Bacteria Are Our Friends, Except When They’re Not

Whereof One Can Speak

It’s good to remind ourselves occasionally that we human beings are little worlds of a sort. Each of our bodies is composed of trillions of cells (about 40 trillion, based on a recent estimate), each going about their individual business, and maybe ten times that many microorganisms, mainly bacteria, each going about their business too.

I’m not sure why it’s good to remind ourselves of this fact, but it seems like something worth keeping in mind. It might, for example, help us not be so fearful of bacteria. They’re not necessarily bad for us. For one thing, they help us with digestion. More surprisingly, some scientists believe that, before people began frequent applications of soap and shampoo, one kind of bacteria (Nitrosomonas eutropha) flourished on people’s skin, acting as a “built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide”.


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