When we sneeze and infect another person, the virus commander exclaims, “Our plan is working!”
In the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Jared Diamond explained that germs “have strategies.” One of their strategies is to run in the blood of the host and wait for a mosquito to give them a free ride to another person or animal.
Another popular microbe dispersal action is to make the host sneeze, cough, throw up or go to the bathroom more often than usual. In the past, when tribes didn’t have decent bathrooms, germs from waste and from the soil would flow into the community’s water system when the rain came.
Farmers also had a habit of using human and animal manure as fertilizer. Germs on the soil can actually drill themselves into our skin. I used to think this was just my parents’ narrative to make me wear slippers all the time.
Back to the germs' “strategy.” Do they really have a mind? I can’t imagine bacteria and viruses brainstorming on a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
Plants have a mind, too
According to Diamond, plants have a strategy, too. They make their fruits have a nice color in order to attract hungry insects, birds, and other animals. These creatures will then spread the seeds in places where they poop.
Humans are driven by the need to propagate, too, even though that’s not what we’re always thinking of when we desire a partner.
A pattern emerges! Everything on earth seems to be driven by an instinct to multiply and ensure many generations of their species. Is that the universal life force? It appears that it’s the will of the Creator for humans, animals, plants, insects, and microbes to co-exist till eternity. Nature has an intricate and awesome network of interdependency!
The purpose of germs
Many germs, which include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, play a role in ensuring the survival of animals and humans. They help strengthen the immune system.
In the 1980s, German pediatrician Erika Von Mutius proposed that children have a steady exposure to germs after it was observed that children exposed to dirty surroundings had fewer respiratory problems.
When pathogens enter our body, the immune system responds by gathering its army of defenders. If our defense mechanism succeeds, the body develops either a short-term or life-long immunity. What germs do to our immune system is like what a gym workout does to our muscles.
Sometimes, a race adapts and the lifetime immunity is passed on to the next generation through genes. That was why Aztecs and Incas thought the Spaniards were protected by a good god when the invaders were untouched by a mysterious disease mowing down the natives of what is now South America. The reality was previous generations of Europeans had been exposed to smallpox so they became immune to it.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered that the fungi Penicillium could kill other bacteria. Today, life is unimaginable without antibiotics. The website of the National Cancer Institute reported that “a new study suggests that such viruses, known as oncolytic viruses, can be further enhanced to improve the body’s immune response against tumors.”
A virus’s relationship with the immune system is best demonstrated in the bat, the suspected original carrier of the novel coronavirus. The bat carries a lot of viruses and it also has an incredible immune system. According to an article on the NPR website, the bat’s immune system enables the flying mammal to endure a body temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a heart rate of 1,000 beats per minute. The article also reported that the bat’s immune system does not overreact to pathogens that’s why they don’t fall sick and may not develop the equivalent of our cancer and diabetes. Bats live up to 30 years! Scientists believe there’s so much we can learn from the bat, the courier of the novel corona, Ebola, SARS, Marburg, and many other viruses.
The COVID-19 we are battling today may make future humans immune to coronavirus and many other diseases.
Why would the Creator make viruses that keep bats alive? Bats eat insects and pollinate plants. Without bats, mankind will go hungry. How about mosquitoes? Mosquitoes can be food for fishes and other aquatic animals. We are all connected for a reason.
Whenever humankind survives an epidemic, humankind comes out stronger and wiser. I am led to believe that we need bacteria, viruses and other microbes in our continuous evolution. I am sad that many are dying but it is somehow consoling that modern healthcare makes tragic statistics a thing of the past.
It is also comforting to know that when humankind bounces back, humankind bounces back with a vengeance.
Allies and Enemies: How the World Depends on Bacteria by Anne Maczulak
Bats Carry Many Viruses. So Why Don’t They Get Sick? By Pien Huang in the NPR website
Bats’ Immune Defenses May Be Why Their Viruses Can Be So Deadly to People by the ScienceNews website
Dual-Function Virus Engineered to Kill Tumor Cells and Support Immune Cells by the NCI Staff in the National Cancer Institute website
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
The Mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard
Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future by Michael B. Oldstone
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.