Tag Archives: bio-cloud

Helicopter Mums brace for predictable school flu

Anxio0us woman pilot
Whatever’s going down, no way any of that’s happening to my kids

What goes around, comes around.

Which makes it kind of inevitable that whatever of this year’s flu variations little Johnny brought back on that long-haul holiday in Australia, Holly and Maisie are going to come down with it.

It’s the season

Thirty kids in the same classroom for most of the day, windows closed because it’s British summer time, and too early for the central heating to turn on – there’s a swirling mush of germs in there just waiting to grab the right victim.

Not necessarily picked up during the day either – because little Johnny’s Mum trained him to sneeze into his elbow and avoid spreading germs. No air-to-air contact there.

Nothing off his desk either – because little Johnny’s Mum always has a go at him about washing his hands. The other kids think he’s hyper, but little Johnny’s Mum is kinda big and thick-set – and they’ve heard she referees rugby matches.

Forgotten habit

Not that they do the hand wash thing themselves, but they leave little Johnny alone and let him get on with it. Besides, it’s raining outside and little Johnny makes it one too many for indoor football. Plus he’s not looking so good, so leave him out of it.

Isolation but not quarantine.

Because when all those kids go home, they leave their bio-trace behind them, part of their personal biomes.

Not heard of biomes?

That’s the bio-cloud each and every one of us carries around with us. We’re not really ourselves you see, more bacteria than human – our body cells are outnumbered by resident bacteria colonies more than 10 to 1.

Our other selves

Over 100 trillion of these guys live harmoniously inside us, deep down in our gut. We do the eating – they do the heavy lifting of food digestion and assimilating it into the bloodstream. Weird but it works – a synergistic partnership we’ve lived with since we were prehistoric slime.

Trillions more of them cluster outside us – on our skin, in our clothes, and trailing around us in a kind of flowing aura. As we move around, this bio-cloud follows us – an invisible mish-mash of viruses and bacteria – some good, some bad. All swirling around and wisping, like biological smoke.

Walk into a room and this bio-cloud immediately takes possession of the space, making it our own. Twenty minutes, and the room is ours, as samples from any biological probe will quickly prove. More of us – and there’s a jumble, the clouds constantly fighting to outdo each other.

Walk out of the room though, and whole eddies of this mish-mash are left behind. Floating and drifting because they’re lighter than air – only 0.00002 of a millimetre across – they hover just like the kids’ own helicopter Mums, waiting for somebody new to walk in and be colonised.

Spread and multiply

Lingering germs, right?

Which is how come any one of the kids in that class could catch a bug, even if little Johnny is kept home. The flu virus that does it can survive in the air for up to a week if it has to. Plenty time to grab another victim and spread.

More flu germs in the air, more chance to catch them – no wonder whole schools of kids come down with it. Except the littlie ones of course, they get the flu jab up to the age of four.

Yeah, but too young for Johnny.

Heavy sighs from the helicopter Mums. They’ve seen it happen every year.

But it doesn’t have to.

Hygiene hero to the rescue

Zap the classroom with a Hypersteriliser each night and the place is completely sterile. All viruses and bacteria totally destroyed, nothing from little Johnny’s biome to pass on to anyone.

Totally safe, it works by misting up the room with a fine plasma mist of hydrogen peroxide. The germs get oxidised and die, turning the stuff back into oxygen and water – the water evaporates – room cleared, job done.

Less chance of picking up an infection, less chance of a bug that brings down the whole school.

There’s still the hand washing thing of course.

And just because little Johnny does it, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Never mind coughs and sneezes, it’s dirty hands that spread infections faster than anything. Those other kids better wise up fast or they’re going to look pretty miserable.

Which of course is what helicopter Mums are for – even if they don’t all referee rugby.

Oh yeah, which reminds us – enjoy the World Cup!

Originally posted 2015-09-04 15:03:51.

