The Human Microbiome: What Am I Made Of? Part 2

Microscope12.24.2014

Written by: Selective Micro Technologies

The study of microbiology and immunology has been prominently researched since the 1600’s, and notably advanced when Anton van Leeuwenhoek created the microscope. While many hypothesized that there was something causing illness and disease, no one had been able to demonstrate any microbe’s tangible existence, however, until such were first discovered under the microscope. It was now measurable and verifiable that these microbe’s were living, moving organisms!

Scientific Findings

It was a discovery that not only changed the face of medicine, but also scientific research. The reason for this was because identifying that there was a distinct cause to illnesses. Further, there was an abundance of different kinds of organisms--permitted for research and medicine--to adapt to treating the different microbes (or bugs) in different ways. Therefore, medicines could be more adequately engineered to target microorganisms.

As the field of microbiology expanded, many scientific discoveries were made. For instance, it was discovered that the cause of Necrotizing Fasciitis (flesh-eating illness) is from an assortment of bacteria like group A streptococcus, staphylococcus, clostridium and a few others. While it may seem that you would never want to come into contact with these organisms, one might be surprised to find out that these organisms are very commonly found living on perfectly healthy people.

In this part 2 of the “What am I made of?” series, we are going to explore the different kinds of normal bacteria that make our bodies their home.  

What Am I Made Of: Bacteria

Staph infections carry a terrible reputation for causing horrible infections and even killing people, but do you know that more than likely, you have some sort of staph bacteria in or on your body right now? Not all pathogens cause disease. This is better explained in an article called “NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body” on the NIH website. The article describes that “nearly everyone routinely carries pathogens, microorganisms known to cause illnesses.

In healthy individuals, however, pathogens cause no disease; they simply coexist with their host and the rest of the human microbiome, the collection of all microorganisms living in the human body. Researchers must now figure out why some pathogens turn deadly and under what conditions, likely revising current concepts of how microorganisms cause disease.” The bacteria actually aid in immunity and play quite an important role in our overall health.

Good and Bad Bacteria

These bacteria do not always make us sick. Case in point is that there are a lot of very healthy people in the world who, if swabbed, would be found to have large amounts of bacteria in and on their bodies. There are different kinds of bacteria that can be relatively un-harmful bacteria and also others which are identifiably harmful bacteria. E. coli, Staphylococci such as MRSA, and Streptococci such as Group A, are common instigators of illness and are considered such harmful bacteria.

You can have bacteria living on your body, such as Staph, that doesn’t cause illness unless ingested or if it enters your bloodstream through an open wound. Identifiably un-harmful bacteria have been found all throughout the human body. For example, there are many kinds of bacteria that are specific to the human gut that actually aid in the digestive process, like Lactobacillus.

Chlorine dioxide and healthcare

We Need Microbes!

According to the book Medical Microbiology, “The intestinal microflora is a complex ecosystem containing over 400 bacterial species.” Further it explains the role of the types of bacteria located in the human gut, which includes intestinal bacteria which are “a crucial component of the enterohepatic circulation in which metabolites that are conjugated in the liver and excreted in the bile are deconjugated in the intestine by bacterial enzymes, then absorbed across the mucosa and returned to the liver in the portal circulation.

Many drugs and endogenous compounds undergo enterohepatic circulation. Antibiotics that suppress the flora can alter the fecal excretion and hence the blood levels of these compounds. The flora also plays a role in fiber digestion and synthesizes certain vitamins.” Just by this example of the intestinal bacteria alone, essentially, without certain types of good bacteria or what is considered normal flora of the human microbiome, our bodies wouldn’t function as well. We aren’t who we are without microbes!

For more information, here is a great infographic detailing the bacteria found in our daily life.

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