Human Health Is in the Hands of Bacteria

In the beginning, there were single-cell bacteria. They were the only life on earth for billions of years, then larger cells evolved, then multicellular organisms, and then plants and animals. But the bacteria never went away, and all organisms, including us humans, have had to learn to live with them. Today, the lessons they are teaching us could change the trajectory of human health for generations. When bacteria were first discovered more than three centuries ago, most attention was on the ones we fought, which caused diseases like cholera, typhoid and tuberculosis. Through vaccines and antibiotics, we have made amazing progress in conquering these scourges. Now, through the combined tools of DNA sequencing and computer-based analysis, we have a first approximation of the innumerable other bacteria with which we cooperate daily. Our microbiome is a diverse array of microbes–bacteria, as well as viruses, fungi and protozoa–that are more or less unique within each of us. We now understand that many are inherited, mostly from Mom, and this represents a continuity of life going back millennia. We know that the microbiomes of peoples living in the forests and savannas–who have had few of the benefits of modern medicine–have much more diverse microbiota than those in industrialized countries do. These comparisons strongly suggest that as the world modernized, we lost much of our microbial heritage. And there’s increasing evidence that those changes...
Source: TIME: Health - Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Tags: Uncategorized medicine Source Type: news

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