Yes, we NEED germs – but only in the right place

Girl with glow
With germs, the impossible could be closer than we think

Start with the mirror.

You think that’s you, don’t you?

Well y-e-s, but not entirely.

In fact, far from entirely.

Because our own human body cells are outnumbered by bacteria more than 100 to 1. Every one of them living inside us and actually helping us live. If they weren’t there, we wouldn’t survive.

Not who we think we are

Surprised?

Yeah well, the entire world’s like that. Every living thing is home to whole hosts of bacteria essential to existence. Which makes bacteria way more important than most of us ever think. We’re not infected with them, we’re colonised by them.

So our paranoia about destroying them is most unwise.

Uh huh.

Think again

So how come this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria? Isn’t that about getting rid of microorganisms?

Far from it.

Reality Number One. Bacteria are vitally necessary for every living function.

But not ALL bacteria are appropriate in every situation.

Campylobacter for instance, occurs naturally in poultry – 75% of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and wild birds have it in their gut. Somehow it helps in the digestion of whatever they eat – processing the grit perhaps, or balancing natural sugars.

In humans however, campylobacter is highly pathogenic – the most common cause of food poisoning. In the UK alone, 300,000 people die from it every year.

OK, you can see the connection. Chicken is a highly popular source of cheap protein – so the whole food industry is up in arms about the contamination of our top of the pops menu choice.

Contamination, schm-ontamination.

It occurs naturally in birds, right? It’s SUPPOSED to be there.

So what’s the problem?

Everybody, the Food Safety Agency, producers, supermarkets, chefs, restaurants – all know that if you cook chicken properly, all campylobacter is destroyed. Those wings, drumsticks and nuggets are totally safe to eat.

And again

So, Reality Number Two. Bacteria are only beneficial when they’re in the right place.

Which is why this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria!

Back Off, Bacteria! Get back to where you belong.

There are over 500 microbe types that colonise our gut – bacteriods, peptococci, staphylococci, streptococci, bacilli, clostridia, yeasts, enterobacteria, fuzobacteria, eubacteria, catenobacteria, etc – we don’t need a rogue outsider coming in and upsetting the apple cart.

As long as a bacterium is in the right place, that’s OK.

But the wrong place needs action if you don’t want to sicken and die.

Which is why – first line of defence – you should wash your hands so you don’t ingest some harmful killer bug you can’t see.

And second – you should sterilise your surrounding environment so any other dangerous pathogens can’t invade you any other way.

Out of sight, out of mind

No, it’s not rocket science. But since viruses and bacteria are too small to see, they’re just not on anybody’s radar. Nobody sees any danger, so there isn’t any.

Mistake. The wrong bacterium in the wrong place can kill you as efficiently as any bullet. And just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there – how about cholera, tetanus or TB?

So back to earth. Bacteria are simple, not second-guessing the whole universe all the time like we do.

All they do is eat. And when they can’t find the right food, they eat us – which is what infection is.

They’re also programmed to survive, just like we are. Except they work in minutes and hours, not decades. And they’ve been around for billions of years longer so they’re a hell of a lot better at it.

If one cell dies off, its offspring will carry on. And on, and on, and on – more persistently than we humans ever even get close to.

And you’d better believe it, since they outnumber our own body cells more than 100 to 1, they’re the ones calling the shots, not us.

Who’s the boss?

Think it’s your brain telling the body what to do?

Where do you think we get gut feel from, or the physical symptoms that are triggered by stress?

Butterflies in your tummy? The bacteria are apprehensive, they want to survive. They’re warning you. Don’t do whatever you’re planning to do because there’s danger or unpleasantness ahead.

Yeah, your brain can override them, but at what cost? Acid tummy, shaking muscles, nerves shot to pieces. These guys know which strings to pull – and they do.

Again, Back Off, Bacteria – we’ve got other priorities to satisfy. Like getting through that interview, or proposing to your sweetheart – not all going into combat, or jumping off a cliff.

