What is a microbe? A microbe is simply an organism that is microscopic, or too small to be seen by the human eye.
Types of microbes include bacteria, fungi, archaea, protists, plankton and some microscopic plants and animals. 1
These single-celled organisms are believed to be the first forms of life to inhabit the earth.
In 1675, Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to view these microorganisms using a microscope. 1 Later in
1876, Robert Koch discovered that microbes can cause disease through his experimentation with cattle. 1 However,
are microbes the entire cause of disease, or are they just part of the disease process? Let's investigate this subject in more detail.
Not all microbes are bad. The types of microbes that cause disease are known as pathogens. 2 Pathogens intend to
do harm to the human body. However, the body's immune system also plays a large role in the development of disease. A healthy
immune system will eliminate the pathogens that enter the body. 3 If the immune system is weak or out of balance,
then pathogens have a greater chance of infecting bodily tissues. These pathogens are simply doing their job, which is to decompose matter. 6
Every living human body contains a population of bacteria in the gut, where a majority of the immune system also exists. Symbiosis
exists when the "good bacteria" are largely the dominant bacterial population in the gut. These good bacteria produce digestive
enzymes, vitamins and protect the immune system. 3 Below is a short list of some "good" bacterium and yeast's:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Streptcoccus thermophilus
- Saccharomyces boulardii - this is actually a beneficial strain of yeast
In a weakened or toxic body, dysbiosis can occur due to impaired immune function. Dysbiosis means there are too many bad bacteria
in the body, especially the gut, where a large part of the immune system exists. A state of dysbiosis will weaken the body even
further, most likely leading to chronic illness or disease. 3 Now it may be easier to see that microbes are not
the sole cause of disease. A body with a healthy immune system is a very important factor when it comes to keeping the pathogens at bay.
So how do these microbes in general fit into our global ecosystem? It turns out that microbes are invaluable when it comes to the
cycling of nutrients back into our environment. 6 The bottom-line is that every living thing needs nutrients to
survive. It is likely that human life depends upon these microbes.
So what is the moral of this microbe story? It seems that microbes are part of the balance of our global ecology. When one
investigates microbes and their role in disease, it seems that they are only a part of the picture. The other part of the picture
is of course the body and the immune system. Are the microbes getting stronger or are we getting weaker?
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