Jeff Smith noon, March 8
- Community Blog
- Down and Nerdy
Let's Talk About Microbes
Have you ever wondered what type of microbial organisms reside inside your belly button? Better yet, have you ever wondered about the influential effects of microbial organisms that are found on your forehead, pillow case, toilet seat, or in your home?
Robert Dunn, University of North Carolina Biologist and science author, gave a talk at the San Diego Natural History Museum to discuss the disparate benefits and influences of the tiny creatures that have a significant residual impact on our daily lives and how they directly shape who are today.
In his book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners that Shape Who We Are Today, he shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and world, and how, even in places like our bedrooms, where we have most completely cleansed ourselves of nature, nature still clings to us.
In fact, scientists are not able to differentiate the differences between our toilet seats and our pillow cases when analyzed under a microscope. This, according to Dunn, is not necessarily a bad thing considering that at any given time there are at least 100 species living in a household that have no effect on us at all.
Interestingly, a majority of the species found on our bodies and in our homes are not yet classified or scientifically understood. The human ignorance in regard to these species and their microbial composition is vast, and there is a need for further research to better understand how they influence our daily lives.
According to Dunn, we evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens. But we no longer see ourselves as being a part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we have scrubbed much of nature off of our bodies, and have subsequently allowed ourselves to live free of wild danger. Yet our relationship with the natural world is stronger than we realize. Take a look at the parasitic effects of Toxoplasmosis on pregnant woman, for instance. The coexistence of parasitic organisms and humans is a much more relevant issue than we assume.
While clean living has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others, according to Dunn. We are trapped in bodies that have evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. And as Dunn revealed in his discussion and book, our disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that scientists are only beginning to understand.
Scientists will find species that are dangerous as well as species that that may serve as symbiotic companions. Our lives are composed of wild species and their influences, most of which have not yet been studied or comprehended. Dunn argues that medicines and disinfectants are made to kill these microbial organisms, but it is essential we place focus on “gardening” the good organisms to reestablish the ecosystem in which we have evolved to live. Robrdunn.Com is an informative website where you can pick up his books and better acquaint yourself with the microscopic organisms that live on and near you.