Social Bacteria and why they matter to our health

A Talk by Sandra Breum Andersen, Ph.D.


Are Bacteria Social?

Our bodies contain as many bacteria as human cells –if not more. To understand how they contribute to our health and disease it is important to know how they interact with each other. This talk explores the complex social lives of bacteria, describing how they can cooperate, cheat and compete, and how we may be able to exploit these interactions to maintain our beneficial bacteria and combat pathogens.


Sandra is a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Dr. Martin Blaser at the Langone Medical Center at NYU, funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, where she works with the intricate social lives of Helicobacter pylori stomach bacteria. Prior to arriving in NY in 2016, Sandra acquired a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology in her native Denmark, working with behavior-manipulating fungi that turn ants into zombies. Reluctantly leaving behind fieldwork in tropical forests, Sandra turned to the social lives of bacteria causing lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. This research was done at the University of Oxford and the Technical University of Denmark and revealed how bacteria can cooperate and cheat in our bodies. 

Picture: Jesper Ludvigsen
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