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May 25, 2008

Good Germs, Bad Germs

Health and Survival in a Bacterial World
Jessica Snyder Sachs – ISBN – 9780809050635
(due out in paperback in September)

Sounds deep and dreary, but hers is an incredibly informative book written in such a manner that laymen can easily understand it. The operational observation is that this is, and has always been a bacterial world--they being the oldest inhabitants of the planet--while the rest of us have to deal with them.

Nonetheless, most bacteria “inhabiting” the human body are either of the saprophytic variety, or actually function in ways which are beneficial to us and to them. Man’s ancestors evolved with bacteria, as they in turn have evolved within required parameters for their own existence. Indeed, it is becoming very apparent that much of our RNA is viral particles incorporated into our genome millions of years ago.

An increasing number of microbiologists now appreciate the often profound importance of these facts, and studies are now in hot pursuit of finding other means of controlling the “bad germs” which get out of hand and produce severe illnesses: those debilitating—or even fatal.

By now we’ve all developed a conversational knowledge of bacterial resistance--immunity to newer, heavy-duty antibiotics colloquially known as gorillacillins. These agents, in addition to killing everything in reach, are noted to regularly have serious side effects, too. The time has come to seriously look for other approaches: re-colonization with beneficial bugs, developing “attack” bugs, implementing dietary augmentation and the like. Further, it is time to assess the net effect of raising our food stock (animals and some vegetables) by using antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, since this exposes us to the antibiotic as well as the more resistant microbes which are sub-cultured by such use.

In prior times we all lived in a more “dirty” environment, from which we acquired a resistance to various bugs in much the same way as vaccines produce immunity to minor variants of lethal bugs. Now, there is nothing wrong with cleanliness, but in our ever-so-clean modern environment we are depriving ourselves, and more importantly our children, of exposure to these bugs, which leaves us extremely vulnerable. Further, there is evidence that numerous allergies, asthma, diabetes, varietal inflammatory diseases, and a host of other ailments including Alzheimer’s are in part produced by this environmental manipulation. It is becoming more apparent that even anxiety and depression may be related to these same phenomena. It ain’t that good to kill all the bugs, a naïve concept in the first place, since we can’t! They have survived for billions of years in environments more hostile than any we can create. G-d has provided animals, including man, with the ability to cope with such exposure.

Sachs elaborates upon the immunological result of our “clean fetish,” and explains how this is seriously altering our quality of life. We need to begin paying serious attention. She delves into these varietal conundrums in such a way that she maintains interest as she patiently explains the problems.

“Since the dawn of civilization, the demon of pestilence has been a part of our lives and fears. Sanitation and antibiotics gave us our first powerful weapons against this great foe . . . [and] we have wielded them crudely, without appreciation either for the role that bacteria play in maintaining our health or for their infinite capacity to adapt to whatever poisons we throw at them.”

“As naïve as it may sound in a day when killer superbugs dominate our headlines, a growing scientific consensus is forming that it’s time to move beyond our escalating war on microbes and look for ways to foster a truce in what will always be a bacterial world.”

Posted by respeto at May 25, 2008 11:33 AM