I’m always bedazzled when I realize that we live in a bacterial world. Nothing shows quite so graphically the power of evolution. Bacteria, especially “friendly,” useful bacteria, are the dark matter of our lives. And we only become aware of them when they go missing and something goes wrong.
I’ve mentioned before the strange business of increasing rates of asthma and other allergic conditions in present-day children. Strangest of all is the fact that rural children, especially farm children, don’t seem to be affected. Those kids don’t suffer from the over-sterilized city world of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaning solutions. Apparently, when children are exposed to an enormous variety of bacteria from birth, they are protected from allergies to some degree.
Recently, research has begun to show that our protective bacteria inhabit every part of us they can get to, and that we contain enormous numbers and kinds of bacteria. These guys are being called a “microbiome,” and each of us has our own, different to some degree from everyone else’s.
We begin to pick up our own microbiome as we pass through our mothers’ birth canals. (Children born by Caesarian section have higher asthma rates than those born vaginally!) After birth, we continue to pick up bacteria from the air, from food, and all sorts of sources.. Every part of our bodies that is exposed to the outside becomes inhabited by an enormous variety of bacteria.
And it turns out we really need these bacteria for nutrition, for protection, for the proper functioning of our bodies. All those anti-bacterial products we use to get rid of “germs” are making some of us sick, or obese, or who knows what else?
A good example of people trying to re-do what the Cosmos has already done much better. We need more humility.