The way we need to look at bacteria

I have been studying skin biochemistry for almost 30 years now. It is a half generation of input and output delving into this one exceptional organ. Many theories and dogmas that I studied turned out to be false and fairly early into my work I understood that I am in the business of composing theories only to contradict them a few years later.

The fundamental acknowledgement that, as a human, I am only able to study utilising my very limited physical senses and that puts everything in perspective. The truth is not to be found with the research tools I was taught to use and unless I am able to study nature elevating myself beyond limits, as a scientist, I am no different from a story teller. We make a discovery that is only a small fraction of reality and not seeing the “big picture” equals blindness.

One fundamental rule of nature is that it is never bad. It cannot be bad. Nature does not have an ego. No animal or plant goes to sleep with an agenda of harming others because of interest other than mere survival. It does not have a bank account to expand and does not demand respect. Homo sapiens are the only species in nature that are acting against nature and against peers motivated by bad intentions. Since scientists are human, they think of their work in a human manner.

I was thinking about it when I was working on the skin microbiome session. Looking at marketing ads I could clearly understand why consumers are confused. On one hand they are encouraged to swallow a pill of the “good bacteria” and on the other hand they are told to use soaps to kill the “bad bacteria”. However a bacterium has no intention to be harmful and act with cruelty. It is motivated by instincts of survival and reproduction. Bad intentions are characteristics of humans alone. Bacterium may respond to conditions with means of self-protection that may harm us as hosts and, on the other hand, assist in a variety of human biological functions, some essential. Why are we trying to eradicate it then? Shouldn’t we simply try to provide it with conditions of its favour? And why would we take the “good bacteria” from an outside source? Aren’t healthy conditions foster inhabitations of the exact microbiome we need?
Perhaps to understand biota behaviour we should begin thinking beyond our ego, beyond our limitations and give the biota the respect it has earned in the billions of years it has lived on this planet, way before we think we took over. Perhaps it is not the bacteria that we need to “fix” but ourselves? Perhaps products should be developed with the acknowledgement of nurturing environment that supports health and the biome homeostasis will naturally follow?

Such questions and many more will be discussed at our upcoming session in Paris and those of interest are welcome to join and add questions to the presenting scientific team. After all, if we had answers, we would not be researchers.

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