Facing a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile where antibiotics had proven ineffective, Dr. Khoruts determined his patient should have a transplant. He gave her some bacteria from her husband .
Before the procedure , they observed , her intestinal bacteria population was in a desperate state . “The normal bacteria just wasn’t there in her,” said Dr. Khoruts. “She was colonized by all sorts of misfits.” Two weeks after the procedure , the donated microbes had taken charge . “That community was able to function and cured her disease quickly” .
To state that the scientific community was taken aback with the results is definately an understatement. It shouldn’t be. Researchers are frequently astonished by the complexity , impact , and massive volume of bacteria that have colonized our bodies. We have more than 10 times more microbes than cells.
We end up with populations composed of various species, but those species usually carry out the same necessary chemistry that we need to survive . One of those jobs is breaking down complex plant molecules. We have a completely inadequate number of enzymes encoded in the human genome, so we need microbes . As well as aiding our digestion , the bacteria helps us in many other ways. The microbes in our nasal passage , for example, make antibiotics that battle the dangerous pathogens we sniff .
In order to co-exist with our internal flora own bacteria population , our immune system must tolerate thousands of harmless species , while attacking pathogens . Researchers are finding that the microbiome itself guides the immune system to the proper balance. One way the immune system fights pathogens is with inflammation. Too much inflammation can be damaging , so we also have immune cells that produce inflammation-reducing signals. With their ability to contain unrestrained free radicals, antioxidant populations also support an inflammation fighting function.
Scientists are uncovering new links between the microbiome and our health. And they’re finding that many illnesses are accompanied by big changes in the makeup of our inner ecosystems. For example asthmatics have a different collection of microbes in their lungs than healthy people. Obese people also have a different set of species in their guts than people with normal weight.
Some surveys indicate that babies delivered by C- section are more vulnerable to skin infections because they might lack the protective covering of bacteria from their mother’s birth canal. Caesarean sections have also been linked to an increase in allergies and asthma in children . So have the high use of antibiotics in the U.S. and other developed countries. Children who live on farms — can get a healthy exposure to microbes from the soil — are less less likely to get autoimmune disorders than their peers who grow up in cities.
We consistently underestimate the importance of microbes and bacteria to our health and our medical profession has been too quick to take out their pads of paper and write up prescriptions for antibiotics and synthetic drugs. Digestive enzymes, healthy bacteria and natural support for our immune systems might be a more thoughtful route to take in the future if we want to change this trend.