Germs Are Us

We live in a world of germs (better known as microbes). Multitudes of them live in our own bodies. Yet most of them do not cause us harm. They help us in digesting and processing the food we eat. Others help us fight off tooth decay while still others are involved in helping to activate our immune system (the system that fights other germs that cause diseases). How is this possible? Most of us have thought of germs as mostly being harmful, causing many infectious diseases that always must be cleansed from our bodies by anti-bacterial detergents and hand creams. However, in the past 100 years or so, scientists and physicians have learned how to fight and indeed conquer most of them by stimulating our own immune system as well as by remarkable outside treatments such as the use of antibiotics (which amazingly enough are also produced by microbes). In order to understand the nature of these remarkable one-celled organisms, both good and bad, we will discuss what they are in scientific (but easily understood) terms, the reasons that some of them cause infectious diseases, why we are being confronted now with many emerging (new) and reemerging (not new) infections. We will consider as well the myths and realities of treatment for some of the more dangerous or well known pathogens.

Instructor: William Firshein

Three Mondays: 4:30-6:00 p.m., Butterfield Room

April 23, 30, 7

William Firshein

William Firshein is Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Emeritus at Wesleyan, where he taught introductory and advanced courses in Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and other life science disciplines for forty-eight years. He has been awarded research grants from various governmental and private agencies totaling well over two million dollars to engage in basic microbiological research, and has published over eighty research articles. He received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University.