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Killing bacteria - antibiotics and disease prevention - Journal of Omnifarious

Sep. 14th, 2008

02:08 pm - Killing bacteria - antibiotics and disease prevention

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Killing bacteria wholesale is all the wrong approach.

First, bacteria aren't inherently bad. There are 2-9 pounds of bacteria in the human body living there perfectly harmlessly, and in fact often symbiotically. We don't want to kill them all off.

Secondly, bacteria evolve resistance. The basic formula is if the cost of the resistance is less than the amount of energy or material needed for the bacteria to flourish, it will evolve resistance.

So, IMHO, the goal should be to reduce the survivability of bacteria that are harmful. This will cause evolution to work for us rather than against us. One example would be somehow targeting specific gene sequences that produce toxins.

I was thinking about this after seeing this article on anti-bacterial paint and thinking that most strains of e. coli are actually perfectly harmless. It would be nice to just get rid of the ones that weren't, and if we could target just them it would likely allow the ones that were benign to easily out-compete the harmful ones.

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Current Mood: [mood icon] contemplative

Comments:

From:hattifattener
Date:September 14th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
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Bacteria outnumber human cells in a typical human body by a ratio of ten to one. (They're individually smaller, though.) From a purely numerical standpoint, we're bacterial colonies that have developed arcologies built out of cloned, neutered eukaryotes to move us around, maintain our environment, gather food, etc.

(Some old Bruce Sterling stories have space colonies which have carefully eliminated all bacteria— I don't remember if he touches on how the inhabitants manage to digest their meals and so on, or if it's just a throwaway bit about how tightly they control their biology.)

I've read speculation that the difference between beneficial and harmful strains of e. coli is carried by bacteriophages rather than being innate to the bacterium — though it's a fuzzy distinction really — dunno if that idea is well-regarded or not.
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From:anna_mcann
Date:September 14th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
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Of course you are absolutely right. The fact that most people don't get this is kind of exhausting and, quite frankly, dangerous. I have seen normal people die of a staph infection because our antibiotics can't kill them anymore... and it's only getting worse.
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From:somewoman
Date:September 15th, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
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Antibacterial paint?!

No. I refuse to believe it. *sticks fingers in ears* LALALALALA
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From:omnifarious
Date:September 15th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)

Pssst!

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It involves nanoparticles of titanium dioxide.

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From:somewoman
Date:September 15th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Pssst!

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Oh, well in that case, cool. I like titanium dioxide.
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From:omnifarious
Date:September 15th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Pssst!

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*sigh* My attempts to thrust unwanted details upon you have come to naught.

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From:memegarden
Date:September 15th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
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I am quite dismayed by the spread of antibacterial products to the point that one can't find normal, non-antibacterial ones, particularly in the case of liquid handsoap. Stores put the non-antibacterial stuff on the bottom shelf, under the far more numerous triclosan-laden varieties, if they carry it at all.
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From:memegarden
Date:September 15th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and this is about my favorite Doonesbury.
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