Writing Exercise 13

  1. Can experiments detect differences that matter? The significance of this question is that it suggests that when analyzing scientific literature, we must be aware of what methods are available to use and which are used in any particular study, and whether or not these methods can actually point out significant differences.
  2. Does the study show causation or correlation? This question is significant because sometimes people tend to assume that a correlation is a causation. We must take the time to decipher whether the results of a study are presenting correlation or causation.
  3. What is the mechanism? This is significant particularly in microbiology as it suggests that we analyze the exact mechanism by which a microbe is causing some effect. We now have the means to do this to some extent, and creating an entire pathway for explaining a microbes effects would be invaluable.
  4. How much do experiments reflect reality? When we read a study, it is important that we understand how much we can generalize from the study unto the human population. The article discusses that germ free mice are regularly used in microbial experiments, but findings from them generally cannot be used to describe human populations as these mice are usually unhealthy due to their lack of a diverse microbial community.
  5. Could anything else explain the results? This question is significant because we must be aware that there are few experiments that are truly perfect for providing results which can be applied in a broader context and because of this, we must be aware of other variables in the experiments that could have affected the results.

I believe that the most helpful of these questions to ask when discussing controversy is the third, what is the mechanism? I think this is the most helpful because if you can draw out a mechanism of all of the chemical and physical interactions caused by some microbe, that is the best proof of its effect on a system.


Writing Exercise #12

Microbial communities and mental health states both have the means to affect one another. In order to better understand this abstract connection, lets first examine how microbial communities can impact mental health states.

Microbes tend to utilize the resources around them to propagate. In this hypothetical scenario, these resources are allocated in our bodies. For the purpose of this example, lets analyze microbes that tend to attack the lungs. Although these microbes may not be feasting on the matter in our lungs, their presence may cause an immune response which causes inflammation of the lungs. Due to this inflammation, the lungs become incapable of inhaling as much air as they could previously. Thus, less air reaches the brain. In extreme cases, this could cause the cells of the brain to work less effectively, and perhaps die. This is an example of how microbes can affect our mental health states.

An example of the inverse is in the case of someone with bipolar disorder. These people tend to have depressive and manic phases. During these manic phases, these people tend to race about and stay up for several days performing some task. During this time, their body temperature is elevated. This elevation in body temperature could provide an optimal environment for some bacteria to flourish, and for others it may be the opposite and they may die. This is an example of how a mental health state could affect microbial communities.


Writing Exercise #9

There are many behaviors that humans exhibit, especially in today day and age, that contribute to the reduction of exposure to microbes. One of which is self isolation, which many people are doing today due to COVID-19. If not self isolation, many people are at least attempting to limit the number of people that they interact with. This leads to a reduction of exposure to microbes because just as people are diverse, so are the microbes that they carry, and as we see fewer and fewer people, we also see fewer and fewer microbes.

Another example of this phenomenon is hand washing and use of antibacterial agents such as hand sanitizer. Although your skin is still exposed to external microbes, other systems such as the mouth and nose will see less exposure to microbes as a result of this behavior. This is another behavior that has been increased due to the prevalence of COVID-19.

A final example of a human behavior that reduces exposure to microbes is the decision to work at home. Many people are working from home because of COVID, but it is not some new idea that was brought about because of the virus. People have been working from home more and more as the internet and related services have expanded, resulting in having fewer coworkers, or at least seeing them, and thus a lessening in the exposure to microbes.


Writing Exercise #8

The number of things I’ve learned over the course of this class so far are vast. Scientific articles are meant to present quality information and present it in such a way that it makes sense and has strong scientific backing.

Probably due to the recency effect, when I think of things I’ve learned in this class, I think of the most recent articles I’ve read. I discovered, through this article, that there are immense effect on the microbiota of children in PICU simply due to their extended stays there and their exposure to antibiotics.

For some reason I can’t seem to recall any of the other articles I’ve read in this class. Perhaps its because its late and my memory is sluggish. However, I have learned how to write based on a given audience. Whether the audience be normal people with no scientific education, or educated individuals immersed in science, the way that you write depends on the audience.

Whether the audience be normal people with no scientific education, or educated individuals immersed in science, the way that you write depends on the audience.

It is important for people to understand the writing of others. As such, it is a responsibility instilled upon the writer to ensure that their target audience is able to do just that. Using a writing style that is easy to understand among that audience is essential to producing a successful piece. Additionally, you must ensure that you use words that the readers will understand. Including several different tests and scientific jargon is sure to shy away readers that are not in tune with that sort of language. However, if you are writing for someone who is an expert in that field, then more tests and correct wordage would be the best way to go about things.

As I prepare to write my final review essay, I need to determine what controversial topics there are in the microbial world. From there, I feel that it will be fairly easy to find the appropriate scientific articles to back both sides of the argument and to provide sufficient information from my paper.


Writing Exercise #7

Regarding childbirth, there are many ways that the microbiota of both the child and the mother can be affected, both positively and negatively. This post will be focused primarily on the effects on the child post childbirth.

One was that the microbiota of the infant could be affected is through the mothers use of antibiotics. It has been shown that the use of antibiotics decreases the diversity of healthy microbes in individuals. This could harbor some sort of negative effect on the child, as the when the child is exposed to the mothers microbiota upon birth, there is lower diversity than there should be. This leads to the infant not being exposed to the full breadth of microbes upon birth, and could lead to weaker immune system or less diversity in the child’s microbiota.

