Conventional warfare is a thing of the past. Terrorism has made certain of that. And the war against infection has followed suite.
We’re not Alone
We’re symbiotic beings. Our bodies harbour tens of thousands of bacteria. They make up a good portion of our physiology, in digestion, nutrition and in immunity. A single infectious agent can mobilize this microbial community in a concerted effort to eradicate it. This has always been the case.
Vaccines work, as do antibiotics. But the new enemy is far more virulent and resistant. Researchers are discovering that the human micro-biota holds the key to fighting the infectious nemesis. The terrain, the unifying and integral associations of bacteria makes all the difference, and worth enlisting in infection warfare.
A case in point is the re-colonization of the gut flora.
“In one of a handful of recent successful trials, fecal transplants in the form of frozen, encapsulated pellets of feces squashed infection in 18 of 20 patients.” http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/41295/title/Microbes-Fight-Chronic-Infection/
The only concern is that donor feces can harbour infectious agents. Isolating a potential enemy is difficult to shake when recruiting the complexity of terrain into the mix. But isolation is evidently still needed. It is a question of balance. Instead of eradicating the enemy with a single blow by one bacterial adversary, a ‘set of bacteria’ is looking far more promising and effective. “A cocktail of C. scindens plus three other C. difficile-inhibiting bacteria was even more effective, resulting in 100 percent survival.”
It is looking more and more like the war on infection is seeking cooperative, ecological solutions. The body and its friendly, fertile allies are a good option in the fight.
Factions, Not Heroes
Louis Pasteur said it: “bacteria are nothing the terrain is everything”. Terrorism is home-grown. It is a viral strain attempting to infiltrate and alter a generation. It permeates the terrain and recruits key components. Likewise, singling out bacterial factions rather than recruiting a single agent may be the best solution on the front line against infection.
A Communal Effort
Health care has always been a joint affair. It is an environmental effort. If our intestinal friends as a whole have made it work, and have done so for millennia, there must be something to it.
War succeeds in the end with a good understanding of the terrain. There’s so much going in the body that it calls us to relinquish some control to the coordinated effort of multiple organisms, whether we fully understand it or not.
A New Paradigm
We apply many things we do not fully understand. But they work. Sometimes we know how things work, yet only partially or for a time.
Antibiotics and vaccines may be of the latter category. The time has come it seems to adjust our perceptions in health care, to recruit the body’s own terrain in the battle on infection.
But it brings a shift in mindset. The fight is not just about the enemy, but about the ecological battleground. It’s a question of incorporating a variety of players in the mix. For practitioners, that means they must consider fields that they would not have normally considered in their practice.
Modern Health Care
The only magic in the care of any organism is that it remains well integrated and intact, as much as is possible. Optimal health is minimizing incisive and invasive intervention and optimizing prevention. This is what the battle on infection is telling us.
Simply put, the more health care intervention is able to respect the body’s own means to heal, the more effective it will be. The sooner whatever gets introduced into the human body is ecologically sound; the less invasive will be the intervention later on. It is that simple.