The Human Microbiome: What Am I Made Of? Part 3

In part 2 of our series “The Human Microbiome: What Am I Made Of?” we explored how humans are comprised of both good and bad bacteria, and that depending on the circumstance, these organisms can make you ill or help your body function properly. There is a lot more research to be conducted in the fields of microbiology, immunology, and general medicine; namely, such attendant research will combat harmful microorganisms in order to discover why some diseases occur.

Microbes are ever-changing and very adaptable to their environments, continuously evolving to become stronger and more resistant to treatment.  Science has brought medicine quite far, but these deadly bacteria have begun to outsmart us on an evolutionary scale. We have discussed the many good microbes living in and on our bodies. Now we are going to explore harmful pathogens in this final installment of the “What Am I Made Of?” series.

What Am I Made Of: Pathogens

Pathogens are defined as “a biological agent that causes disease or illness to its host” according to Pathogens can enter the body in any number of ways, such as through any of the the body cavities (mouth, nose, anus), through open wounds, or through the ingestion of contaminated food or water, etc. These pathogens can live inside your body and make you sick, or they may not. We are able to live with these pathogens around us because of the antibodies produced in our body in addition to the normal flora or microbes that live inside our bodies as well. states the human body contains many “natural defenses against some of the common pathogens in the form of the human immune system and by some “helpful” bacteria present in the human body’s normal flora.” Without the presence of antibodies and good bacteria, we wouldn’t be able to fight off the pathogens we come in contact with on a regular basis. For instance, if you come in contact with someone who is sick with strep throat from Streptococcus pyogenes or group A streptococcus, you may get sick from the bacteria, or–if you already have a built up immunity to it–you may not.

Viruses Are Everywhere

We are also surrounded by an enormous amount of viruses. They are everywhere. In only a single drop of seawater, there can be millions upon millions of viruses. Don’t be scared, though, because not all viruses make you sick; just the same, not all bacteria make you sick. Oceanic viruses, however, are different than human viruses and especially than disease causing viruses. The deadliest human virus in the world is Ebola – it kills at least 90% of the people who contract it. Currently, we have been dealing with the worst outbreak in Ebola’s relatively short-lived, recognizable existence, and almost 8,000 people have died.

Some commonly known pathogens, specific types of bacteria or viruses, and the illness that they may cause include:

  • The first main bug that lives inside our bodies and can cause disease is Staphylococcus aureus. Most people have Staph aureus in the nose, but Staph has been found in nearly every area of the body. Staph aureus can cause a multitude of different diseases: skin infections, bacteremia, pneumonia, endocarditis. Staph aureus is a known killer.
  • Another bug that is pathogenic, is Corynebacteria, which has been known to cause urinary tract infections, device infections, meningitis, and diphtheria.
  • AIDS is a disease caused by the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). This virus causes people who are infected to have weakened immune systems which cause them to be unable to fight off diseases. Most people that have AIDS eventually die from complications to the disease rather than dying from the virus itself.
  • The common cold is from any number of viruses which could be: Rhinoviruses, Adenoviruses, Coronaviruses, Parainfluenza viruses, Respiratory syncytial virus, Metapneumovirus, or Bocavirus.
  • Acne is also caused by bacteria. While there are many different kinds of bacteria on your face, Propionibacterium acnes, some Staphylococcus species, and Malassezia species, are typically the culprits for those pesky pimples.

The human body is complex in many ways, which includes evolutionary adaptation to the millions upon millions of bacteria and viruses it comes into contact. The Human Microbiome project has made many discoveries pertaining to the human body that will help us continue to evolve and expand medicine and scientific research as a measure to more fully support normal flora but also combat the harmful pathogens.

Since we contain more microbial cells than human cells, such advancements in research and development will be necessary for the continued educational refinement of this project. The study of these microbes has demonstrated an unknown number of different kinds of microbial cells and species. Many of these microbes are harmless, while others can be extremely deadly.  Researching the complexity of microbes, both inside and around us, have better prepared us to more fully understand what we are made of, additionally how we may evolve.


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