There is likely hundreds of human non-infectious diseases that are influenced by microorganisms, but the ones I think of when I hear this are sarcoidosis, malaria, oral thrush, yeast infections, sepsis, lyme disease, botulism, tetanus, and toxic shock syndrome.I realize after trying to write down all of the diseases that I think are influenced by microorganisms is actually slightly difficult. The most common diseases that came to mind were viruses, and while I suppose some would argue that a virus is a microorganism, I did not think it would be appropriate to add to this list. The videos provided for this week challenged my thinking though, but as of right now I figured I would keep cancer and other “non-microbial” diseases off my list as I am not well-versed in this area. After completing this activity, I noticed that the diseases I could think of were mostly communicable diseases. I think it is interesting that there are some microorganism influenced diseases that cannot spread person to person, due to the fact that the disease was most likely brought on by exposure, and then it simply inhabits only that body. However, is it possible that two microorganisms can inhabit the same body, ultimately causing two separate diseases? Does the body somehow ramp up its own immune system as an attempt to fight off an additional disease that it could come in contact with? I suppose this is why illness often confines a person to their bed, but I rarely hear of two life-threatening bacterial/fungal diseases occurring at once often. This could also simply be because it is just not very likely.
Prompt: List and describe as many changes in human behaviors as you can think of that contribute to decreased exposure to microbes.
- Going to the hospital
- Going to the dentist
- Going to the above and receiving antibiotics
- Having a major surgery
- Having a more bland diet, i.e. consuming more processed junk foods
- Showering a lot
- Using the antibiotic hand soap every time you wash your hands
- Cleaning with really powerful disinfectant wipes in your home
- Washing your clothes with bleach
- Not letting your kids play with other kids
- Not letting your kids play at the community park
- Isolating yourself for days on end doing homework in your room
- Being an only child with working parents (for the child)
- Not playing any contact sports as a child (for the child)
- Never going into the forest for a nature walk
- Never going to the beach
- Avoiding community transport
I feel like I can’t think of anymore without repeating myself.
Step 1: Some of the things that I’ve learned this term that are most interesting would probably be the areas concerning gut health, probably because this is mostly what we’ve focused on. Specifically, I really liked how cancer could potentially be caused by the microbes in our stomach. I also enjoyed the studies about mice and how differing microbiomes could influence their body fat mass. Recently, I have also found it interesting that take a simple vitamin supplement such as probiotics could really change a person’s gut potentially. I also think the fecal transplant stuff is kinda cool. I wrote about HPV and cervical cancer for the midterm essays, that was cool but I feel like I’m kinda tired of that subject now. It’s interesting how antibiotics really effect gut health and how it can take so long for it to recover. It also seems like gut health really has an impact on the body overall. The new stuff with skin dysbiosis and whatnot is kind of intriguing, but perhaps not as much as the older stuff to me.
Step 3: Specifically, I really liked how cancer could potentially be caused by the microbes in our stomach. I’ve always been really fascinated by cancer. In school, however, I have always been taught that cancer is simply something that happens by chance or from constant exposure to carcinogens such as cigarettes or red meat. When I first started the class I found this topic something that I looked forward to. I still think I really like it, and kind of think I’ll pursue it further. The studies that we read about make a lot of sense with how inflammation causes cells to divide and whatnot. This seems like something I should probably look into more. My parents both had cancer, so I’m a little worried about it myself even though its not genetic. Or… perhaps it can be? What if their microbiome was something that caused their cancer? They didn’t have gut cancer or anything, but maybe that could be passed down to me? I’m not too sure about that so I should probably stay on track with just the gut microbiome area.
Step 4: After reviewing my responses, I clearly should follow what interests me and pursue how microbes can cause cancer even further. To prepare for this, I should probably start finding research articles that could somehow show this. I am not entirely sure what I will find, since in class we only did stomach microbiomes. I’m not sure if I’ll find other parts of the body microbiome research and if thats associated with cancer as well, but I think just typing in key words of what I want is a good place to start.
Prompt: List and describe potential factors that the mother or the infant could be exposed to that could influence the colonization of the microbial community in the newborn infant (in positive or negative ways).
Response: Potential factors that the mother or infant could be exposed to that could influence the colonization of the microbial community of the infant seem as if it could be almost anything. Something that the mother could be exposed to when pregnant could be the things she eats and what these microbes are. Additionally, perhaps if the mother is in a very polluted area with dangerous breathing quality, this could potentially affect the infant. During pregnancy, if the mother takes probiotics or drinks kombucha, perhaps this could increase the infants microbiome diversity? After birth, the reasons listed before could also negatively affect the infant’s microbial community if they are directly exposed to it. However, things that could potentially positively impact the infant’s microbiome would having a formula that contains a diverse range of nutrients. Perhaps the mother’s breastmilk could be influenced by the mother eating nutritious foods as well.
Prompt: Describe your personal philosophy about how and when you have taken, or would take, antibiotics. What experiences or prior knowledge do you have that shaped that personal philosophy?
Response: I have taken antibiotics before, and I personally do not think that they are harmful if taken in appropriate dosages. I took them orally about two years ago and I did not have any complications. I think they are an extremely useful medical tool that can cure a lot of bacterial infections or diseases. However, I am very much so against any product that says antibacterial hand wash or antibacterial cleaner. I think this is completely unnecessary and is greatly promoting more and more antibiotic resistance in the world. It is very unclear to me how there is certainly knowledge that antibiotic resistance is a threat, yet all these mass companies keep making antibacterial products that do not even probably ever be used in an every day house hold setting. They especially do not need to be used every time someone washes their hands. Prior knowledge that has shaped this philosophy is in my microbiology course I have taken where my professor introduced this concept to me. My professor also taught us how soap works, and the importance of bacteria on our skin so it became a no brainer to say that it isn’t needed in hand-wash. I do think antibiotics are great in a healthcare setting, but not necessarily outside of it.
