Writing Exercise #9

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.



Writing Exercise #8

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.

Exercise #7

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.

Writing Exercise #6

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.

Writing Exercise #5

Non-intentional choices that could be influencing my microbial communities potentially include the pH of the food I consume and the amount of water I drink. I would consider these things to be non-intentional because I don’t normally think about how these things could be affecting my body and my microbiota in particular. I think that the pH of the food I consume could end up having an impact on my microbiota because microbes flourish in environments with particular pHs. For example, if I need to take Pepto-Bismol or Tums I may end up creating a more basic environment in my gut even after passing through my acidic stomach. The amount of water I consume could influence my microbiota because like my own body, the microbes in my gut probably need water to live as well.

Intentional choices I make that may influence my microbiota include the vitamins I take, the varied amount of food groups I consume, and a sudden change in diet. Vitamins I take are meant to improve my health, but they could also be absorbed by the microbes in my gut unintentionally to improve, or harm, them. If I eat a varied amount of food groups, for example if I were to cut carbs out of my diet completely, I think this would also have an impact on my gut microbial communities. The bacteria in my gut that help digest carbohydrates so I can use them for energy may die off after not receiving enough, and when I consume carbs again it could be difficult for me to digest them. A sudden change in diet, for example the consumption of lactose by a lactose intolerant person (this doesn’t affect me personally), can have dramatic impact on microbes. Since that person doesn’t produce lactase, microbiota that do will digest the lactose, which can cause a lot of discomfort among other things.

Writing Exercise #4

Rhetorical precis:

(1) LydiaE. Wroblewski, a member of the Division of Gastroenterology and Department of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote of her work entitled “Helicobacter pylori and Gastric Cancer: Factors That Modulate Disease Risk” which explains how H. pylori is tightly correlated to the formation of gastric cancers in infected individuals, and how specific virulence factors including CagA and VacA toxins produced by the bacteria contribute to cancer formation. (2) Wroblewski’s study provides corroboration that virulence factors produced by H. pylori, along with the bacterium’s anatomy and physiology, alter the host gut environment, and over time alter the gut endothelial cell genes to produce cancerous endothelial cells. (3) The purpose of Wroblewski’s work is to better understand the mechanism by which certain H. pylori strains contribute to cancer in order to better prevent gastric endothelial cancer formation since a large portion of the world’s population is infected with the bacteria. (4) Wroblewski’s use of scientific jargon and reliance on the audience’s understanding of biological molecular processes infers an intended audience of microbiological researchers and biologists interested in microbial virulence and potential therapeutic treatment options for H. pylori infected individuals.

Lydia E. Wroblewski, Richard M. Peek Jr., Keith T. Wilson. 2010. Helicobacter pylori and Gastric Cancer: Factors That Modulate Disease Risk. 23(4): 713-739.

Writing Exercise #3

Behaviors the could change the gut microbial community in an individual:

  • Taking antibiotics to treat an infection. This would be potentially detrimental to gut microbes, eliminating them like the bacterial infection that was meant to be fought off with the medication. Also, taking antibiotics when not prescribed to do so, or for an incorrect amount of time could have further affects on an individual’s microbiota.
  • Consuming probiotics. This could be beneficial or detrimental depending on the conditions the individual takes the probiotics. I have always heard that if you are not in need of them, you should never consume probiotics because it could “disrupt your natural flora”. However, a person who is undergoing antibiotics may be encouraged to take probiotics to improve their diminished microbial gut populations.
  • Quality of diet. A person’s nutrition plays a large role in what kinds of microbes their guts harbor. I assume this has a lot to do with the role bacteria have in helping us digest our food. It can be assumed that a healthy diet encourages normal microbiota populations, whereas poor diet disrupts the normal environment for inhabiting microbes. Along with the type of food we consume, the amount also can change our individual microbiota. For example, according to the article “Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease: understanding a hidden metabolic organ” by Caitriona M. Guinane and Paul D. Cotter on page 295, malnutrition and obesity play a large role in gut microbe diversity.
  • Aging. The human gut microbiota varies hugely across age groups, according to the article cited above. An infant receives its first set of bacteria that become its microbiota through vaginal birth. After this, the microbiota matures and fluctuates over the span of a person’s life. Aging does not necessarily have a beneficial or detrimental affect on microbiota communities, but it has been proven that our gut microorganism populations change over time and adapt to our living conditions.
  • Changing environmental factors. The article noted above brought up a very fascinating piece of data that elderly microbiota differ based off of if the individual lives in a “long-stay care environments” versus in the general community. In this case, living in care facilities alters a person’s microbiota in a way that makes them more frail, making this particular example of environmental factors a detrimental one. This could be beneficial, though. For example, if a person who was malnourished received probiotics and began a normal, healthy diet, their microbiota populations could improve by changing some of their environmental factors.

Writing Exercise #2

Like most other people, going to a doctor’s office to receive a shot is not something I look forward to. This was especially true when I was in the middle of my HPV shots when I was younger. Anyone who has had this series of shots knows that they’re some of the most painful shots you’ll probably ever receive. However, the pain of having the shots in not comparable to the amount of pain you could potentially feel if you were to develop cervical cancer by choosing to not get vaccinated. Vaccinations are extremely an important aspect of modern medicine, and it is vital that vaccines are effective and affordable.

As a healthcare professional, I would recommend that the strains covered in an HPV vaccine include HPV16, HPV18, HPV31, and HPV45 as they are correlated with approximately 80% of cervical cancer cases (1). Furthermore, HPV16 and HPV18 have also been connected to anogenital cancers and some head and neck cancers (1), so by including these strains in a vaccine, cancer types beyond cervical could potentially be prevented as well. Other strains of HPV such as HPV’s 33, 35, 39, 51, 52, 56, 58, and 59 have been associated with cervical cancer, but I feel that the vaccine should include the most high-risk strains that are most often associated with the development of cancer over time.

The vaccine should be administered to young people, before possible exposure to HPV through sexual intercourse, or as soon as possible starting around the age 11 or 12 (2). According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection spread through sexual contact (2). Along with initial vaccinations, it is necessary that the patient follow up with a booster shot to increase immunity to these high- risk HPV strains.

  1. Sarid R, Gao S-J. 2011. Viruses and Human Cancer: From Detection to Causality. Cancer Lett 218–227.
  2. 2017. Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Writing Exercise #1

List of human non-infectious diseases influenced by microorganisms:

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

These are the only diseases I can think of, although I am sure there are many more. I’m interested in reading what my peers had to say on their blogs and seeing if our ideas are similar.