Don’t worry about nuclear war. Worry about yourself.

For something you spend every moment of our physical existence with, our bodies are something that we know very little about. The brain for example, we only use approximately ten percent of it, and we haven’t been able to figure out how most of it works. It’s the most complex machine in the universe, and it’s inside of us. Sadly, we are up against the perfect killing machine. Something so simplistic and small that we have to use special microscopes just to get a glimpse of them. Viruses. Dustin Hoffman, or Sam, in the movie Outbreak sums up the situation perfectly. He states, “You have to admire its simplicity. It’s one billionth our size, and it’s beating us.” Though we pick apart the ridiculousness of parts of the movie, it is very accurate in the dangers of the organisms that live inside of us.

With most of the bacteria inside of our bodies we live in a symbiotic relationship. Our bodies are perfect for them to survive being warm, and moist with plenty of nutrients for them to thrive. In return they digest our food, breakdown substances that need to be removed, and keep our bodies running smooth. However, all good things must come to an end. For example, there is a case of bacteria that can be extremely dangerous to a person’s health. While normally, antibiotics will kill bacteria which resets your body to its normally processes, certain strains of bacteria become immune and resistant to the antibiotics, and break the symbiotic relationship. This form of a case is known as M.R.S.A. or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (say that five times fast). While this is a dangerous problem, that if moves into your blood stream or vital organs can kill you,  it is still able to be cured. However, there are plenty of diseases and viruses that we have yet to understand or destroy. One of the more common forms of this is HIV or AIDS. This virus is so hard to kill because it uses a product called reverse transcriptase, making it mutate constantly. Unlike the Motaba Virus these other diseases produce a much bigger threat in the long run. With only two strands of Motaba Virus, it was easy to kill after isolating the host. However with HIV the virus is constantly changing creating an almost impossible solution for its victims.

Likewise to these other diseases, there are scarier forms of resistant bacteria. When I took Microbiology last year we learned about forms of bacteria that create highly resistant inactive forms of themselves called spores. These spores protect the inactive bacteria from heat to chemical disinfection, and everything in between. When the bacteria’s nutrients become depleted it becomes a spore, but will return to its active state when nutrients are restored. This is so disturbing because the inactive form of these bacteria can survive thousands of years without any nutrients. Some form of disease that we “eradicated” years ago (whether by firebomb or not), could still be inactive somewhere waiting for its chance to germinate once again. It’s like a bomb on the horizon just waiting to go off, and there is nothing we can do about it…

 

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