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Germs That Do a Body Good

Bacteria might someday keep the doctor away

After several straight months of persistent diarrhea, a New York woman was exhausted, uncomfortable, and frustrated. She also was out thousands of dollars that shed spent on drugs and hospital bills. The problem had begun while she was being treated with intravenous antibiotics for an infection that caused inflammation in her colon. In healthy people, pathogens like the Clostridium difficile bacteria responsible for the womans diarrhea are held in check by harmless intestinal microorganisms, poetically referred to as flora. By killing off these benign bugs, antibiotics often upset the balance of the gut ecosystem and leave it open to novel invaders or nasty, normally latent microbes.

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