Tag Archives: colonised

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.

Why we never recognise our biggest ever threat

Asteroid crashing
Oh,oh. The end of the world is already here – inside our own bodies

Yeah, yeah – what we don’t know won’t hurt us.

Yet.

Kinda like the ostrich with it’s head stuck in the sand.

If we can’t see it, it isn’t there.

Like NASA’s quarter-mile wide “Great Pumpkin” Halloween asteroid set to graze past Earth at 22 miles per second in a near miss of barely 300,000 miles on October 31st.

Invisible, unthinkable

Don’t expect to see it without a radio telescope. Or hear a bang. Or anything.

It’s so far out of sight – and out of mind – it might as well not exist.

We recognise it as a threat though.

Someday, some monstrous piece of space junk will come hurtling through the atmosphere – and that will be us, gone the way of the dinosaurs. Like the WTF anomaly that’s supposed to wipe us out on this year’s third Friday 13th, next month in November.

Unless we can stop it. Which believe or not, our li’l old UK government is planning to do. Guess that Bruce Willis Armageddon movie woke up some back-benchers.

The end of the world is nigh

But it’s not an asteroid that’s going to nix us. Something much more deadly is already here and active. Equally out of sight, and equally out of mind. And from the way we’re going, we’re not doing a damn thing to protect ourselves.

Funny that. In our security-obsessed ‘Elf & Safety world – seems we do nothing without some kind of protection.

Chefs wear oven gloves. Cyclists wear crash helmets. Kids wear goggles for conker fights. Just about everything we do has protective clothing or safety devices to stop us coming to harm.

Except from ourselves.

We safeguard ourselves from cold with central heating. Wear gas masks to protect us from carbon monoxide. But we are our own worst enemy and don’t even know it. Out of sight, in plain view, right there in the mirror.

OK, so we stare – some people are really self-obsessed with it. But nobody sees, ever.

They think they’re looking at the image of a human being.

Yeah, well. That’s only 10% true.

We’re all of us, aliens

The rest is 90% bacteria – trillions and trillions of individually invisible microbes that outnumber our human body cells by more than 10 to 1. Which makes that reflection in the mirror as alien as a slithering 20-tentacled extraterrestrial. Face it, we just don’t know ourselves.

What, bacteria? Shock, horror! We’re already doomed.

Uh huh. Unlax, Doc – as Bugs Bunny would say.

We actually need those bacteria – even live in partnership with them. About the biggest outsourcing arrangement of all time – on the go for millions of years. They help us digest food, produce proteins, keep our system in balance and even regulate our body defences for us.

Huh? Defences?

Sure. Most of the time they see off enemy bugs by crowding them out. Otherwise they fight or eat them.

Because there’s deadly pathogens in our bodies all the time – harmful bacteria, dangerous viruses, fearsome fungi. As long as they’re passive and keep their heads down, nothing happens. But let our bodies get out of balance and they let rip. Infection, disease, or just plain feeling sick – all ready to go.

Yeah well, there’s not much we can do about the pathogens inside us, apart from keeping healthy, so long as they stay schtum.

Trouble is, it’s not just our bodies that are colonised with bacteria – it’s everywhere. Every object every surface, every living thing – inside and out – even the air itself is teeming. Billions and billions of microbes all looking for a place to live.

Colonised – full house

Inside our bodies if they could – but that’s already occupied.

So the next best thing is to invade where possible. Through a hole in our defences from mishap or injury. Or more often, breathed in from the air – or on something we eat.

Breathed in, yeah – we know about colds and flu and stuff. And the heavy-hitters, anthrax, chickenpox, measles and TB.

Most of the time OK – air spreads things out, disperses them more widely so they’re not all together – and one or two single germs can’t crack it by themselves – there have to be 10 or 20, depending on how potent they are. And how concentrated – which is why being in a smallpox ward without a facemask is not a good idea.

Ah, but eating stuff. What protection do we have?

For the average Tom, Dick and Harriet – absolutely zero. Because it’s a shocking fact of life that pretty well all of us – 95% of us – don’t ever wash our hands properly.

And our hands, like everything else are covered in germs. Unless we wash them off, those germs go down the hatch, straight into our digestive system. Too many bacteria of the wrong kind in the wrong place – certain disaster.

Which is when we usually run to the Doc for antibiotics – and why this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria!

The miracle that became a disaster

Whoops – antibiotics. A whole disaster story, right there.

Once upon a time, they were the fairy tale miracle drugs – the fix-all for everything. Farmers thought so too – especially in putting weight on animals for market. Beef, pork, poultry – you name it, antibiotics brought the profits rolling in.

Fifty years later, the world is drunk on antibiotics – obsessed and paying the price. 65,000 tons of them are used on farms every year. Totally overused and abused so that bugs are resistant to them – so that routine surgery is almost not possible any more. Even the smallest cut risks major infection.

Even worse, antibiotics have inundated the food-chain. There’s antibiotic traces in everything we eat – even in plants, from the recycling of animal waste.

Net result? We’re not as tough as we were fifty years ago. Not as resilient to bugs – with lower resistance, more susceptible diseases and infections. Our systems haven’t been exposed since infancy, our immune systems no longer learn or remember.

Paying the price

Remember norovirus? Never heard of it before 1968 – now it’s with us every year, the winter vomiting bug. Last week Barrow, this week Scarborough – with guest appearances on the cards up and down the country all through the season.

Forget to wash your hands – and you too can be one of the thousands to come down with it this year. Or e.coli, or salmonella, or campylobacter, or c.difficile – take your pick from the regular stomach upsets.

ALL OF THEM AVOIDABLE with the simplest of basic hygiene.

So here we are in the Twenty-First Century, a human catastrophe staring us in the face – and doing nothing about it.

We don’t wash our hands. We’re not even aware that each of us trails our own cloud of bacteria around with us like an aura. That in places where we gather together, we’re all exposed and vulnerable to each other. At work, at school, in restaurants – and of course, hospitals.

OK if we’re all of us in balance – but nearly every one of us has some underlying condition or weakness in our systems – the weak link to let bugs in and attack us.

Alright, so most of us are untouched – not immune, but able to handle things.

But some of us are vulnerable – and any infection, even from a papercut, can be fatal. Ever heard of sepsis? It’s the worst blood poisoning in the world, immune system in total meltdown – a common and potentially life-threatening infection.

Rescue in sight

But there is a defence. An effective fail-safe, even though our own hygiene standards are so lax. Because it’s not just our hands we forget to wash – when was the last time you wiped down your desk? Or disinfected the washing-up bowl and dishrack?

It’s called a Hypersteriliser and it sprays ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide everywhere in a room, destroying all germs in the air and on surfaces – oxidising them to nothing so the whole place is sterile.

So at last, you’re safe. Even if your system is down, nothing can get you.

Relax, you’ll live.