We are quite literally bacterial worlds. Though a lot of what we shelter in the form of flora is benign some must also be beneficial.
True, we are all painfully aware of the publicized warnings about salmonella and e.coli. If we are paying the least bit of attention, we know where in our food supply the contaminants are, how they got there, and what authorities are recommending we should be doing about it.
What many of us don’t realize is that almost every one of us gives refuge to a colonies of these very same bacteria at all times.
E. coli has a number of “versions;” some of which are benign and some of which are dangerous. In fact, most of the strains that we play host to are harmless. Recently, however, researchers in Norway discovered that a virus can actually alter the good e. coli, and convert it to a bad variety.
Before the advent of antibiotics, almost every American sheltered Helicobacter pylori. This is a particularly troubling bacterium as it has been linked to ulcers and stomach cancer in adults and children. Since the advent of antibiotics that number, as a percentage of the population, has dropped drastically; well below 10% of the population.
In premature infants, h. pylori has been implicated in the gastritis, peptic ulcers, and, worst of all, necrotizing enterocolitis. Necrotizing means tissue death and enterocolitis is an inflammation in the gut. This last, typically only seen in preemies, is deadly and very hard to halt once an infection takes hold. It is a fast moving bug, often becoming a life threatening condition literally over-night. An h. pylori infection unless treated early and aggressively results in death. The problem for medicine is spotting it in time and treating it promptly. To that end knowing more about an infant’s microbial load and make-up is vital.
If we all play host to these and other bacteria, the question must be “what keeps them from making us sick?” This article will not only attempt to answer that question, but present you with information that may surprise you.