Microbe Talk, the podcast from the Society for General Microbiology, has a fascinating discussion this month. Phrased as a wide-open thought experiment akin to The Knowledge, the host Ben Thompson talks to Dr Jack Gilbert and Dr Josh Neufeld about whether we would survive in a world without microbes.
Imagine waking up tomorrow morning to find out that every bacterium and every archeon on the planet had suddenly vanished. What would happen? Could humanity survive?
Jack and Josh have recently published an academic research paper in PLOS Biology on exactly this topic, Life in a World without Microbes. They explore all the ways that microbes are used by humanity, ranging from producing yoghurt and beer, to their involvement in key agricultural and industrial processes, but also how vital microbes are to the ecosystems of planet Earth as a whole.