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Bacteria wouldn't opt for a swine flu shot
Date:12/16/2009

Bacteria inhabited our planet for more than 4 billion years before humans showed up, and they'll probably outlive us by as many eons more. That suggests they may have something to teach us.

New research from Tel Aviv University bacteria expert Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, grounded in the study of bacteria, presents compelling evidence to suggest there may be good reasons why most people should not automatically opt for the swine flu H1N1 shot.

In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Prof. Ben Jacob uses the decision-making of bacteria, an analogue of "game theory," as a model to make his case.

"Unlike our health authorities, bacteria would never panic," he says. "Bacteria don't follow the media or watch cable news. Instead, they send chemical messages to each other in a colony 100 times larger than the earth's human population to make their decisions. And based on what we've seen in bacterial colonies, I know they would be suspicious committing to swine flu shots. They wouldn't opt for a colony wide vaccination," Prof. Ben Jacob concludes.

The prisoner's dilemma

The new research, done in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Schultz, a postdoctoral fellow at TAU, and Profs. Jos Onuchic and Peter Wolynes at the University of California/San Diego, not only provides a paradigm for assessing responses to health emergencies, it may also provide investors with insight into how to manage stock portfolios.

In the PNAS paper, the scientists explored how microscopic creatures living in large colonies decide their fate in adverse times under complicated and life threatening conditions. They found that bacteria communicate through chemical signals and reach decisions in sophisticated ways, using an elaborate network of genes and proteins to calculate complex possibilities, as in "game
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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