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Polymicrobial Infections: Perhaps The Rule, Not The Exception

The recent film World War Z describes an apocalyptic event where a rabies-like virus spreads via bite wounds to the majority of Earth’s population and turns them into zombies. Since the world’s leading virologist dies early in the film, it is up to Brad Pitt’s character to find the source and cure for this zombie virus. Spoiler alert: He discovers that virus-infected individuals will not bite humans with other infections or terminal illnesses, and proceeds to infect himself with a BSL4 pathogen and walk among the zombies unscathed. Although every scientist reading has first cringed and then come up with at least a half dozen reasons why this is not possible, the point is that even the film industry is recognizing that pathogenic (and non-pathogenic) microbes are capable of communicating with one another within the host to alter the course of disease.

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