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- Why we need to learn to love the microbe
- Jason Tetro
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A: I think sensationalism is too strong a word. The media have a job to perform when it comes to outbreaks and other associated actions, such as recalls.
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Depending on the nature of the pathogen, you may get some advice on how you can prevent infection, but not always. I would like to see more coverage on how this bug was given the opportunity to make you sick. Was it due to bad farming practices? Antibiotic misuse? Lack of proper hygiene in crowds?
For every human outbreak, there is usually a human factor, whether we like it or not.
I believe that if the how and why behind an outbreak were presented, then the reports would be more balanced. Q: Why do we need germs to survive? A: It may seem hard to believe but we have a life-long relationship with them.
Why we need to learn to love the microbe
From the moment we are born, we are colonized with germs and soon, they outnumber our own cells by a factor of nine to one. We call this collection of microbes in and on the body the microbiome. These microbes help us to digest food, they can keep our skin healthy and in some cases free from insect bites, and even help our teeth stay strong. But most of all, they help us stay healthy on the inside. We are still learning all the ways germs are involved in our well-being, but we do know that they are involved in gut health as well as cardiovascular and even psychological health. Q: How do you feel about the flu shot?
Is it safe? A: The flu shot is one of those hotly debated topics where both sides of the argument have some pretty valid points. While I would definitely say that the flu shot can help to reduce the chances of catching the flu, I believe it is a personal choice and should be made after consulting with a doctor or health professional. While the incidence of side effects are low, as we saw with the pandemic flu vaccine and the higher incidence of narcolepsy , they could be very problematic. Q: What do you think of parents who opt out of immunizations for their children? Is this a step backward for us?
A: In contrast to the flu vaccine, others such as those against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, meningitis and chicken pox should be considered imperative for both individual and population-based prevention of illness. There are, however, possibilities for adverse effects and as such, consultations with a doctor or health professional should be done before taking even these vaccines.
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What are a few simple steps we should take to reduce the spread of infectious germs and educate people to keep them more safe? A: I believe that the first step is to recognize microbes as being in a relationship with humans. For far too long we were at war with them but it has clearly been the wrong approach.
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We also need to realize that diversity breeds health. Of the millions of germs that exist, only about 1, can harm us. If we can find a way to fill our bodies and our environment with good germs, then we can keep the bad ones away and live healthier. Granted, we all will still get sick but the frequency would drop as would the severity and possibly the number of deaths.
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Finally, I think we need to re-examine our lifestyle and return to one that fosters a good relationship with germs. Tetro touches on researchers who have trekked to the edges of the earth to study them — but these characters become little more than names, and there is something lost in not bringing into focus the humans who discovered these germs. As well, the great germ-related questions of our time are not explored. Right now, the pipeline for antibiotics is dry while antibiotic-resistant diseases are emerging in many settings around the world.
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Are people wasting their hard-earned money? Has the science caught up with these costly applications? Will our digestive systems really rejoice with probiotic supplements? Difficile, arguing for a turn away from the war on germs is a worthy endeavor.
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