Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infections, Bacteria 'Critical For Healthy Life'

Date:
November 7, 2007
Source:
Colorado State University
Summary:
Mothers around the world are armed with anti-bacterial gels, sprays and baby blankets, diligently protecting their children from nasty forms of bacteria. But recent research shows that society's anti-bacterial and anti-infection crusade makes children and adults more likely to develop asthma and allergies -- and perhaps even mental illnesses. Dr. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, argues that all living things on earth must have infections to thrive, and society's challenge is to sort the good infections from the bad infections.

A ton of microscopic bacteria may be active in each acre of soil.
Credit: Michael T. Holmes, Oregon State University, Corvallis.

Mothers around the world are armed with anti-bacterial gels, sprays and baby blankets, diligently protecting their children from nasty forms of bacteria. But recent research shows that society's anti-bacterial and anti-infection crusade makes children and adults more likely to develop asthma and allergies - and perhaps even mental illnesses.

Related Articles


Dr. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, argues that all living things on earth must have infections to thrive, and society's challenge is to sort the good infections from the bad infections. People's love affair with anti-bacterial products is changing - and not necessarily for the better - how immune systems, gastrointestinal systems and even nervous systems develop and function.

"Microorganisms shape the lives of all living things and infections steer the course of the world. Most people understand that infections are at the root of many terrible diseases like malaria and leprosy. But infection may also play a significant role in many chronic aliments, including some that may surprise you such as schizophrenia, ulcers and obsessive compulsive disorder," said Callahan, an immunology professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts.

The role Toxoplasm gondii, a parasite, may play in producing schizophrenia in people isn't clear. But rats infected with T. gondii exhibit suicidal behaviors. And otherwise normal men and women infected with T. gondii exhibit alterations in their behaviors: Infected women are likely to be more warmhearted and outgoing, and infected men often are more jealous and suspicious.

About 15 percent of all cancers could be prevented if infectious diseases that play a role in causing these cancers, which include stomach, cervical and liver cancers, could be controlled, Callahan said.

But what many people may not realize is that most infections ensure our health instead of compromise it.

Mitochondria are bacteria-like components of cells that take fats and sugars and make adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Every action that distinguishes a living human being from a dead human being is dependent on ATP.

"We need our bacteria," Callahan said.

Other research shows that sheltering a child from bacterial infections increases his or her chances of developing asthma and allergies. In fact, recent studies show that the more educated parents are, the more likely their children are to develop asthma and allergies possibly because these parents are more likely to worry about bacterial infections.

Of course, parents want to protect children from infectious diseases. Callahan draws an analogy between how parents teach their children to recognize unsavory characters and how society must differentiate good from bad bacteria and infectious microorganisms.

"We understand that part of becoming an adult is learning to interact with people and recognize both bad and good in those people. The same is true for bacteria and other infectious microorganisms," he said.

Humans have 10 times more bacterial cells in their bodies than human cells. Without bacteria, there would not be humans. Human life depends on certain infections.

"Before we knew the important role that infections play, we knew about things like rabies and polio and yellow fever," Callahan added. "Because of that, when Fleming finally introduced penicillin in 1945, we went crazy with joy and began to slather everything with antibiotics, especially ourselves. Now we are paying our dues for that overreaction."

Not long ago, all staph infections responded to methicillin. But within a few decades of the widespread use of methicillin, many staph infections are unfazed by this once powerful antibiotic and all of its chemical relatives.

Callahan points out that there are more bacteria by far in this world than any other living thing.

"We are a minority on this planet, and we must learn how to work with the majority," he said.

Callahan is the author of two books on the topic of infectious disease, the human immune system and the impact of infection on life and the world: "Infection: The Uninvited Universe" and "Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Colorado State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Colorado State University. "Infections, Bacteria 'Critical For Healthy Life'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106194009.htm>.
Colorado State University. (2007, November 7). Infections, Bacteria 'Critical For Healthy Life'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106194009.htm
Colorado State University. "Infections, Bacteria 'Critical For Healthy Life'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106194009.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — A recent test of a prototype Ebola vaccine generated an immune response to the disease in subjects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins