As head of a funding agency, I would like to see more funding go to research done to better understand how different modes of birth impact the gut microbiota, which in turn impacts an individual’s immune system. This is the topic I chose to write about in my final essay, and I find that it is important to research more because many women are choosing to have cesarean sections done which have been correlated to higher rates of autoimmune diseases and various allergies. From the research conducted by the means of these funds, the scientific world could begin to better understand how proper gut microbial populations are directly correlated to healthy immune system development. By better understanding this concept, more pregnant women in the future may choose to do vaginal delivery (if they are able to) instead of opting to do cesarean birth because of data from the this much needed research. This would not only be beneficial for the infant, but better for our healthcare system and our economy as a whole.
- H. pylori and gastic ulcers/ gastic cancer
- Various autoimmune disorders triggered by gut dysbiosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Cardiovascular disease from an altered oral microbiome
- Potentially Crohn’s disease
- Various gastrointestinal diseases
- Allergies to food and environment
- Side effects of lactose intolerance
Looking back on my writing exercise #1 post, it is obvious to me that I have learned a lot about how microbes influence human health over the course of this class. At the start of the term, the only thing I knew was that microorganisms live in our gut and are important to help digest our food. Other than that, my knowledge about the microbes harbored in and on our bodies was very limited. The major topics I will take away from BHS323 are H. pylori and gastric cancer, and the influence that vaginal vs. cesarean birth can have on a persons immune system through the development of their gut microbiota. Overall, this course has better prepared me for my career as a scientist, both with more knowledge about microbes and also critically reading scientific literature.
- Can experiments detect differences that matter?
This aspect of a scientific article is important to interpreting a scientific article because if not for a purpose that impact many in the community, what is the article trying to accomplish? In other words, if the research discussed in a piece of scientific writing are insignificant or obvious, then what is the point of researching the topic in the first place? It is important as a reader to identify what matters in an article, particularly the introduction section, in order to have a basic understanding of what will be discussed throughout the article.
- Does the study show causation or correlation?
There is a huge difference between causation and correlation. Correlation involves factors that move and happen together at one single time, and influence the final state of something, and causation is when a factor has a direct implications on the final state of something. For example, there is a correlation relationship between how much schooling someone undergoes and the salary they make at a later age, and an example of causation is being exposed to high pollen counts and sneezing like a maniac. When reading a scientific study, its important to realize the difference between the two and how they effect the final outcomes of experiments. When reading about controversial subjects, this is particularly important because its vital to realize that the difference in causation vs correlation is huge. Correlation does not equal causation.
- What is the mechanism?
When interpreting scientific articles, it is good for the reader to have basic background knowledge of the mechanism of how the scientific subject works. This is often explained in the introduction section of an article and sets the tone for the rest of the article. If the reader doesn’t understand the mechanisms of how the scientific topic works, they may have a difficult time interpreting the results of the experiment.
- How much do experiments reflect reality?
Being able to relate the topic of a scientific article to reality could help a reader better understand the worldly implications of the data presented in the paper. If the experiment does not mimic real world situations, the reader could be swayed to side with one side of a controversial topic over the other side’s argument.
- Could anything else explain the results?
This aspect of interpreting scientific articles kind of goes back to the differences between correlation and causation and how factors influence outcomes in many different ways. Thinking of alternate ways to prove or disprove a topic in science is how we move forward in research and begin to learn new things about the world around us. When interpreting articles, I think it is healthy to have faith in the research done, but also to question the research in a way. In my experience, this keeps the mind open and eager to read alternative research on a topic, especially when said topic is controversial.
Based off of what we have learned in the past weeks in this class, I think it fair to say that microorganisms in and on the body play a major role in overall health. I have learned though personal research for my final essay that the gut microbiota composition can influence immune health and in some people, the absence of certain microbes can lead to an increased risk of autoimmune disorders. That being said, gut microbiota could potentially influence the brain and mental state of an individual based off of its composition leading to autoimmune disease. Also, there could be a correlation between certain microbes and a person’s mental alertness. For example, if a person were to be deficient in an essential type of microbe responsible in the aid of carbohydrate breakdown, that person may feel more fatigued and less alert throughout the day than an individual containing that microbe.
Mental health could influence gut microbiota based off of factors like stress. Based off of my learning in my anatomy and physiology class, a person under chronic stress undergoes chemical changes in the body like an increase in the hormone called cortisol. This spike in a hormone could potentially alter gut microbiota populations since it’s long term impacts on the body include things like increased or decreased appetite, raised blood pressure, lowered immune response, and over or under sleeping. All of these things, I think, could have some indirect impact on microbial communities in the gut.
Peer reviewing is an important process that allows multiple people to verify that what is said in an article is true and scientifically accurate. For scientific articles, it is important that the article is read by more than just the scientists who wrote it in order to ensure that the information and conclusions drawn from the data are not bias and are accurate. Further, peer reviewing allows the editors to give advice for the article to be more readable to an audience outside of the scientists who preformed the experiment. Peer reviewing ensures that scientific data is not fabricated, is easy to read, and grammatically correct.
I enjoy peer reviewing essays and giving feedback on their work. As always, it was hard to give constructive criticism because I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad about their work, but I knew it would benefit them in the end, so I tried to put my advice into kind words. I enjoy getting feedback on my writing so I try to be helpful when I peer view for someone.
