Bacteria are the good ones

Jan 14, 2021 | General

Bacteria are the good ones

The defamation of our best friends

Bacteria play an essential role in human evolution. Through their gene pool, we have been able to adapt to new environmental conditions over time and thus survive. Without the genetic material of bacteria and thus their extraordinary abilities, humans would have died out long ago.

100 trillion bacteria form the microbiome

The up to 100 trillion bacteria existing in our body exceed the number of our body cells by a factor of 100. Together they form the microbiome, which mainly comprises our intestinal flora, but nevertheless includes all regions of the body. There is hardly any region in humans that is completely sterile.

However, the term microbiome is not very familiar to scientists and interested non-experts. Therefore, it often seems more appropriate to speak of “good” and “bad” microorganisms. But here, too, a differentiation is not quite easy.

Good bacteria, bad bacteria

Good bacteria are microorganisms that have a positive function for the human body. This can be either direct or indirect. Thus, some microorganisms are only the necessary supporters of other positive bacteria, without which the other cannot survive, but do not themselves have a direct effect on humans. These symbioses almost always occur in bacterial communities.

Bad pathogens, on the other hand, are microorganisms that can cause harm to the body and cause infection or disease. This can be done by their massive multiplication or by secreting toxins, or by displacing good ones and thus eliminating their beneficial effects.

In the public perception, bacteria are usually bad. “You caught something” – already this sentence implies that something “bad”, “evil”, a “parasite” has “invaded” us and we are “threatened” by it. This also results from the strong market position of antibiotic drugs. Almost everyone has had to swallow an antibiotic in order to expel “malignant” germs from their body in the event of an illness. The marketing of the pharmaceutical companies chooses a very simple picture: Harmful germs have invaded the body, cause an infection, and are driven out or destroyed again by means of the all-purpose weapon antibiotics. The problem of increasing resistance is hardly ever discussed. Even if the list of pathogenic, i.e. disease-causing germs is not particularly long compared to the countless species that have a supportive effect on humans, it is precisely the “bad” germs, which are only defeated by “antibiotics”, that dominate public perception.

Media love bad bacteria and bad news

This is especially due to the media coverage. The positive effects of microorganisms are almost never reported. On the one hand, this may be due to the lack of microbiological competence of the mass media, but on the other hand it may also be due to the fact that mainly negative news generate headlines. If a “killer bacterium”, “body eater” or a deadly infection is reported, which has again killed a “defenseless” person, the attention of most readers is greater than if it is written about the fact that bacterium A promotes the growth of bacterium B, which has a positive influence on the body function C.

Adobe Stock / alphaspirit –

Media, pharma and patients – a fatal triangular relationship

The sensationalism of the mass media and its audience, the focus on clicks and advertising content promotes the creation of a dystopia in which bacteria are our enemies that must be destroyed. In this traumatized world, the antibiotics or drugs of the pharmaceutical companies are also much easier to sell. It is a fatal win-win situation: the pharmaceutical companies make revenue from people’s fear of the severe course of a bacteria-induced infection. And the patients are supplied with drugs and medicines that work quickly and reliably and for which they do not have to adapt their lifestyle and behavior. However, the fact that in this way the good microorganisms – not only in the intestine – are also destroyed, which in turn results in new diseases, is constantly ignored. Not to mention the increasing resistance, which can make the difference between life and death in the few fatal infections where the use of antibiotics is really necessary. This fatal triangle of media (bad news sells better), pharmaceutical companies (fear of bacterial infections leads to increased use of antibiotics and is thus a sales driver) and patients (quick solutions are demanded) leads to the distorted view and make us forget that bacteria are actually “the good ones”. (JS)

Adobe Stock / Anton  – ; Adobe Stock / Kateryna_Kon  –

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