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Thursday, January 13, 2005

H. Pylori? What's that anyway?

The latest issue of Scientific American carried an article which was pretty illustrative of the complexity of the interconnections present in our environment. The article talked about a bacterium -- Heliobacter Pylori which has inhabited the stomachs of human beings from millions of years. Essentially, we have shared a coevolutionary process with them. We are the only hosts for this particular strain -- and while they were known to cause ulcers, etc. -- it was also discovered that they actually help protect the esophageal lining. Improved hygeine, as well as the use of antibiotics all over the world have resulted in a decline of the bacterium, but have also resulted in an increase in diseases of the esophagus! This is of course a simple example but it does make you cognizant of how different elements in our environment influence each other...which we too often tend to think and deal with in isolation (say, eradicating insects without realizing that they form the primary food source for those higher up on the food chain)....



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