Knowing your Microbes

A small zine about knowing the difference, and why it matters.

Should I take antibiotics for the sniffles? How big is a virus compared to a bacteria anyway? These are a important things to know for protecting your own health for sure.

However don't assume all bacteria are bad - it is estimated that your body has more bacterial cells than human cells! In fact your own cells (though individually much larger than bacteria) make up as little as 10% of your own body! These bacteria, largely in our guts, help us break down food, produce nutrients, and we could not live without them.

As for viruses, they are usually never friendly, although many of them are specific to only certain species of plants and animals, and so pose no harm to us. Occasionally ones like "bird flu" and HIV evolve to cross species boundaries, and this is a major challenge now to global health. Either way, our bodies are a host to a world of microbes.

One big challenge for us is "antibiotic resistance" - the process of bacteria evolving resisteance against the antibiotic drugs we use to fight them. While this evolution of resistance is natural, the overuse of antibiotics is leading to a unnecessarily rapid and dangerous evolution of bacteria so that they can become more and more dangerous to us. A really interesting and sobering example of this is TB (tuberculosis).

Click on the image above to download a PDF template of this zine.