Magical powers

Bacteria may even have “magic” qualities that makes us think of the supernatural.

As regular readers of this blog will know, bacteria carry a tiny electrical charge positive on the outside, negative on the inside.

It’s this charge that enables negatively-charged ionised hydrogen peroxide molecules to latch onto them only the fly – oxidising them to oblivion in one of the most efficient room sterilising procedures ever.

Researchers have also found that the electrical charge in bacteria like e. coli can actually generate light – creating flashes like Christmas tree lights.

Put that together with the fact that we’re always surrounded by a “bio-cloud” of billions and billions of bacteria all the time – and it’s possible that under the right conditions we really do generate a visible aura.

Better still, as bacteria respond to our changing body conditions, the electrical charge they put out could vary, changing the actual colour of this aura. Maybe not a myth any more, but genuine reality.  All those child prodigies, swamis and spiritual mediums might have been right all along.

So yeah – germs, we need ’em.

Let’s just make sure we keep them in a safe place.

Originally posted 2015-08-19 18:32:28.

As deadly as any terrorist, and in our workplace now

Killer in keffiyeh
The enemy within – we never know where they’ll strike – but they will if they get the chance

They’re right here, all around us.

Milling about, following our every move. No just stalking us – hanging on to our clothes, our skin, our hair, the immediate air around us.

Horror in the air

If you’ve seen the horrific pictures in the paper recently, you’ll know what we mean – the spray clouds of droplets and snot violently discharged by an ordinary everyday sneeze.

Germs, right? Billions and billions of them. Gross.

Except what we don’t see are the billions and billions more ejected in the “invisible gas phase” – tiny drops full of pathogens, hardly 10 micrometres across – small enough to spread 200 times further than previously thought, enough to cover any room and reach the ventilation ducts meant to purify them.

Yeah, shocking. We should all carry handkerchiefs. Stop this spread right before it starts.

Except it’s not just droplets from sneezes that are billowing in our office air.

Germs, germs, everywhere

Every one of us trails an invisible but teeming aura of microbes – bacteria, yeast, cells, and cell parts constantly given off by the body. A hodgepodge of good germs and bad, our own personal bio-signature.

All of which are in addition to the germs already in our office – lurking on desks and phones and everything else. As many as 10 million of them on every surface. A seething morass of common viruses and bacteria – e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, cold and flu viruses and norovirus – any one of which could put you in hospital or kill you altogether.

A daily threat just as deadly as any terrorist bullet. And we don’t even know it’s there.

OK, fine – the body’s immune system is hard at it, keeping all these bugs at bay. Most of the time nothing happens.

Until you start wondering why just about everybody in the office goes off sick four or five times a year – always an empty desk, colleagues out of action longer than their holidays – with a sick bill for country of £29 billion a year.

Uh huh. Worse than any terrorist opening up with an AK47. 1.8% of the population out of action – that’s 1.17 million people – and anything upwards of 2,000 deaths.

All-out counter attack

So what do we do about it?

If yours is the average office – vacuum the floors, empty the waste-baskets and wipe down the desks – that’s it.

Yeah right, we’re going to stop a terrorist attack with a dirty rag?

How about we bring in a Hypersteriliser and do the job properly?

Get everybody out at the end of the day – then mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide, so that all those viruses and bacteria are oxidised to nothing.

Forty minutes a room, that’s all it takes. After which the whole place is sterile. No hovering bugs to breathe or touch – no residual sneezes to take us down.

Every surface – even the air itself – is totally germ-free. Including all those nasties left behind from greasy fingers (burgers for lunch, cream doughnuts at coffee break) on keypads and light switches.

OK, so we’ll bring a whole load new germs with us when we waltz in tomorrow – our personal bio-cloud never leaves us.

But we won’t catch any bug left behind from yesterday’s work session – not even from the unlucky ones who caught one already and aren’t making it in today.

Yeah, take that, terrorist germs!

We aren’t scared of you – get lost!