Microorganisms are enzymes with physical bodies and they have conquered air, land, water bodies, plants, animals, humans and synthetic products. They outnumber the billions of earth’s inhabitants.
Mode of operation Microbes were the first to colonise any known habitat. They adapted to all types of nutrition – produce their food (autotrophs), eat plants (herbivores), flesh (carnivores), waste (saprophytes) and eat them all (omnivores).
They generate, utilise and manipulate efficiently the atmospheric gases; carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen etc.
Essential processes such as combustion, respiration, biodegradation, corrosion, and pathology require oxidative processes. Thus, life on earth is essentially the function of oxygen.
The only process that generates oxygen back into the atmosphere is photosynthesis. Oxygen- consuming activities are on the increase with a corresponding reduction in plant photosynthetic activity associated with deforestation and loss of carbon sink. This is the oxygen dilemma.
Time: Procedures that fail due to excessive exposure to oxygen leads to delayed reports.
Credibility: The physician knows the patient has an infection, however, the report says “no growth”!
Budgets: You committed time and money to work up a culture, however, you didn’t obtain the results you needed. Materials and time are wasted.
Media: Oxygen is the major cause of media deterioration. When exposed to oxygen during manufacturing and storage, media accumulate toxic products of oxidation that will inhibit the growth of many anaerobic pathogens.
People: When culture results are compromised by processing the specimen in air and on oxidised media, the loser is the patient.
Why Oxygen kills
Oxygen reduction products are extremely toxic because they are powerful oxidising agents and rapidly destroy cellular constituents.
A microbe must be able to protect itself against such products or it will be killed. Neutrophils and macrophages use these toxic oxygen products to destroy invading pathogens.
Carbon compounds and interaction in nature
A carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon than it releases, whilst a carbon source is anything that releases more carbon than is absorbed.
Forests, soils, oceans and the atmosphere all store carbon and this carbon moves between them in a continuous cycle. This constant movement of carbon means that forests act as sources or sinks at different times. Humans as well as plants and animals on earth, are made primarily of carbon. Carbon, in form of carbondioxide, (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas released to the atmosphere as a result of human activities. Continued release of greenhouse gases raises the temperature of the earth, disrupting the climates and raising sea level.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has already increased by nearly 40% since the start of the industrial revolution and will continue to increase unless we stop the use of fossil fuels.
Carbon delicate balance and microbial activities
There are growing concerns on the fate of the vast carbon sink in permafrost in the Arctic system as the earth warms up. Permafrost, defined as ground frozen for at least two years, covers more than one-fifth of the northern hemisphere, an area more than six times the size of the USA that could shrink by 25 % due to warming by 2100.
The mass of carbon trapped in its frozen organic matter is at least twice the amount in the earth’s atmosphere.
Microbes frozen for thousands of years can spring to life and digest the carbon to release heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, amplifying warming and melting.
Biodegradation: The ability of microorganisms to degrade organic pollutants has been exploited in clean up technology of contaminated environments.
Implications for man Anaerobic digestion is a collection of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen. It is used as part of the process to treat biodegradable waste and sewage sludge. As part of an integrated waste management system, anaerobic digestion reduces the emission of landfill gas into the atmosphere. Anaerobic digestion is widely used as a source of renewable energy.
Changes in rainfall patterns
Based on predicted fossil fuel use and land management, it is estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will reach 700ppm in the next century.
Because CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas, it is predicted that the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere may increase by 2-8o C. This would lead to significant changes in rainfall patterns.
Fermentation can be defined as the enzymatic decomposition and utilisation of foodstuff, particularly carbohydrates by microbes; the anaerobic conversion of sugar to CO2 and alcohol by yeast and the conversion of organic materials into relatively simple substances by microbes.
Products of fermentation Anti-cancer cytotoxic drugs and vaccines; Anti-infectious diseases antibiotics and vaccines; Hormonal disorder therapy. Microbial fermentation in the pharmaceutical industry is fast replacing mammalian cell culture for drug production because of time and yield advantages.
Industrial application of fermentation
Fermentation technology got its origin the first time someone made wine, was perfected in the 1940’s with the production of antibiotics, and is now the primary method of production in the biotechnology industry. Products such as acetone, ethyl alcohol, lactic acid, yogurt, cheese and pickles are produced through fermentation.
Three diseases – pneumonia, diarrhoea and tuberculosis – were responsible for about 30 % of deaths in the US (Cohen, 2000). Early infant and childhood mortality from infections contributed to a low average life expectancy. A number of developments, including improved nutrition, safer food and water supplies, improved hygiene and sanitation, the use of antimicrobial agents, and widespread immunisations against important infectious diseases, resulted in decreased host susceptibility and reductions in disease transmission.
By the late 20th Century, substantial reductions in child mortality had occurred in low-and middle-income countries. The decrease in the number of child deaths during 1960-1990 averaged 2.5 % per year and the risk of dying in the first 5 years of life dropped by half – a major achievement in child survival.
During the period 1990-2001, mortality rates dropped an average of 1.1% annually, mostly after the neonatal period.
In the period 2000-2003, four communicable diseases accounted for 54% of childhood deaths worldwide. These included pneumonia (19 %), diarrhoea (18 %), malaria (8%), and neonatal sepsis or pneumonia (10 %) (Bryce, 2005).
Microbes are of immense importance to life. Only a small proportion cause disease and spoilage of articles, yet the economic, social and psychological burdens are unquantifiable. These are microbes that require organic matter as source of carbon for biosynthesis. Instead of fighting microbes with antibiotics and other harmful agents, let’s dwell with them in harmony.
One way of achieving this is nutrient replacement technology (NRT). That is the synthesis of organic nutrient (a placebo) with high affinity for microbial cells. This will form the New Science of Nutrobiotics, the use of specific high affinity synthetic nutrients to satisfy microbial growth requirements.
Then these little creatures that have sapped into global economy will go to sleep and we shall all proclaim now “the giant slept.” The new cure is Nutrobiotics and not antibiotics and I recommend this as the future therapy to man’s infectious predicaments.
Yes, the use of highly predictive synthetic organic nutrient probes for vaccination and therapeutics.