What's in your boogers could save someone's life. Seriously.

Imagine you're a scientist on a mission to find a new, lifesaving medication. Where would you look first?

Excuse me, but you haven't seen any Prozac down here, have you? No? Photo from Dave Bunnell/Wikimedia Commons.


Would you put on your khakis and mount an expedition to the deepest Amazon? Look inside the deepest caves and atop the highest peaks?

As it turns out, you might need to start by simply looking up your nose.

Scientists may have just found a new antibiotic ... and it lives in our noses.

Most previous quests for antibiotics started with looking for stuff in the soil or out in the wild. But the human body's pretty wild too. (No joke, we're actually a pretty dense bacterial jungle.)

Describing the human body as a "bacterial jungle" will surprise exactly no parents anywhere. Photo from iStock.

The human body plays host to many different types of bacteria and microbes in what scientists call our "microbiome." This isn't something to be freaked out about, though. These bacteria are mostly harmless. Some even help us digest food or produce vitamins.

Like animals in a jungle, the different microbes that live in us compete with each other.

Different strains or species of bacteria compete for food and living space, and sometimes, they'll attack each other. Imagine a lion and a tiger fighting over hunting area and you'll get the right idea. Only instead of using claws, the bacteria use unique chemicals, trying to drive out competitors and gain the best niche they can.

Unique bacteria-killing chemicals, you say? Hmm... I wonder who would be interested in that?

GIF from "The Professional."

Scientists initially dove into the jungle that is our nasal cavities because of one particular bacteria.

They wanted to figure out the habits of that bacteria, which can sometimes cause antibiotic-resistant infections.

But in the dark recesses of the nasal cavity, they found a competitor instead — a closely related cousin named Staphylococcus lugdunensis. And where they found the lugdunensis, they didn't find the bad bacteria.

Instead, they found that the lugdunensis spits out a never-seen-before chemical that's really, really good at killing other bacteria. The scientists were understandably excited and named the chemical "lugdunin." They also reported their findings in the journal Nature on July 27, 2016.

This is important because we need new antibiotics to fight off superbugs.

A doctor scrubs up before surgery in order to prevent infection. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

The overuse of antibiotics has caused some bacteria to become resistant to those antibiotics, turning them into what are sometimes called "superbugs." And these superbugs can be pretty dangerous. One, known as MRSA, infected over 80,000 people in the United States in 2011.

Guess what lugdunin can kill, though? Yup. MRSA — plus some other potentially harmful infections too. And since we haven't used the antibiotic before, it means superbugs probably can't resist it either.

Interestingly, scientists aren't completely sure how lugdunin works yet. Most antibiotics target delicate machinery inside bacteria in order to shut them down, but lugdunin seems like it might do something else we haven't quite figured out yet.

This discovery is huge, and one day, it could save lives.

Obviously, this discovery is in its very early stages and will need a lot more research before we can figure out whether it's both effective and safe for people to use. But lugdunin could one day lead to new antibiotic drugs.

If we're clever and dedicated and willing to look in some ... unusual places, superbugs could be totally beatable.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less