Do quorum sensing meds work?


23 Responses to “Do quorum sensing meds work?”

  1. Toby says:

    I’d actually be more afraid if it worked. Obviously some bacteria are pathogenic, but I happen to have trillions of the little suckers working hard in my intestines. Destroying their ability to communicate would be quite unhealthy…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that I am very disappointed in most of the posts on here.

    I am a postgraduate student of biomedical science in the UK. I am very interested in the field of quorum sensing and completed my undergraduate dissertation on anti-quorum sensing and I am currently furthering this work with my postgraduate thesis.

    It is very un-nerving that in a world where eveyone seems so worried about antibiotic resistance, harsh medicines and a threat of hospital superbugs, so many people are doing down a novel healthier therapy/treatment without even bothering to do the reading and research behind it.

    It is unfair to give these new products a bad name before they have even had a chance of proving themselves. It is also incredibly insulting to those that have dedicated their time to this research such as Bassler and Adonizio.

    I my self have seen the evidence that anti-quorum sensing compounds work and intend to continue my research in this area as it is highly likely it will be the future.


  3. jeffwise says:

    As Johnson notes, I wrote a rather unfavorable piece about McAfee in Fast Company (here’s a short intro to the piece, with a link to the full thing: Long and short, McAfee’s supposed herbal cure is a smokescreen for the real reason he’s in Belize: to avoid a wrongful-death lawsuit that’s pending against him in Arizona. I talked to Johnson before he left on his trip and told him what I’d learned; he admitted to me at the time that he found McAfee charming and wasn’t sure what to make of him. After reading this piece, I can’t help but conclude that he was either sucked in or decided that a credulous piece would be a more viable. Which is sad, because to me the truth is far more interesting than McAfee’s doubletalk. My piece only scratched the surface; Johnson could have found a lot more if he’d bothered to look.

    • Joel Johnson says:

      Jeff, your accusation is unfair. I *do* think McAfee is charming and said as much in the piece; I also think the Fast Company piece was angled toward attack. (I don’t think your evidence of duplicity were as cut-and-dried as your FC piece made them out to be. Certainly some things, like the sea wall accusation, turned out to be simply incorrect.)

      I’m not entirely happy with the piece myself, in large part because I feel like I traversed much of the same ground as you did and reached similar conclusions about McAfee’s temperament. But to say outright that I chose to spin the story in a certain direction because I didn’t “bother to look” for more is a needless insult and not warranted.

      I also think that it’s entirely possible that the medicines being developed by Quorumex work. (They do exhibit anti-QS effects in the lab…albeit only in Quorumex’s lab so far.)

      But my own personal experiences with the product have shown it to be–even if it does everything they claim it does–to be of only moderate utility and said as much in the piece. So if there’s credulity in the piece it’s on purpose. There was nothing to indicate to me that McAfee and company are spending the time and money to develop a product they don’t believe has some use.

      Based on our previous conversation, I don’t think we disagree much about McAfee’s tendency to be a blowhard and–if it suits him–a liar. But I think it’s a mistake to presume that every last thing he touches is a sham. In fact, I feel that’s McAfee’s most tragic quality: his insecure bravado and attempts to outwit end up sullying things that might stand up better on their own merit. Again, I think I made that very clear in the piece.

      I think it’s likely that his move to Belize was influenced in part by the lawsuits past and present. Whether or not that’s a dick move is hard to suss. The wrongful-death suit, in particular, seems less baldly wicked than your FC piece implied. It’s a pity that there was an accident, but let’s remember that it was an accident that occurred while someone was willingly flying (with a trainer pilot) an ultralight airplane through a canyon. It’s a tragedy, but both Joel Gordon Bitow and Robert Gilson knew they were doing something risky. Running out of the country to hide from a lawsuit may be a stereotypical rich guy douche move, but in that particular case it’s hard for me not to empathize with McAfee.

  4. Xenu says:

    Sounds like Bactine to me.

  5. Ugly Canuck says:

    I query the quorum, and I pity the fool.

    (Great, now I feel like Mr.T.)

  6. bhtooefr says:

    Never mind that with the anti-quorum-sensing meds, you’ll be slower and feel sicker than if you just had the bacteria in the first place. And, you’d get ads saying that your anti-quorum-sensing med prescription is about to run out, and you should pay $29.95 to update it, or you’ll be left unprotected.

    And, occasionally, a bad batch of meds will be released that instantly kills every white male office worker over the age of 30, turning them blue.

  7. Eicos says:

    We don’t need another alcohol-based antibiotic solution. Just by itself, alcohol is already better than antibiotic – it’s antiseptic, and will kill EVERYTHING on the skin. The problem with antibiotic resistance is that we are seeing a lot of dermal/subdermal/systemic infections that can’t be licked with the usual systemic antibiotics. But an alcohol-based solution is obviously unsuitable for systemic use, so what’s the point?

    I suppose McAfee is unsatisfied only producing snake-oil for computers, and has decided to whip up a batch for the users as well.

    • wgmleslie says:

      No, alcohol is a weak antiseptic.

      “Old-fashioned soap and water are better than antiseptic wipes and alcohol rubs in removing Clostridium difficile, according to a study by McGill University researcher Matthew Oughton, MD”

      “The efficacy of most alcohol-based hand antiseptics approximates simple hand washing. In addition, many alcohol-based hand antiseptics have very poor activity against bacterial spores, protozoan cysts and certain non-enveloped viruses, such as noroviruses.”

