January 8, 2010 1:58 PM

Microbes are our friends!

The invasion is here, it's popping up in convenient places everywhere. There is a nation-wide obsession with it. It's going to change our lives forever... and not necessarily for the better. What exactly? Liquid hand sanitizer.

There are dispensers in some campus buildings, and in the BART stations there are now fancy hands free machines that dispense a foamed hand sanitizer. It's hip, it's "healthy", and it smells nice. It's a nationwide trend! Compulsively killing common and widespread germs several times a day is NOT A GOOD IDEA. This trend is encouraging the mutation of germs into SUPERBUGS that will make us sick because our immune systems won't be able to fight them off.
This is what superbugs look like:

This is what happens: Hand sanitizer is applied and it effectively kills any bacteria or other microorganisms on your hands. Awesome! Then the microorganisms continue to be killed anytime anyone uses hand sanitizer (It's just so convenient when there's a dispenser next to the elevator. It's something to do when waiting for the elevator to arrive.). The microorganisms are living things that just want to eke out their own existence on this planet and therefore will do all they can to survive. They will mutate their own DNA so that they become resistant to the sanitizer. Yes, we are creating mutants everyday by compulsively cleaning our hands.

This is what a mutant looks like:

The idea is that our immune system has learned how to protect us from common germs. That's why people with healthy immune systems aren't sick all of the time. By killing these common germs and forcing them to mutate, our immune systems can no longer recognize the germs, and then we get sick more often, or antibiotics formerly used to treat the infection no longer work.

The plot thickens my friends. There's this whole idea that babies shouldn't be kept in a sterilized, purified environment. It's important to be exposed to germs so that your immune system can build up an immunity and figure out how to protect you from it. Children that grew up in a sanitized culture are getting sick more often than kids that weren't wiped down with sanitizer every few moments. Perhaps we are becoming too clean for our own good. Here's a link to an article on the subject.

A last random thought to ponder: When babies are born, they are entirely sterile. The womb is a sterile environment. Living our skin always, every moment of every day are billions of microorganisms.These microorganisms are referred to as our natural flora. Everyone has one and it's important to our survival. It's a good relationship, they protect us from other outside hazards, but too many of these microscopic friends and then you get an infection. Anyways, babies are sterile until the moment they are handled by another being. This means that when babies are being handled by doctors, nurses, parents, etc. they become "infected" with the microorganisms that make up the natural flora. How's that for blowing your mind? It's just one thing I learned in microbiology this last semester. By the way, yogurt has microorganisms living in it too... those are good for you as well. But that's a story for another day.



Leighna Baxter | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (3)

Comments (3)

Wow, how original. You disgust me.


Posted by Carol | 2010-01-11

Microbes are much more our friends than our enemies. Although some microbes cause health problems most microbes make our lives better..


Posted by shobazee | 2010-02-11

Microorganisms are friends and foes of humans. They have both benefits and disadvantages, but there are more advantages than disadvantages.


Posted by Shirley | 2010-02-11

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