Another factor that could influence the microbiota of the infant is the setting in which the infant is born. If it is a home birth, strict measures must be taken to ensure that no harmful microbes are present that could hurt the child. In a hospital setting, precautions must be taken to ensure that no nosocomial pathogens afflict the child. This is especially important if the child is expected to stay in the hospital for an extended period after the birth.

A third potential factor that could affect the microbiota of the child is the food introduced to the child post birth. If breastfeeding, the child will be exposed to all microbes in the mothers milk and all those harbored on her skin. This is generally a positive thing, as these microbes good for the diversity of the microbiota of the child. This also sets the stage for the microbiota of the child’s gut.

There are countless other microbial factors that could positively or negatively impact the child, just are there are countless factors that can affect us.


Writing Exercise 3

Unbeknownst to many of us, almost everything we do every day has the potential to influence our gut microflora. This prospect may seem terrifying for some, seeing as more and more research is being released showing strong correlations between gut microflora and our general well being. If you touch almost any surface, it is likely that you picked up some microbes from said surface, and a simple touch of the lips is more than enough to get those microbes to pass into the gut microflora. However, it is unlikely that the microbes involved are harmful in any way, although the possibility exists. I will analyze some scenarios where a specific action exhibited by an individual could cause some effect on said individuals microflora.

One example of this would simply be diet. One’s diet can offer up a direct route for microbes hitchhiking a ride on food straight into that persons gut. But, just as in the touching a surface example, it is unlikely that this would have any sort of negative impact on the individual. Well, assuming that the person is consuming food that has been deemed edible. Something like raw chicken would almost definitely have a negative effect on a persons microflora, by introducing Salmonella into the gut, a bacteria known to be harmful to humans. However, many of the foods we eat are generally going to have little effect on our microflora. Some foods have even been touted to have great beneficial effects on microflora, such as the probiotic drink: kefir. This drink is essentially comprised of slightly fermented milk, and is full of bacteria. This may seem unhygienic, but this drink and many other probiotic drinks have been linked to improved gut health.

One obscure way that one could alter their gut microflora is by engaging in anal sex. Mucous membranes on the human body are full of bacteria, as their purpose in some regions are to actually entrap bacteria to prevent them from causing harm. This is the case in areas like the nose, where mucous is produced to entrap bacteria, and then as a person swallows that mucous, the bacteria are subject to the extremely low pH levels in the stomach, and likely die. There are thin mucous membranes found on the head of the penis, and are likely capable of entrapping bacteria in much the same way. When engaging in anal sex, the participants are essentially inoculating the gut of the recipient with the microbes on the penis. Because the introduction of foreign bacteria into this area of the gut would never happen naturally, I am inclined to say that this would be likely to cause some sort of negative effect on gut microflora, but I have no evidence to back my claim. Thus, I will simply state that this could feasibly have some positive, negative, or neutral effect on the gut.

In conclusion, given the examples described above, there are many ways that gut microflora can be changed due to a persons actions. Even touching a surface could potentially have some sort of effect on the microflora, and in turn, ones overall health.


Writing Exercise 2

HPV is a virus that can seem latent, but can become cancerous almost under the radar. It has a huge prevalence in our general population, and thus, it has captured the attention of laypeople and the scientific community alike. However, there are several strains of HPV, and due to financial reasons, it would be nearly impossible to develop vaccines for all of them. Thus, using statistical analyses, we have to determine which strains our population would benefit the most from regarding vaccination against those strains.

From the data presented by Sarid and Gao in “Viruses and Human Cancer: From Detection to Causality”, we can break down the association between certain strains of HPV and cervical cancer. It was shown that 80% of cervical cancers in which HPV is involved are caused by only four strains. The remaining 20% of cases are caused by a great many other strains. However, 20% is still a large portion of the population, so would it be ethical to consider not developing vaccines for the HPV strains that are involved in this percentage of cervical cancers?

In my opinion, no it wouldn’t be. However, in order the save the greatest number of lives with the resources we have, we should develop vaccines for the four strains that cause 80% of HPV related cervical cancers FIRST. Then, provided that there are enough resources to be allocated to this cause, vaccines should be developed for the other HPV strains responsible for the 20% of HPV related cervical cancers. This utilitarian ideology seems dark as we are essentially disregarding those people affected by the other HPV strains, but its hard to argue that saving the greatest number of lives isn’t the best move.

Thus I believe that the HPV strains that vaccines should be developed for are strains 16, 18, 31, and 35, as these are the strains responsible for 80% of all HPV related cervical cancers, as shows in the article by Sarid and Gao.


Writing Exercise 1

A great many infectious diseases are caused by microbes, but people seem to rarely consider the effect that microbes have on non-infectious diseases. Further research into the effect of microbes on our general beings is being conducted readily, and has found that microbes affect our bodies much more than we would think. Microbes have been linked to the presence of cancers, diabetes, and even cognitive disorders such as depression and anxiety.

When we begin to wonder how these microbes may be causing or affecting such diseases, we need to look at how to microbes are functioning within our bodies. Microbes have their own metabolic processes just as we do, but their products are not entirely the same. Many of their metabolic byproducts may be harmful, such as the H. pylori bacteria we discussed in class, which causes inflammation and eventually cancer of the stomach.

However, cognitive disorders caused by microbes can be a lot more complicated than that. But, for examples sake, I will simplify it. Imagine that there is a bacteria found in the human gut that produces some byproduct that can inhibit serotonin. As we know, serotonin is responsible for our feeling of happiness and well being, and its absence has been linked to depression. This could feasibly occur, and thus we have a very simple route for microbes to affect even cognitive disorders.

Thus, maintaining a healthy microflora is critical in our day and age.