May 4, 2009
The philosophical dish to be consumed with the biological meal below is that we are more than simply individuals; we are also, at the relevant scale, walking ecosystems or even perhaps colonies. All individuals in nature are each, themselves, hierarchies of nested individuals. In a dual sense, we are simultaneously individuated and dividuated, one and many.
Your Body is a Planet
90% of the cells within us are not ours, but are microbes.
By Josie Glausiusz
From the June 2007 issue of Discover, published online June 19, 2007
We may not realize it, but each one of us is a walking ecosystem. Minuscule, eight-legged Demodex mites nestle head down inside the follicles of the eyelashes, feasting unnoticed on skin cells. Microscopic bacteria live on the tongue, teeth, and skin and in the intestine*. Dormant viruses like herpes simplex may loiter for years inside nerve cells. Perhaps strangest of all are the self-replicating, viruslike pieces of DNA that infected ancient humans and still make up about 8 percent of our genome.
Most of the time we share our bodies harmoniously with the 90 trillion or so microbes. But sometimes the arrangement turns contentious, as when blood-sucking bedbugs, fleas, and lice invade, or when herpes simplex or human papillomaviruses cause surface membranes to erupt in nasty pustules or warts. Just taking antibiotics may disturb the ecosystem in our gut by killing not only disease-causing organisms but also good bacteria, like Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Living with microbes demands a biological balancing act. For the most part, though, we are blissfully oblivious to the microscopic life we carry around with us. Considering what those organisms look like, that may be a good thing.
Comment from Leslie
Fascinating – not for the weak at heart if you continue on with this article. Balance, Homeostasis – that is what we need to strive for in our bodies – to be able to live at piece with these micro-organisms – and within our communities and our world. The invasion of our bodies with parasitic microbes is nothing more than the same mirror of how we act on a global scale.
Everything is everything. To think otherwise is sheer ignorance in this day and age.