Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Scientist: I am Legion

Microbes make you who you are today. Down to the last cell of your whole body. I found that hard to believe so I read on. It seems that germs, which we believe are the cause of many diseases and infections, are not our enemies after all. They do in fact, shape our physical and mental development. A single human being is a large ecosystem for the bacteria and other microbes which function according to its conditions. This may be an explanation as to why sometimes, germs actually cause symptoms that may seem like a disease which may in actual fact be just a misunderstanding of species since each has a specific niche in the environment.

The most prevalent bacteria are in our gut known as E.Coli. They hydrolyse several carbohydrates and proteins so they can be absorbed by the body and in turn receive their own specific nutrients. This is defined as mutualism or a symbiotic relationship of sorts. The average human is home to 100 trillion microbes. Mostly harmless bacteria but it is still a large number.They outnumber your own cells 10 to 1 mostly due to human cells being much larger due to being eukaryotic. It may also be possible that different strains of bacteria develop in different human beings due to variations in diet and lifestyle in general. Of course we must also take into account that the immune system must be able to distinguish between between our own microbes and foreign ones. This must mean that we have it built into our would-be programming to recognize particular microbes and reject others.

This new knowledge may change the way we think of infectious diseases as well the microbes which cause them. We must be extra vigilante to recognize this particular difference.

It seems that New Scientist has now instituted a login and password to read their articles so I urge all of you to make an account there.


Maciek said...

A good one.