Microbes Discuss Expansion And How To Eliminate The Competition
It’s weird but not surprising that some bacteria talk to one another in a process known as quorum sensing (QS). Life forms have evolved special adaptations to stay alive. Long ago, people, birds, and fish discovered safety in numbers and the value of communication.
So have microbes.
For humans, this has become a double-edged sword. We want beneficial bacteria, especially in our gut, to flourish. Good bacteria help with digestion, weight loss, and supplying essential elements. We encourage them through probiotics, fermented foods, and better stress/sleep management. The same cannot be said for pathogenic bacteria, which exist to destroy us. And it appears they are becoming increasingly adept at this through antibiotic resistance and the production of biofilms, a gooey protective shield where bacterial colonies can hide and “discuss” strategies.
What Do These Bad Boys Talk About?
Of course, bacteria aren’t really talking as in Spanish or French, but researchers believe quorum sensing takes place through a kind of chemical communication. Bacterial activity involving quorum sensing was first observed in the mid-1960s by Hungarian-born microbiologist Alexander Tomasz. Yet, scientists are only beginning now to understand the usefulness of quorum sensing, which allows pathogenic bacteria populations to develop more quickly, gain access to more resources, and infect host organisms such as humans more effectively, leading to deadlier diseases.
So what exactly are these yakkers saying?
Quorum sensing, says Dr. Amesh Adalja, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh, gives bacteria “situational awareness to alter behavior,” which helps them “grow” and “flourish.”
“Similar to ringing a tower bell or receiving an Amber Alert, this communication informs bacteria of what actions to take based on what’s going on,” says Brandon Mentore, a nationally recognized sports nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach. “These actions may be defensive in nature or opportunistic depending on the population and type of bacterial species you have.”
Getting Creative With Natural Weapons
Alternative therapies are also being explored. While they may not be able to block cell to cell communication, they may be effective at biofilm penetration, which essentially has the same effect. The most commonly used alternative therapies fall into these categories:
Probiotics are microorganisms introduced into the body for their beneficial qualities. Studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics.
Another tactic is probiotic foods such as traditionally cultured vegetables. If the good bacteria have a food supply, they last longer in the digestive tract and hopefully will repopulate the gut.
High dose enzymes can be very effective at breaking down the biofilm layer. InterFase, for example contains enzymes designed to eat through the biofilm so bad bacteria have to compete with beneficial bacteria for nutrients. Nattokinase and Serrapeptase are potent oral fibrinolytic enzyme supplements and reputed biofilm reducers. Proteolytic enzymes that breakdown proteins that contribute to inflammation and mucus such as Serrapeptase can also have an effect.
Time Running Out?
In 2013 the Global Burden Of Disease Study, a massive investigation on the propagation of chronic disease, revealed for the first time that up to 95 percent of the population is sick from a spectrum of chronic conditions. Biofilm-producing pathogenic bacteria are everywhere, from insect vectors like ticks and mosquitoes to contaminated food. There is also a moronic convergence of many other factors prevalent in Western culture — poor nutrition, processed foods, over consumption of sugar, environmental, and biochemical stressors such as insecticides and herbicides.
We now realize that antibiotics were never miracle drugs. They were more akin to miracle Band-Aids. Pathogenic bacteria have caught up to our technology. The challenge now is to catch up to theirs.