Our Bacteria Battle Zone

“The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," Dr. Keiji Fukuda from the WHO has warned.

Our microscopic enemies are adapting to traditional treatments and threatening our health. Stories of friends going into hospital and being infected by bad bacteria are becoming ever more common place (the writer personally knows of two cases where this has occurred).

Is it time to rethink our strategies? Or follow the convention and develop ever more powerful antibiotics? The latter strategy has been successful for decades. Millions of lives have been saved. But for how much longer?

Organism resistance to man-made weapons is now common place. In agriculture Monsanto’s glyphosate immune GMO seeds (Round Up Ready) was supposed to enable mass weed spraying and thus increase crop yields. The result: glyphosate resistant super weeds.

Darwin would have said: “duh, what did you expect”. All organisms evolve. Survival of the fittest is the order of the day. And these days the application of scientific killers is akin to taking our enemies to Virgin Active and putting them through a strenuous boot camp programme: the one’s that survive are much tougher than an Alexander tsotsi or a Pollsmoor 29-ner.

In the bacterial world (like our own visible environment) survival of the fittest is termed “competitive dominance” whereby a dominant species will out compete other species for access to resources (food, water, air). In this microscopic war zone, good are fighting bad and the bad are winning at our expense.

The irony is that as we become cleaner (there are limits here - not bathing or washing is not an option) we are becoming more vulnerable to infection. This is purely about how we define “clean”. In our modern context “clean” is both about not being visibly dirty but also about ensuring that we are not carrying bacteria which can be transferred to someone else.

So we kill everything with our anti-bacterial soaps and chemical agents.

Only to witness the rapid re-population of surfaces with e-coli and other baddies.

Research in Switzerland showed that farm kids (dirty) were healthier than urban kids (clean). It is evident that our overuse of chemicals in our homes has directly lead to an increase in allergic reactions to our own ‘controlled’ home environment.

Recent research in a USA hospital has shown that bad bacteria tend to repopulate ‘clean’ surfaces very quickly. And thus every time you apply anti-bacterial agents you are actually - while winning in the short term - providing ideal conditions for antibacterial resistant bacteria growth.

Taking lessons from politics, an emerging strategy is to align ourselves with beneficial parties. Here we use bacteria to fight our hygiene war for us. This is not like the DA recruiting new members. This would be akin to an ANC/EFF alliance in Gauteng working to keep those “running dog liberal capitalist imperialist honkies” (or in the words of Bell Pottinger: “White Monopoly Capitalists”) out by dominating the environment with one bacterial species.

Similar to an enlightened treatment for diarrhoea, one uses probiotic bacteria (probiotic is “pro-life” whereas antibiotic is “anti-life”) to clean and treat. Applying probiotic based cleaners to surfaces cleans by accelerating the decomposition of dirt (usually fats and grease) while also repopulating the surface with a healthy bacteria thus reducing the space available for bad bacteria to repopulate.

In soil, the same applies. Good soil needs good bacteria. These bacteria aid in decomposition, transfer nutrients to plant roots and basically keep the bad away. This leads to disease resistant soil and thus healthy plants.

Next time you walk down the aisle at your local supermarket, avoid the packs shouting “antibacterial” and look for an alternative.

The same would apply to treating your garden. Stop using microbe killers. Try instead to help your soil along with a good dose of beneficial microbes (either through compost or with a probiotic garden health booster).

In short: stuff your personal environmental ballot box with good bacteria and reduce the opportunity for corrupting microbes to eat your lunch.

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