      (My wife is a surgeon and she goes on a lot about how poor alcohol is.)

      • Eicos says:

        Alcohol isn’t a weak antiseptic – it’s just not as good as Betadine or other surgical antiseptics. Anyway, my point wasn’t that alcohol is a great antiseptic, but that we have perfectly good antiseptics already, and what we really need are novel classes of broad-spectrum, systemic antibiotics.

    • sally599 says:

      Its not an antibiotic it just changes bacterial gene expression–they will still be there just not expressing critical factors that allow them to hurt you so they’d be more like commensals. Its a great idea if it works.

  8. daen says:

    Surely some form of independent validated testing would be the way forward here? And it’s not the job of competing researchers to test free samples of they-don’t-know-what from journalists, so I’m not especially surprised that they turned down the opportunity. There’s not a mention of any kind of testing on the Quorumex website, so I’m presuming they aren’t going to do any, or that they have done some and the results aren’t good. Sounds like yet another eye-rollingly dubious “natural remedy”.

  9. Pliny the Elder says:

    This product sounds pretty fishy, but the science behind it is pretty interesting. Here’s an awesome TED talk by Bonnie Bassler explaining it:

    • Jerril says:

      That’s not so much “the science behind it”, as “the science behind the wild claims it makes”.

      So far, the science behind it appears to be “alcohol kills microbes”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes! I hate hearing “the science behind it is pretty interesting” considering how many bullshit products, medical or otherwise make “quantum” or other vague scientific claims.

        Sorry dude, no matter how much you talk about entanglement, your homeopathy or copper bracelet is snake oil.

  10. mr.skeleton says:

    Interesting! As a side note, I can’t imagine this sort of relatively long-form article will generate enough pageviews to be financially justifiable- unless maybe if it’s headlined by some bikini babes on the Belize beach. I hope to see more like this on Gizmodo, though!

  11. IWood says:

    Put it in the D.C. water supply and watch government grind to a halt!

    • Church says:

      “Put it in the D.C. water supply and watch government grind to a halt!”

      Actually, assuming it works, the DC water supply could use it.

    • Eicos says:

      Very good!!! Although, I am not sure how something can grind to a halt when it was never moving in the first place.

  12. SamSam says:

    So is this stuff going to be downloadable as a free update for his antivirus software? Or is he going to make us pay for it?

    I don’t need McAfee’s anti-quorum stuff anyway, because Macs don’t get viruses.

  13. PFlint says:

    Keep using this stuff, and eventually bacteria will convert to simple majority.

  14. binarypipe says:

    Hello World… Wake up it’s time for 420 if you are not already on meds for delusion…

    If one has any cache or hoard of notes in the US, I can wander down to the court house and for about $38 stake my claim to your fortune for any perceived wrong, else I can call the police with your license plate and sue your insurance company leaving you to deal with a quagmire.

    Anyone with anything is a target in a society of scammers and lets face it — things haven’t got worse yet,- but they will.

    McAfee’s retreat from the US of A was more a indication of the failure of American ‘civilized’ society and a corrupt legal system than it is running to Belize to dousche himself of his legal woes.

    Its simply a matter of being safe. Being able to protect ones self and whats left of their good fortune; BUT, most importantly to protect their sanity by bailing on a broken system that extends and pretends to have justice.

    Trading paper for coins is advisable,- at least you can melt them into a projectile. Something that may be needed in the months ahead. Seek peace.

  15. Dr.Adonizio says:

    I’d like to address some concerns of the public if I may…I’ll direct you to my gizmodo comment as well:

    1) In direct answer to this article’s title: YES, quorum sensing meds work.

    There has been a multitude of research behind anti-quorum sensing agents, both academic and industrial. I encourage all of you to please do the legwork and try to understand the science before you comment. My publications can be found easily on PubMed and I’ve referenced a number of review articles on the science of QS therein.

    There are US and worldwide patents on anti-QS compounds. I hold one for my previous research, as does the “Queen” of quorum sensing herself – Dr. Bonnie Bassler. Major companies in the US have research projects either to build anti-QS agents de novo, or to pull them from a screen of existing compounds. Our approach is different…find them in nature. This work is valid, and it is exciting.

    2) Ethanol has nothing to do with the activity of our product, or other anti-QS formulations.

    We could have made this product water-based – it would still be effective. We chose to work with ethanol because it is easier to work with in the lab AND because it DOES act as a first-line antiseptic. Once the ethanol evaporates off the skin, the active compounds remain bound to the wound, protecting against further infection. Again, I would ask the readers to please review the basic science behind solvent extraction and the role of a “control” in disc-diffusion assays.

    3) I am unclear as to why there is such a negativity surrounding these articles.

    If the scientific obscurities are illuminated (I hope I have helped a bit), than that leaves the personal. It is unfortunate that many readers in the US are choosing to ignore ground-breaking science (not just ours, but the entire FIELD of quorum sensing research), for a personal attack on McAfee. It is unfortunate that the US chooses to watch “RealityTV” over the Discovery channel…This is precisely why we have based our company elsewhere, and though I can’t speak for McAfee, I can see why he would choose to live elsewhere as well.

    I challenge the reader to re-direct to a more intelligent subject of debate, and to please follow us online at

    Thank you,

    Dr. A

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