After reading my assigned essays this week, I found some elements I am considering including in my paper. One essay had bolded headers for each new idea, which each lasted about a page long, that gave the reader a good idea about what was coming next in the writing. I liked this to better organize the paper. Sometimes with these longer essays ideas can go off topic, but by having a bolded subject description at the beginning of each topic, I feel like my writing would stay more on track. Second, the other article I read had a lengthy introduction that gave some really good background information on their topic, and I will be revising my essay to do the same. Overall this peer review process was not only beneficial to the authors who wrote the essays that were reviews, but also to myself to improve my writing.
Human behaviors that could decrease exposure to microbes:
Antibiotic use. Antibiotics decrease microbial populations of bad microbes as well as microbes that are important for our microbiota. Taking antibiotics will undoubtably decrease a person’s exposure to microbes by getting rid of both good and bad bacteria.
Over sterilization of environment. By cleaning everything all of the time, a lot of microbial populations can be decreased in a persons environment and never make it on or into their bodies. For example, over cleaning of children’s toys that often end up in their mouths could potentially have a negative affect on their microbiota / immunity.
Limited interaction with other people/children. Since people are covered with microbes, it’s no surprise that interactions with other humans can diversify our own microbial populations. If a person is kept away from other people, they won’t come in contact with other people’s microbes.
Not being allowed to play in dirt. Soil is full of bacteria. If a child is restricted from playing in the dirt, that child won’t be exposed to certain microbes at all.
Homeschool opposed to public or private school. This scenario is similar to the limited interactions with other people example. Staying in one particular environment like a persons home versus going to a public school or public area will decrease ones exposure to microbes.
Taking too many baths. This is over sterilization of your body. There are many microbes on the outside of the human body. By washing them off, a person is decreasing potentially beneficial microbes.
1st free write: So far, this class has really exceeded my expectations. I went into the class not really knowing what to expect and not knowing the subjects we would learn. Having been in the class for 5 weeks now, my favorite subjects have definitely been H. pylori infections, and the use of pro/pre/synbiotics to treat certain illnesses. H. pylori infections are interesting to me because my sister had trouble with ulcers a few years ago. Another thing that caught my attention about H. pylori was how the main scientists who discovered it actually consumed it in order to prove its pathogenicity and prove it was the major factor causing the actual ulcers. Before this class I had never heard of prebiotics or synbiotics, so its been interesting to learn about them over the last couple of weeks and how they can potentially be used to treat conditions.
2nd free write: The scientists consuming H. pylori is so interesting to me because it shows how much these people were dedicated to their work and to science in general. My entire school experience in a science classroom has always touched on how dangerous it is to consume food in a lab room let alone swallow a petri dish of bacteria. Its inspiring to read about scientist who feel so passionate and so confident in their work that they would be willing to put their health on the line in order to improve the health of so many people around the world. I would hope that as a scientist, I would someday be able to contribute to science like those who did before me, maybe not going as far as to consume my experiment, but enough to inspire young scientists like myself.
Going into next week when I’ll be coming up with a final essay topic, I want to try to focus on something that I feel passionate about. H. pylori could be a potential topic to write about, but I might look into other things we have touched on, such as environmental factors that cause changes in infant microbiota. This could be a more controversial topic to write about and have more talking points than H. pylori infections and gastric cancer. I will continue brainstorming on this as the week goes on so I can choose a topic that I feel is important as a scientist to learn about more in depth.
Factors that influence the colonization of the microbial community in a newborn infant:
Vaginal vs. Cesarean Section Birth. I have learned in the past in my immunology course that when infants are born vaginally, they ingest the mother’s secretions on the way out of the birth canal and that colonizes in the gut of the infant and becomes the flora (positive impact). If a baby is born through a cesarean section, I have learned in the past that a vaginal swab is used to transplant microbes from the mother into the babies mouth to colonize in the gut. If these microbes are not transplanted this could have a major negative impact on the colonization of gut microbes and I would imagine this infant could have serious digestive problems in the future. Another option is the baby not having a vaginal bacteria transplant and instead being exposed to the mother’s skin microbes only, as noted in the mini lecture this week. I have not studied if these skin microbes are better or worse or no different than vaginal microbes to colonize the gut, but I can imagine it would have a dramatic effect on gut microbial diversity.
Living/environmental conditions. After the infant is born, it will be exposed to an overwhelming amount of microbes from their surroundings. These microbes could have a positive impact or negative impact on the gut microbial community depending on the behavior of the microorganism in the gut. If the microbe is pathogenic, this will definitely negatively impact the microbiota.
Exposure to antibiotics and vaccines. Being exposed to antibiotics at a young age could wipe out bacteria that are attempting to colonize and disrupt the gut microbial community impacting it negatively. Vaccines could do this as well, but I would imagine in a more positive way that would decrease the number of pathogenic bacteria present in the infants body.
Genetics. Perhaps the baby’s genetics could alter the phenotype from normal gut conditions to acidic or basic conditions, making it a hard place for good or bad bacteria to colonize that are normally members of the gut microbial community. The diversity of the microbiota could be altered this way.
My personal philosophy about taking antibiotics stems from advice from doctors that have prescribed me antibiotics in the past. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections that are harmful to an individual’s body. However, according to the mini-lectures from this week’s content, in the process of taking antibiotics, a person’s natural microbiota can be disrupted and certain strains can be almost wiped out. For this reason, I think it’s important for people to have to take antibiotics to also consume probiotics to maintain a healthy gut flora.
Something else that was mentioned in the mini-lectures this week is how, if not taken correctly, antibiotics can cause bacteria to become antibiotic resistant and be unable to be treated with the same antibiotics as before. For this reason, my personal philosophy is that if antibiotics are prescribed to you by a doctor, you should take them as directed and for the amount of time needed to properly clear the infection, not just until you feel better.