Moms around the world are armed with anti-bacterial gels, sprays, and baby blankets, diligently protecting their children from nasty forms of bacteria. But, recent clinical research shows that society’s anti-bacterial and anti-infection crusade makes children and adults more likely to develop asthma, allergies, antibiotic-resistant infections, and even perhaps, mental illness.
Dr. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, argues that all living things on the earth must have infections to thrive, and society’s challenge is to sort the good infections from the bad infections. People’s love affair with anti-bacterial products is changing how immune systems, gastrointestinal systems, and even the nervous systems develop and function…and not for the better!
“Microorganisms shape the lives of all living things and infections steer the course of the world. Most people understand that infections are at the root of many terrible diseases like malaria and leprosy, but they may also play a significant role in many chronic ailments (including some which may surprise you) such as schizophrenia, ulcers, and obsessive-compulsive disorder”, said Callahan, an immunology professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Infections actually ensure our health!
What most people may not realize is that most infections ensure our health instead of compromising it. Mitochondria are cellular organelles commonly referred to in cellular biology as the ‘powerhouse of a cell’ because they take fats and sugars and make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the chemical energy produced within each one of our body’s cells that literally gives us life…..no ATP equals death. High school biology students may learn about Mitochondria as part of the cell, but they may not know that Mitochondria are actually bacteria! Yes, that’s right, they are not only a symbiotic strain of bacteria, they are actually life-giving.
We need our bacteria.
In fact, humans have 10 times more bacterial cells within their bodies than they have human cells. Without bacteria, humans would not exist. “Before we knew the important role that infections play, we knew only about things like rabies and polio and yellow fever. Because of our limited knowledge, when Fleming finally introduced penicillin (a mold we use to produce anti-biotics) in 1945, we went crazy and began to take anti-biotics like penicillin for every little cough and cold and later to produce anti-bacterial soaps, wipes, and gels to slather onto everything, including our own bodies. Now we are paying our dues for this overreaction.
Not long ago, all staph infections responded to methicillin, but within a few decades the widespread use of antibiotics has allowed the staph bacteria to adapt a new cellular structure…a new defense mechanism, and we humans have contributed greatly to the creation of this new superbug or super-bacteria (MRSA) which is resistant to this once powerful anti-biotic and all of its chemical relatives.
Callahan points out that there are more bacteria by far in this world than any other living thing. “We are the minority on this planet, and we must learn how to work with the majority if we are to survive.” F.Y.I. The word anti-biotic literally translates to mean “against life”.
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