Microbes have been here long before us and will likely continue to thrive long after we are gone.  They are the building blocks of life on Earth and it is speculated that their evolution into more complex structures has given rise to the mitochondria organelle found throughout cells of the mammalian body.  This would imply that we have an ancient form of bacteria within every cell providing key functions without which human life would not be possible in its current form.

 

Besides the bacterial connection within our cells, our bodies are replete with microbes on every surface, both inner and outer, exposed to the outside world.  The microbes making up our gut microbiome are thought to outnumber our bodies’ own cells by a factor of ten – trillions of cells that are the cornerstone of our metabolism and immune system.

 

Helpful microbes make up one faction, but those that are pathological have been the single leading cause of death over the entire span of human history.  Our bodies are thus hyper-vigilant to the presence of pathogenic infections, and for those infections that become chronic, our bodies will work diligently to drive them into dormancy and keep them there.  Such is the case of the virus which causes chicken pox, Herpes zoster, that can potentially revisit us later in life as shingles should our body’s defenses become compromised by an acute or chronic unremitting stress. 

 

Of these pathological microbes, some are more virulent than others, some more insidious than others.  The symptoms they can cause also vary widely.  Many healthcare practitioners have looked to chronic infections that correlate consistently with symptoms based upon clinical observations.  One example of this is the diagnosis of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS) which attempts to correlate the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in children with a Streptococcal infection.  Another is a chronic infection of Chlamydia pneumoniae which is implicated as a risk factor for heart disease.  Many are aware of the association of H. pylori with stomach ulcers, but did you know that the same chronic infection has also been associated with colorectal cancer?  The list goes on.

 

Even if many of these chronic infections were not found to be directly causative of chronic disease, their presence does indicate a weakened immune system which creates a vicious cycle of further decreased immunity.  This is especially true when it comes to the presence of a focal infection. 

 

A focal infection is a hidden infection, often of the teeth or tonsils, that is implicated in a multitude of systemic problems from pain, fatigue, heart disease, neurological disease, and even cancer.  Difficult to detect and treat, focal infections are observed in a tooth that has received a root canal or within the jawbone following the removal of a tooth.  The argument in favor of root canals is that it saves a tooth, but the tooth, though structurally intact, is functionally dead and can harbor a deeply entrenched infection in an area where it is difficult for circulation and the body’s immune cells to reach.  This area then becomes a focus, releasing a steady stream of microbiological toxins.

 

Another area of speculation in microbiology and human health is the theory of pleomorphism which describes the process by which microbes can change form to resist detection by the immune system.  One of the ways bacteria can do this is by losing their cell walls (known as L-form) making it much more difficult for immune cells to target them for removal from the body.  The controversy surrounding chronic Lyme disease may center around the spirochete responsible for acute Lyme changing shape leading to a chronic variant of the infection.  In this form, not only would the Lyme infection resist detection by the immune system, but traditional means of testing to diagnosis Lyme may result in a false negative.
 

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