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Nature, Microbes & Us

by Rajgopal Nidamboor(more info)

listed in cfs me long covid, originally published in issue 281 - September 2022

Originally published in India First 16 April 2022 – Page 21

All of us know that a host of new, unusually powerful and resurgent diseases, including COVID-19, have been expanding around us with alarming intensity. This pandemic of epidemics not only signals a catastrophe in the history of the human species, but also mutual adaptation that we all share and/or carry with our microbial fellow travellers.

Well, the fact remains – despite everything, we have got only to blame ourselves for this nasty reality. We have brought ‘evil’ through the door by affecting, and upsetting, the basic fabric of our environment, changing our behaviour and our ‘creativity’ to increasing the length and quality of our lives.

Hence, the big question: Where have we really gone wrong?

 

Microbes and Bacteria

 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:E._coli_Bacteria_(7316101966).jpg

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered
to a cover slip. Credit: NAID

 

Research suggests that with every new disease known to us, there are a dozen others waiting to explode like the ticking time-bomb. What’s more, the wheels of biological change have kept us running more rapidly than we can manage, or handle. Yes, the shared evolution of human beings and microbes, not to speak of other offending organisms, has now reached the zenith. The fact also is: there’s too much information on malaria, but comparatively less info vis-à-vis other scourges, viz., dengue, or swine flu. You get the point. When we gaze at scientific and chronological elements, they look awfully fragmented, like pieces of dishevelled marble haphazardly cemented in bits and pieces.

More importantly, we have been far too measured in comprehending that we live in a new, surging bio-cultural age. The reason is obvious – for epochs, we’d ‘prized’ the fable that contagious illnesses were a fading phenomenon. This was and is erroneous – a situation inherent to inborn, albeit skewed, optimism. We are now startlingly aroused by the ‘phantom’ of new evolving viruses, aside from microbial resistance to drugs. What’s more, we are not adequately responding to challenges that are closely linked to our health and survival. To highlight one classical example – for over 5,000 years, infections alone have killed more people than all wars and famine put together.

Most of us would know that parasitism and disease are a natural part of life. This is elementary knowledge. The duo is fundamental to the existence of everything – from the earliest, simplest organisms to human beings. The fact also remains that you and I have swelled new (pan)epidemics by our air travel, technology, diet, flawed lifestyle etc. Apart from new diseases, the old perils, tuberculosis and gastroenteritis, for example, seem to return, with computerised precision, from time to time, and with metamorphosed vengeance.

Most diseases, as history would tell us, occurred in increased numbers when our ancestors left the trees for the ground. Or, when our nomads became hunters and settled around the world. Or, when village life began, along with the growth of cities, the Industrial Revolution, the beginning of global travel, social and technological advances, or extensions of wealth. This isn’t all. We are now forced to coping with new food-borne diseases too – of illnesses that are appearing everywhere, what with some of them being serious.

The scenario is gloomy and complex, although it may yet be reversible. There’s also hope, in spite of the ongoing misuse of our ecosystem, not to speak of the dramatic changes in the biosphere. Remember, our ancestors had to deal with new diseases; so did our Stone Age forebears. This applied in equal measure to our first farmers as also our first city inhabitants. Notwithstanding struggles and catastrophes, they were able to endure such challenges. We will prevail too, primarily because our immune system as also our inbuilt resourcefulness are epitomes of flexibility and adaptability.

Well, wait a moment, because the big question and also the big threat is – we are at the core of a typical era of misfortune crammed with new-fangled pathogens. They, like us, are just as  busy attempting to not just acclimatise, or adapt, but also survive. The only way out is a simple, yet profound, equation – we must conquer some of the lethal microorganisms quickly and deal with others just as effectually with new medicines, also tools, and up-to-the-minute scientific knowledge and technology.

This brings us to personalized, or bespoke, bacteria. Of how ‘(re)engineered’ gut bacteria can deliver therapeutic consignments and the knockout punch, while monitoring our response to illnesses residing in the body. Medicine  is now looking at the gut as a natural ecosystem and ‘bringing together’ microbial communities that network and yield substances, as also behaviours, for treatment. The advance will be a boon to beating microbial resistance to antibiotics, among other concerns.

Acknowledgement Citation

This article was originally published in India First 16 April 2022  – Page 21

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About Rajgopal Nidamboor

Rajgopal Nidamboor PhD FCCP M-CAM is a Board-Certified wellness physician, Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians (FCCP), Member of the Center of Applied Medicine (M-CAM), writer-editor, commentator, critic, columnist, author, and publisher. His special interests include natural health and wellness, mind-body/integrative medicine, nutritional medicine, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. His focus areas also encompass contemporary research and dissemination of dependable information for people concerned about their health. He feels that it is increasingly gratifying to see most individuals, including physicians, thinking outside the box – especially in areas such as natural health, where the body knows best to heal itself from the inside out. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, Web articles, four books on natural health, two coffee-table books, a handful of E-books, a primer on therapeutics, and, most recently, Cricket Odyssey. He’s Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360, a mobile health application/platform, connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic, Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.  Rajgopal Nidamboor lives in Navi Mumbai, India. He may be contacted via raj@rajnidamboor.com 

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