‘INFECTIONS’: HOW WE EXPERIENCE INTERACTIONS WITH MICROORGANISMS

The RNA molecule is central to life. It is the information molecule of the Pandemic SARS CoV 2 virus, whose Messenger RNA specifying Spike proteins is the basis of 2 recently-released vaccines.

“RNA Life” is the leading theory for the Origin of Life itself, more than 3 Billion years ago. DNA evolved as the blueprint information molecule in cellular life, but the ubiquitous RNA may well have become the first viruses.

The stage was set for the ongoing battle of life: Parasite vs. Host, Pathogen vs. Target, but recent research reveals a much more nuanced picture. Viruses and bacteria can be BENEFICIAL as well as deleterious. We now speak of the MICROBIOME, usually referring to our host of resident BACTERIA, and the VIROME referring to all of our indwelling VIRUSES.

INFECTION is how we experience our interaction with microorganisms, their benefits unseen. Bacteria, viruses and parasites have always been with us, increasing in impact as Paleolithic man crowded into agricultural settlements.

Enlarging cities became more dense, favoring spread of infection and PLAGUES. The Bacterium, Yersinia Pestis,emerged in Roman times,
causing the Justinian plague, and resurfaced in the 14th C. as the Black Death. Viral Plagues, including Smallpox, were devastating during European adventures into the New World.

Malaria, a one-cell Eukaryotic Parasite, may be the greatest killer of all time. Modern Sanitation and improving medication have lately pushed bacterial infections into the background.

Viral infections such as Influenza and most recently Covid have become the Modern face of infection. Many Viruses reduce Immunity, however, paving the way for bacteria to invade: Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterium, may have caused much of the mortality of the 1817-1918
Flu epidemic.

IV drug usage has facilitated the spreading of the viruses causing Hepatitis and AIDS. The immune-compromising nature of the latter has reinvigorated TB and Syphilis, both bacterial infections. Only a few years ago, bacterial infection was thought to be conquered by antibiotics, and viral infection contained by Vaccines.

Microorganisms are constantly evolving, however, and often share their resistance factors. Infection is no more a thing of the past than War. The Battle continues.

–Dr. C.

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