Not Human

A part of my growing and hopefully, maturing :) is the realisation that we humans are really not the lord and master of this planet. We are not the pinnacle of evolution. We are not what “the universe intended”. We are basically a byproduct of the real masters of Earth, bacteria.

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As soon as we are born, bacteria move in. They stake claims in our digestive and respiratory tracts, our teeth, our skin. They establish increasingly complex communities, like a forest that gradually takes over a clearing. By the time we’re a few years old, these communities have matured, and we carry them with us, more or less, for our entire lives. Our bodies harbor 100 trillion bacterial cells, outnumbering our human cells 10 to one. It’s easy to ignore this astonishing fact.

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Researchers have largely concerned themselves with bacteria’s negative role as pathogens: The devastating effects of a handful of infectious organisms have always seemed more urgent than what has been considered a benign and relatively unimportant relationship with “good” bacteria. In the intestine, the bacterial hub of the body that teems with trillions of microbes, they have traditionally been called “commensal” organisms — literally, eating at the same table. The moniker suggests that while we’ve known for decades that gut bacteria help digestion and prevent infections, they are little more than ever-present dinner guests.

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But there’s a growing consensus among scientists that the relationship between us and our microbes is much more of a two-way street.

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They are not simply random squatters, but organized communities that evolve with us and are passed down from generation to generation. Through research that has blurred the boundary between medical and environmental microbiology, we’re beginning to understand that because the human body constitutes their environment, these microbial communities have been forced to adapt to changes in our diets, health, and lifestyle choices. Yet they, in turn, are also part of our environments, and our bodies have adapted to them. Our dinner guests, it seems, have shaped the very path of human evolution.

Read the entire article. Very enlightening.

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2 thoughts on “Not Human

  1. Jennifer Cookson April 19, 2009 / 4:15 pm

    That was really interesting. I enjoyed that.
    Jennifer Cookson

  2. agsharma April 23, 2009 / 3:39 pm

    Thanks, Jennifer!

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