Using Pathogen Communication to Design Control for Disease Organisms Intelligently
We know that although it's great to make drugs available at really low cost and high frequency, we know
that when you make them highly available you're going to get resistance to those drugs. And so it's a
short-term solution. So what we need to do is look at some long-term solutions.
We all know that bacteria are the oldest living organisms on the earth. They've been here for billions of
years, and that they are single-celled microscopic organisms. So they are one cell and they have this
special property that they only have one piece of DNA. They have very few genes, and genetic
information to encode all of the traits that they carry out. And the way bacteria make a living is that they
consume nutrients from the environment, they grow to twice their size, they cut themselves down in the
middle, and one cell becomes two, and so on and so on. They just grow and divide, and grow and divide
-- so a kind of boring life, except that we have an amazing interaction with these critters.
I know you guys think of yourself as humans, and this is sort of how I think of you. This man is supposed
to represent a generic human being, and all of the circles in that man are all of the cells that make up your
body. There is about a trillion human cells that make each one of us who we are and able to do all the
things that we do, but you have 10 trillion bacterial cells in you or on you at any moment in your life. So,
10 times more bacterial cells than human cells on a human being. And of course it's the DNA that counts,
so here's all the A, T, Gs and Cs that make up your genetic code, and give you all your charming
characteristics. You have about 30,000 genes. Well it turns out you have 100 times more bacterial genes
playing a role in you or on you all of your life. At the best, you're 10 percent human, but more likely
about one percent human, depending on which of these metrics you like. I know you think of yourself as
human beings, but I think of you as 90 or 99 percent bacterial.
These bacteria are not passive riders, these are incredibly important, they keep us alive. They cover us in
an invisible body armor that keeps environmental insults out so that we stay healthy. They digest our
food, they make our vitamins, they actually educate your immune system to keep bad microbes out. So
they do all these amazing things that help us and are vital for keeping us alive, and they never get any
press for that. But they get a lot of press because they do a lot of terrible things as well. So, there's all
kinds of bacteria on the Earth that have no business being in you or on you at any time, and if they are,
they make you incredibly sick.
So the question arises not about whether which ones do good or bad, but rather how do they do anything