I’ve been meaning to point you all to this since Part I went up at Dr. Tara’s place. It’s very cool, if a bit creepy. I just keep getting distracted with birthday stuff.
Since I’ve managed to wear out the girls (yes, plural – I’ll come back to that in another post, so stop distracting me!) and they are currently passed out in bed, I figure this is a good time to take care of this.
As part of the “Basics” series the ScienceBloggers are doing, Aunt Dr. Tara teaches about the difference between “commensal” and “pathenogenic” micro-organisms. She does such a wonderful job explaining the difference and why the difference is important, that even I understand it. And the line between them isn’t always so easy to draw, and she also touches on why that is.
Here’s the creepy part, though:
Though microbes tend to get a bad rap as causes of disease, the vast, vast majority of them are harmless. Indeed, an enormous amount of them live amongst us: these are your “normal flora”. By the numbers, our body is more bacterial than human by a factor of about ten to one. They live in every possible niche on and within our bodies: on our skin; in our mouth, nose, and throat; in our gastrointestinal tract; in our genitourinary tract; in our conjunctiva. They are with us from the moment we are born to the moment we die, typically causing us no ill effects.
Except maybe nightmares now.
The second part of this series is appropriately titled The Basics: You and Your Normal Flora, Part II,
In this part Aunt Dr. Tara talks about some other approaches to finding out more about the weird critters crawling around inside us, quietly doing stuff behind our backs, making sure we never really know just what they’re up to or when they’re about to …
Where was I?
Oh yes, micro-organisms, and the people who love them.
So, I left off on Tuesday noting two things about our normal flora: 1) that in the big picture, we know hardly anything about them; and 2) that one reason we know so little about them is because we’ve never grown many of them in a laboratory setting–that is, we’ve never cultured them using our typical tools of the trade.
What’s one way to remedy this? Eliminate the need for culture, and take some cues from the microbial ecologists.
There are plans for another sequel, so stay tuned.