience for us all. Let’s keep the momentum going as we bring some #SASS to the world.

You can subscribe for free on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. Or, you can check here for the latest updates.

You can find all the links at the SASS homepage…

(Click HERE)

Do You Really Need An Antibiotic?

This week has been filled with controversy. In that vein, I feel it’s a good time to say something equally controversial:

Sometimes the best antibiotic prescription
is no prescription at all.

Okay, if you happen to be in public health, especially in Canada, this might not seem all that troublesome. After all, it’s been a mantra in the medical community for years. Yet, considering we still hear about the abuse and misuse of these life-saving drugs, the guidance hasn’t been accepted universally.

One of the reasons for the lack of compliance is based on a statement I hear quite often when I’m out in the public realm. Maybe you have heard it – or said it – at one time or another:

Prove to me I don’t need an antibiotic.

Admittedly, it’s a difficult request. But over the last few years, researchers have been exploring whether a person can deal with a bacterial infection without the use of antibiotics. The answer is yes but finding a way to show this to the public has been a real challenge. Usually, the information is hidden in statistics, which can be subject to skepticism.

However, I came across something that might demonstrate why forgoing an antibiotic may be worthwhile. It looks something like this…

 (Kinda cool, eh?)

What you’re looking at is a figure that comes from a paper entitled, Symptom response to antibiotic prescribing strategies in acute sore throat in adults: the DESCARTE prospective cohort study in UK general practice. You can click on the title to read the paper.

As you can guess from the graph above and the title of the paper, the researchers examined the progression of the traditional sore throat based on symptoms. They looked at 1512 people who had suffered the illness. The symptom information then was matched with the treatment the individuals received.

  • Some had no antibiotics (the blue);
  • Some had a regular antibiotic prescription (the red);
  • Some had what is known as a delayed antibiotics (green).

Delayed antibiotics is a recent trend going around in which a patient is asked to wait a few days after an initial visit to determine if the infection goes away. This is a great way to determine if the infection is bacterial and may need antibiotics, or viral, in which case antibiotics are useless. This approach also allows the body to fight the infection few days. There’s a good reason for this:

The immune system can handle
many infections on its own.

Based on all the results, the addition of antibiotics resulted in an observed reduction in the length of the worst symptoms. But the extent was far less than anyone might have believed. In fact, once all the numbers were crunched, the benefit ended up being equivalent to a grand total of…

One day.

That’s it. Twenty-four hours of lessened symptoms. Nothing more.

The researchers did happen to point out that those who didn’t take antibiotics had a harder time dealing with the infection throughout the period. But in the end, they recovered just as well as those who had taken the antibiotics.

The results of this study may help add credence to the mantra, but that doesn’t mean forgoing antibiotics is valid for every infection. Just recently, I came across an individual who had a sore throat and decided not to take antibiotics. The person lasted a week before caving in to the pain. The bacterial infection was more troublesome and the immune system needed a boost.

If you are wondering what the best option might be should your throat start to scratch, your urinary tract start to burn, or your eyes begin to turn red and water, let me be perfectly clear:

I can’t tell you.

This is a decision that only can be made between you and your doctor.

What I will advise is that when you do feel those troubles and you make that appointment, don’t be quick to ask for a prescription. Your doctor may want perform some tests first to find out what might be causing the troubles. You may be asked to wait and see if your immune system can pull through. Or, there may be ample evidence to make the prescription immediately.

Just remember, if you are given a prescription and fill it, you need to stick with it until the end, even if you feel better. This way you can be sure that you are clearing your body of the infection and reducing the chances for recurrence down the road.

Finally, I’m curious about the use of antibiotics. So, let me ask a relatively simple question I hope many of you won’t mind answering:

When was your last antibiotic prescription?


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