During the COVID-19 crisis, microbiologist Martin J. Blaser became something of an online celebrity for his calm insight for staying safe.
If you know that antibiotics have become less effective and that they kill the good bacteria in our bodies as well as the bad, you might thank Martin J. Blaser, Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and director of Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine. His book Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues (Henry Holt, 2014) raised awareness in the medical community and the public sphere about his groundbreaking research. A world expert on the human microbiome—microscopic organisms, primarily bacteria, that live on and in the body—Blaser chairs the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.
Blaser was tapped for Wired.com’s Tech Support series, which has millions of subscribers and features experts and celebrities such as “science guy” Bill Nye and astronaut Scott Kelly answering the public’s questions via Twitter. Blaser appeared on the March 21 episode called “Virus Support” about COVID-19.
During his 15-minute Q&A, Blaser’s reassurances ran from offering simple solutions for sanitizing surfaces (common soap and water work) to tackling big picture apprehensions. One participant asked: “Given that many people have had COVID-19 without knowing it, is there a way to test whether people had it?” It was a question on the minds of many, especially those who’d had symptoms but went untested. Blaser explained that the “virus lasts in a person for days or perhaps weeks, and it’s gone. After a few weeks, there will be no way to detect the virus, but one can detect the antibody response to the virus. Laboratories, including our labs at Rutgers, are developing antibody assays. So, we will be able to tell who’s had the infection.”
As Blaser plainly and clearly addressed the public’s COVID-19 concerns, his calm and confident demeanor did not go unnoticed. Read a sampling of online public comments posted on YouTube about Blaser:
“Thank you for the clear no-nonsense advice, much appreciated.”
“Very informative. No hype, no doom, just loaded with useful facts.”
“This guy made me feel the most calm I’ve felt watching ANYBODY else’s COVID-19 videos.”
“I love how unassuming and nonjudgmental he was.”
“I love the matter-of-fact presentation, answering questions that are on a lot of minds.”
“Super informative and ACTUALLY reassuring.’
“Dr. Blaser: You are an asset to society.”