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Medicine Science

Microbes That Keep Us Healthy Starting To Die Off 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the intestinal-fortitude dept.
Dr_Ken writes with a quote from Scientific American: "The human body has some 10 trillion human cells—but 10 times that number of microbial cells. So what happens when such an important part of our bodies goes missing? With rapid changes in sanitation, medicine and lifestyle in the past century, some of these indigenous species are facing decline, displacement and possibly even extinction. In many of the world's larger ecosystems, scientists can predict what might happen when one of the central species is lost, but in the human microbial environment—which is still largely uncharacterized—most of these rapid changes are not yet understood. 'This is the next frontier and has real significance for human health, public health and medicine,' says Betsy Foxman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, each new generation in developed countries comes into the world with fewer of these native populations. 'They're actually missing some component of their microbiota that they've evolved to have,' Foxman says."
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Microbes That Keep Us Healthy Starting To Die Off

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26, 2009 @01:47PM (#30557332)

    am saddened by the death of our microbial overlords (or underlords as the case may be).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kleen13 (1006327)
      Innerlords, for gods sake... sigh.. It's Innerlords. Trust me, they punished me last night for my insubordination with 3 day pizza.
  • Dumb logic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SlantyBard (1040070) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @01:58PM (#30557420)
    The logic doesn't follow entirely. Just because something's been there or done a certain way in the past doesn't make it necessary for the future. Clearly you don't want to be born with everything your parents have. That's why we put antibiotics in the eyes of every newborn in developed countries. The antibiotics prevent chlamydial/gonorrheal blindness [wikipedia.org] in newborns. That being said, it's something to think about and evaluate scientifically - so far it's very early to make any decisions about this stuff given the real lack of data.
  • by copponex (13876) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @01:59PM (#30557426) Homepage

    Unless I feel like I'm at death's door, I do not go to the doctor. I'll bet most of the people who are missing these microbes have been exposed to a lot of antibiotics. This may also explain why staph infections are turning deadly, and I know it's why Western kids have lots of strange allergies.

    The Hadza are the last hunter gatherers in the world, probably. They seem to be doing alright. (Not saying I'd give up my lifestyle, but there are lessons to be learned.)

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/12/hadza/finkel-text [nationalgeographic.com]

    • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @02:53PM (#30557806) Homepage Journal

      Unless I feel like I'm at death's door, I do not go to the doctor.

      I hope you never get cancer. If you finally go to the doctor when you fell like you on death's door, it will be too late. If caught early enough, most cancers are easily treatable.

      • I hope you never get cancer. If you finally go to the doctor when you fell like you on death's door, it will be too late. If caught early enough, most cancers are easily treatable.

        And yet, if you go early enough, good luck convincing a doctor to run those tests for your non-specific tiredness and pains.

        • by selven (1556643)

          You don't have the concept of routine annual medical checkups?

          • by winwar (114053)

            "You don't have the concept of routine annual medical checkups?"

            Routine annual checkups are, generally speaking, a waste of money. Widespread screening for uncommon disease leads to overtreatment. Overtreatment not only wastes money but it can harm (and kill) you. This should not be confused with a diagnostic test.

            The really difficult part is finding a proper balance. Breast cancer is a good example. For people with no risk factors, routine screening over 50 is a good idea (Costs and harms of screen

      • by copponex (13876) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:23PM (#30558038) Homepage

        Yes, for all of the hopelessly stupid people out there. If you feel like you are sick and you don't have a cold, go to a doctor to find out what it is. If your lymph nodes stay swollen for some reason, go to the doctor. If you have unexplainable pain, go to the doctor. When you get to a certain age, turn and cough. However, if you come down with the sniffles, suck it up and don't run to get Tamiflu and antibiotics shoved up your ass just because.

        Christ almighty. I hope they never take the warning labels off small electronics. Otherwise you'll probably end up trying to use your Bagelator in the bathtub.

      • I hope you never get cancer. If you finally go to the doctor when you fell like you on death's door, it will be too late. If caught early enough, most cancers are easily treatable.

        You could say the say the same for hundreds of other life-threatening conditions. Swine Flu among them. But the contagious disease makes you a danger to everyone.

      • I hope you never get cancer. If you finally go to the doctor when you fell like you on death's door, it will be too late. If caught early enough, most cancers are easily treatable.

        Yes, but 95% of the time the Doctor tells you it's just a mole. Even if 10% of the time it's cancer.

        People need to be more aware of their bodies. Started feeling shitty a year ago? Got strange moles popping up? You need to get them looked at - and be extremely pushy if your Doctor is apathetic.

        My mother got warned by her Chiropractor that her moles looked cancerous. She went to her doctor and bullied him into referring to a specialist. Two malignant melanomas later - thankfully cut out in time - she seems t

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @02:56PM (#30557836) Journal
      Alright by some standard, anyway. Towards the beginning of the story, they mention a man who has lost half his teeth. No thanks, I'm happy for modern dentistry. Later on we read this nugget:

      About a fifth of all [Hadza] babies die within their first year, and nearly half of all children do not make it to age 15.

