Gut Bacteria Still Get Fed When Hosts Are Too Sick to Eat

For bacteria, the mammalian gut is like Shangri-La. It’s warm and consistently so, sheltered from the environment, and regularly flooded with a nutritious soup. But what happens when this all-you-can-eat buffet stops serving? What happens to microbes if their host stops eating?

When animals from mice to flies become sick, they often lose their appetite and temporarily stop eating. This makes sense: it takes a lot of energy to find or capture food, and for the moment, that energy is better spent on fighting off disease. But these short-term fasts harm the beneficial microbes that live in our guts. As we starve, so do they. Their absence makes ...

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