Microbes at Work

According to an article published in the Washington Post Newspaper on October 11th, humans don't travel this world alone. Instead they have millions of companions called microbes who attach themselves to every part of the human organism.

Invasive Microbes Make Up Most of Our Bodies

Microbes and other microorganisms are resting on our skin and in our ears, noses and throats.They take residence in our mouths and nestle in our intestines. Most people's reaction upon hearing this news would be to take a very hot shower. But before turning on the spigot--consider this:

Without these fellow travelers working in our system, we would be riddled with all manner of diseases.For example; the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which lives on the skin, helps to get rid of eczema.

Streptococcus mitis, which lives in the mouth helps prevent oral cancers. Helicobacter pylori, which lives in the gastrointestinal tract, regulates two hormones that work to control obesity.

Bacteriodes fragilis works to keep the immune system working and the bacterium lactobacillus keeps women's vaginal tracts safe from vaginosis.

Recent Research is Discovering Some Amazing Data

According to the Post article, research conducted by the five-year $175 million-- U.S. Human Microbiome Project, is pointing to some interesting findings.

One such finding scientists are looking at is the effect of Ceasarean section deliveries on newborns. These infants don't travel through the mother's birth canal where they would pick up the mother's microbes and bacteria. These bacteria often protect. their babies from diseases such as asthma or food allergies.Could this explain the rising incidence of those ailments in children?

Researchers are currently comparing the health of babies born through C--section versus those who are delivered through the birth canal.

Another interesting finding is the role of microbes and bacteria in keeping the immune system healthy. Hyperactive immune systems cause inflammation and pain. Microorganisms keep the inflammation in check. They help to fight against autoimmune diseases such as colitis and multiple sclerosis--both serious afflictions.

Another serious affliction these days is obesity-- especially childhood obesity. Here too,microbes play an important role in controlling weight. These tiny organisms help to control digestive hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. These hormones assist in regulating metabolism and to produce the sensations of being hungry or full.

The widespread use, however, of antibiotics administered to sick children and the addition of antibiotics to animal feed to fatten up cattle and to produce more tasty cuts of meat for human consumption has produced negative effects.

Because of these well--meaning measures, 'good' bacteria are being destroyed and the digestive hormones can't work as well.The result----childhood obesity.

Even the brain isn't exempt from those bugs who attach themselves to us. In recent experiments done by both Swedish researchers and by a Canadian-- Irish team, intestinal bacteria also appear to influence brain chemistry and in their absence such behaviors as anxiety and depression seem to surface.

When scientists manipulated gut microbiomes in mice, the mice displayed more anxiety and stress than when their microbiomes were left undisturbed. Could the lack of these organisms also play a factor in the prevalence of autism and hyperactivity?

These questions will continue to bug scientists for quite some time. For the moment, however, it seems we should continue to welcome our invisible guests or at least the beneficial ones.


The Washington Post: 'Good Bugs may be Key to Staying Healthy, Rob Stein, October 11, 2011

Microbe Magazine:' NIH Builds Substantial Human Microbiome Project,' October, 2009

Health & Wellness -> Health Field -> Healthcare Research

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