      That may be your ideal, but for me there are advantages to modernity.

      Idolizing the Hadza is like those people who never take their pets to the vet, because the animals don't go to the vet in the wild. It's true animals don't go to the vet in the wild, but they also have shorter life spans.

      Interesting article, btw. Glad you posted it. But doctors do good things.

    • by vakuona (788200)

      I have thought about the allergies thing, and whilst it might be that the sterile environments lead to increased allergies, it might just be that back in the day, we didn't test for allergies, so we had lots of unexplained deaths in infants. Nowadays, kids are assessed for allergies pretty much on birth, so we can avoid exposing them to allergens rather earlier, and thus there is the appearance of an allergy epidemic.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      The reason why staph infections can be worse now then in the past is two fold. The first is because hospitals are pushed to be super-clean environments. This first part allows very hardy bacteria to thrive where they normally wouldn't. The second is when antibiotics are given, a lot of people don't take them to the full duration. This second part causes a lot of issues as people are building on top of the chain.

      As well the prevelence of anti-bacterial hand washes/wipes/dish soaps/etc are highly damaging

    • Unless I feel like I'm at death's door, I do not go to the doctor

      What about cancer, cavities, hypertension and such?

  • regret the defeat of our former microbial underlords.

  • mother nature (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikey177 (1426171) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @02:06PM (#30557468)
    this is why we need to let our children interact with other people and go out and play in the dirt. I did and let me tell you, I do still get sick but not as much as some of my friends who had lived sheltered lives with there parents who thought that every little cold they got they would need to go to the doctors to be treated for it. we now live in a world with Sissies who can't take life's discomforts like there parents.
    • this is why we need to let our children interact with other people and go out and play in the dirt.

      Common sense would also suggest we should let them play with animals as well as dirt. It's the adults who didn't have any pets as kids that suffer from pet allergies.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PotatoSan (1350933)
        Or, y'know, it could just be that people with pet allergies tend to not have pets because of their allergies.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ATairov (1708016)
        Lies. I had pets when I was a kid and I'm still allergic to them.
    • I had TB & polio as a kid, and when I was hospitalized I acquired a massive staff infection with huge open sores, all this BEFORE the widespread adoption of penicillin! I was moved to Kings county general where I was given massive doses of the (then) fairly new antibiotic.

      In short, don't knock modern medicine, your grandparents who didn't have it suffered terribly without it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by thewiz (24994) *

      we now live in a world with Sissies who can't take life's discomforts like there parents.

      Apparently, they also cannot spell like their parents did, either.

    • Re:mother nature (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ephemeriis (315124) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @04:50PM (#30558694)

      this is why we need to let our children interact with other people and go out and play in the dirt. I did and let me tell you, I do still get sick but not as much as some of my friends who had lived sheltered lives with there parents who thought that every little cold they got they would need to go to the doctors to be treated for it. we now live in a world with Sissies who can't take life's discomforts like there parents.

      Exactly.

      People are too clean these days. It sounds stupid, but it's true. Folks need to go outside and play with some animals, socialize, fall in the dirt, scrape their knees, and get on with life. It's good for you! It helps build up your immune system.

      Got to your local supermarket or WalMart or whatever... Take a look through their kitchen goods - absolutely everything has some kind of anti-microbial agent built-in. I'm not suggesting we all go lick some raw chicken... But a few germs are actually good for us. And sterilizing everything is not.

      Look through the bath section... All the soaps are antimicrobial as well. All of them. Just getting yourself clean isn't enough... You have to nuke whatever critters might be around.

      And, not only are we nuking anything and everything that we might be exposed to - thereby robbing ourselves of a chance to build up an immunity... But we're also flooding the environment with these antibiotic/antimicrobial substances - giving those very critters plenty of opportunities to develop their own immunities.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @02:12PM (#30557504)

    The presence of neutral microbes offers resource competition against random microbes taking up residence, especially harmful ones.

    Since there is competition, new Microbes of any sort, are less likely to flourish unchecked, than if there was no competition.

    Think of how many computer users would be using MacOS or Linux KDE, if Windows didn't exist, or if Microsoft were to suddenly drop dead and stop making new versions of Windows that were successful at competing for placement on people's computers.

    The loss/extinction of some of these neutral, or even beneficials microbes could be quite bad, if it makes humans more vulnerable to spontaneous intrusion by others and digestive system issues.

    The less diversity in the neutral microbes... the more likely that a malicious microbe releases one toxin that happens to kill them all.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Cwix (1671282)
      Lol you just equated Macs and Linux to harmful microbes, id hunker down and wait for the down modding from mac and linux mods, but you may just recieve positive mod points from the windows fanboys. On a side note, can you kill windows with antibiotics?
  • Reading the original article, I notice a complete lack of facts. Were there any statistics about relative declines in gut flora in various populations? Or particular flora that are disappearing.

