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How the global yogurt craze began


Date: March 13, 2018

Lately, some of the hottest stories out of the Weizmann Institute refer to how the balance of microbes in the human intestine—collectively referred to as the microbiome—impacts human health. Now, the century-long history behind these discoveries has been presented in an award-winning book by Weizmann Institute staff member, Luba Vikhanski, entitled Immunity: How Elie Metchnikoff Changed the Course of Modern Medicine (Chicago Review Press).

Ms. Vikhanski describes the theory of immunity put forward in the early 20th century by Russian-born biologist Elie Metchnikoff, who pioneered the scientific study of intestinal bacteria and aging. Dr. Metchnikoff’s controversial theories on longevity sparked a global craze for yogurt, based on the idea that the beneficial bacteria used to make yogurt and other types of sour milk could prolong life by counteracting harmful bacteria in the human intestine. Dr. Metchnikoff, who became known as the “Father of Innate Immunity,” was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize.

A veteran science journalist who authored two previous books, Ms. Vikhanski’s latest book was favorably reviewed in Nature (“an engrossing scientific biography”), Kirkus Reviews, and elsewhere, and was cited for excellence in the 2017 Medical Book Awards of the British Medical Association.