Scientists: Let's End the War on Germs

Scientists trying to map body's microbes, tend them like wildlife rangers
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2012 1:27 PM CDT
Scientists: Let's End the War on Germs
Not all the critters in the human body are bad news.   (Shutterstock)

There might be up to 100 species of microbes living in your mouth right now—and that's probably a good thing. A growing number of scientists say it's time to stop trying to eradicate germs, and to start treating our bodies the way ecologists treat wildlife preserves, the New York Times reports. "I would like to lose the language of warfare," one researcher says. "It does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies."

Last week a group of around 200 scientists published the Human Microbiome Project, the most ambitious attempt yet to catalogue the body's indigenous lifeforms. Most are helpful, or at least peaceful—most people even harbor non-harmful viruses. Antibiotics often wipe out these helpful bacteria, like herbicides killing vegetables along with weeds. These scientists believe adding bacteria might often be more effective than killing it. "People are starting to take this seriously," says one researcher. "This is a therapy that's going to help a lot of people." (Read more microbes stories.)

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