The overuse of antibiotics in humans is topic of ISU talk Sept. 18

AMES, Iowa – There are countless theories about what is causing the rise in asthma, food allergies and some intestinal disorders. One of the country's leading experts on the human microbiome — the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live in and on the body — argues it is due to the overuse of antibiotics.

Martin Blaser will give a presentation, "Missing Microbes: How the overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at Iowa State University. His talk will be in the Memorial Union Great Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Blaser has studied the role of bacteria in human disease for more than 30 years. He is the director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University and author of the book, "Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues." The book reports on trailblazing research while revealing the damage that overused antibiotics is doing to our health. He reasons that some irreplaceable microbes that existed for hundreds of thousands of years in the human microbiome have been damaged by antibiotics and could become extinct.

"My theory is that the one reason is the changing microbiome; that we evolved a certain stable situation with our microbiome and with the modern advances of modern life, including modern medical practices, we have been disrupting the microbiome. And there's evidence for that, especially early in life, and it's changing how our children develop," Blaser told NPR's Terry Gross on "Fresh Air."

Blaser is the George and Muriel Singer Professor of Medicine and professor of microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine. He was president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and has held major advisory roles at the National Institutes of Health.

Blaser also will present a College of Veterinary Medicine Ramsey Lecture, "Antibiotic Perturbation of the Early Life Microbiome Affects Metabolic and Immunologic Development," at 3:10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in Vet Med Room 2226. A reception precedes this lecture at 2:30 p.m. in the Vet Med Fish Tank Lobby.

Blaser's presentation is co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, National Affairs, Ramsey Lecture Series and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by the Government of the Student Body.

More information on ISU lectures is available at, or by calling 515-294-9935.