    I find the hypothesis pretty unlikely to be honest, but that can be a good thing in hypothesis... if someone can start presenting some facts to back it up.

    • Yes, that struck me too. For Scientific American, I thought it was pretty weak. A bunch of conjectures and a scary conclusion. We are changing our gut flora, but it is an open question as to whether or not this is a bad thing. Certainly we should avoid over prescribing of antibiotics, but we knew that.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @02:23PM (#30557568) Homepage Journal

    The human body has some 10 trillion human cells--but 10 times that number of microbial cells.

    That supposed total of 110 trillion cells overall weigh about 150 pounds. Are the microbial cells really something like 1% the weight on average of a human cell? 100 trillion microbial cells seems hard to believe.

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@o v i .com> on Saturday December 26, 2009 @02:35PM (#30557676) Homepage

    Consuming a few "sliders" will re-populate lots of gastro-intestinal things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Brett Buck (811747)

      Consuming a few "sliders" will re-populate lots of gastro-intestinal things.

                  Great idea, with one minor issue - projectile diarrhea kills more people each year than AIDs.

             

  • NOOOOES (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hldn (1085833) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:04PM (#30557902) Homepage

    NOT MY MIDI-CHLORIANS!!

  • This is a good a reason to breed your own microbes contained within Home brewed Beer and Wine, Sauerkraut, Kim-chi, Sourdough, and Kombucha. http://www.wildfermentation.com/ [wildfermentation.com] And set the stage for microbal growth in your local farm soil ecosystems, by participating in and supporting organic agriculture.
  • Soap vs Santizers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:40PM (#30558184)

    Seems that most products advertised today pull on the "santize everything you touch" FUD that's out there. I work at a large technology company, and they recently installed automated hand sanitizers by every external door. I read an article recently that claimed that EMC was having cleaning crews sanitize every doorknob in their campus once a week.

    This isn't just a corporate activity, I've got a friend with a 5yr old son in that the son has been conditioned to ask mom for Purel every 5-10 minutes. I also find it funny that kids are being taught to eat a McDonald's burger by holding the wrapper. The funny part is that the people making the burgers aren't wearing gloves...

    Reminds me of the old joke: A Harvard and MIT student, both just finished using the urinal and the MIT student walks towards the door. The Harvard student says, "Hey, at Harvard they teach us to wash our hands after using the urinal!" The MIT student fires back, "At MIT they teach us not to pee on our hands!"

  • In the past we got a lot of the microbacteria that our bodies need from our food supply. With the invention of herbacides, fertilizers and various other modern farming "advancements", the food supply has become less diverse. The digestive system is one of the first lines of defense for the immune system. Anyone who is concerned about their digestive health can start with a good probiotic supplement. I like Jarrow Labs EPS probiotic. There are many others on the market though.

  • We needed another crisis, gotta get that government program in place.. appoint a 'microbe czar'... raise our taxes.. save us!!

  • I am someone, who always seeks to find simple rules that describe complex mechanisms and patterns. And if there is one all-encompassing mechanism in nature, that can be described by simple rules, it’s that of the cycles and balances.
    In our bodies, as in all of nature.

    See, they are complex systems of interacting cycles, that are in perfect balance.
    If you change something... anything... no matter how small it seems... it influences the whole cycle. Then it can create a feedback loop. And it can spread t

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ErikZ (55491) *

      I ran the numbers on the growth rate of a puppy. In 100 years it will be too large for the solar system and will destroy it.

  • Mostly Harmless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @04:11PM (#30558378)

    The vast majority of bacteria are either harmless or beneficial to their human host. Only a very small number of bacteria are pathogenic, and most of the time your body does a great job keeping those out. Here's a great book for bacteria spotters, amateur and pro, which tells you how to find bacteria without a microscope.

    http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=3864 [cornell.edu]
    http://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Bacteria-Comstock-Book/dp/0801488540 [amazon.com]

  • We swam in the Hudson..." [videosift.com] (video)

    R.I.P. funnyman.

  • I work in IT. We don't bathe too often.

  • This causes autism. Run with it, crazy rumor mill. I expect to see this in the news when I wake up Monday morning.
    By Wednesday, parents will be mixing dirt into cereal and formula in the hopes of increasing microbial ppm.
  • What is going on was planned, and it is an old plan.

    7 of the 9 deadly persistent poisons are being reintroduced.

    Subclinical antibiotics are mandatory for production farm animals.

    Watch Food Inc. and know that even it does not cover it all.

    The top youtube video has a MD named Rima Laibow talking
    about Codex and What it means and it is now law world
    wide in over 150 countries.

    The warning was sounded years ago.

    Proof that what she says has been happening is seen
    in the film Reversing Diabetes in 30 days.

    We are all

  • by jbezorg (1263978) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @06:52PM (#30559520)

    ...now has scientific backing. Go ahead, pick up that chip that fell on the floor and eat it. When someone gives you a look, just tell them you are maintaining a healthy microbial diversity.

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