Prompt: What choices do you make in terms of food/nutrition/product use and consumption that may have an impact on your microbial communities? Consider choices that are intentional, and choices that are perhaps non-intentional.
Response: The food choices I make that may have an impact on my microbial community that are intentional would be that I consume a vegan diet. I do not eat cheese, yogurt, or any type of meat. Specifically from the video, we learned that cheese and yogurt have probiotic organisms in them and thus I do not necessarily receive these organisms in that way. However, I do consume quite a bit of kombucha which is a probiotic drink. I think my microbial community might not be as diverse as others though, however. I think not eating dairy products contributes to this greatly, but hopefully drinking kombucha would promote some microbial diversity. Non-intentional choices would be that I consume a lot of bread, pasta, and grains. These have always been favorite foods of mine, but I’m not sure how this would contribute to my microbial community. The bread that I eat certainly has a type of yeast in it, but once again it probably isn’t enough to create a large diversity in my gut. Something that would be questionable though is my use of vitamins, as I take a B-complex vitamin. Perhaps this would somehow stimulate some diversity, so that would be interesting to test.
(1)Karin Sundstrom and Klara Miriam Elfstrom are both PhD’s and their essay, “Advances in cervical cancer prevention: Efficacy, effectiveness, elimination?” (2020) describes that the need for cervical cancer elimination is critical and it can be done through tweaking programs with some additions. (2) Sundstrom and Elfstrom explain this through proposed increase of HPV vaccinations and more cervical cancer screenings, and that the vaccination should be catered to age and thus could make it a one dose vaccine, which would be more convenient. (3) The purpose of this article is to generate public incentive to become vaccinated and get tested in order to create a larger herd immunity to HPV and eradicate cervical cancer. (4) Sundstrom and Elfstrom establish a friendly yet academic relationship with the audience as this can be read by those intrigued by science and their own well-being.
After reading many articles, it seems as if the microbiome can be heavily influenced by external factors in our daily lives. However, certain factors can have either positive or negative impacts on the microbiome and lead to disease-developing cases.
Behaviors that could cause positive changes in one’s microbiome could be consuming a probiotic drink such as kombucha or taking a probiotic pill. This would have beneficial health impacts as probiotics could increase the person’s microbiome diversity. Exercising regularly could also have beneficial health impacts as this would avoid too much fat build up in the gut and encourage an overall healthier body and proper food intake. If a person exercises more, they will likely feel like they need to consume more protein to sustain their bodily functions which is also something that would have a beneficial health impact on their gut microbiome. Additionally, eating antioxidant rich foods could be beneficial, as they have been linked to reduce cancer rates and ultimately prevent inflammation for tumors development.
However, there are also many activities an individual could engage in that would be detrimental to their gut microbiome. Frequently having unprotected sex could be one of these activities, as it could heighten the risk of bacterial STIs which would then cause the person to receive antibiotics which is detrimental to the gut microbiome. Perhaps even smoking marijuana could be another detrimental factor towards bacteria diversification because this has typically been associated with consuming higher fat foods which would not aid the body’s microbiome.
I am not sure what could be an activity that would ultimately have neutral health consequences, as it seems like everything we do can affect us one way or another. Perhaps these activities would be something along the lines of often being exposed to a lot of people, as this would likely generate more exposure to their microbiomes and the positive and negative aspects of this would be neutral.
Prompt: As a healthcare professional, a colleague asks your opinion as to which HPV strains should be covered in a new treatment. Based on your reading from the Sarid and Gao 2011 article, what would your recommendation be, and when should the treatment be administered? What evidence supports your opinion? Keep in mind a cost/benefit analysis, as the cost of developing a vaccine for each strain can get very pricey!
Exercise: After learning about the different types of human papillomaviruses in the content from this week, it is clear that HPV is directly associated with cervical cancer. If a cancer could be stopped early by inventing a vaccine against these viruses, it would certainly be a breakthrough in oncology.
However, it seems as if cancer cells themselves are very rapid to evolve and develop amazing abilities in order to evade the immune system and DNA repair proteins. This vaccine would have to cover as many bases as it can, but this is not realistic price-wise unfortunately. The vaccine would likely come at too high of a price to be easily accessible, which would then defeat its purpose of creating a herd immunity. However, the article states that HPVs 16, 18, 31, and 45 account up to 80% of cervical cancer (Sarid & Gao, 2011). While there are other strains that are also potentially harmful and carcinogenic, these seem to be the major cancer-causing players. Hence, these four strains should be included in a vaccine treatment. This seems to be a reasonable amount of strains in a vaccine due to the fact that the flu shot offered every year has about three or four strains according to the CDC and many people are able to invest in it (“Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2018-2019 Influenza Season”, 2019). Hence, being able to have four of these major strains would likely be incredibly effective.
The vaccine should be administered before a person starts to become sexually active. The genital human papillomavirus is often spread through sexual interactions and therefore is likely not needed before these events occur.
Going back to the idea of cancer being a disease that constantly evolves though, I suppose it also could mean that the virus can evolve and develop another strain which means that the vaccine might need to be redesigned every so often.
Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2018-2019 Influenza Season. (2019, January 10). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.html
Sarid, R., & Gao, S.-J. (2011). Viruses and human cancer: From detection to causality. Cancer Letters, 305(2), 218–227. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2010.09.011