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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

It's Nothing Personal; Unfriendly Microbes

I am ill. Blegh. (Not serious, just a cold.)

It's times like this when you have to ask; why, tiny microbes? Why do you do this to me? What did I ever do to you?

...I mean, I've consigned goodness knows how many bacteria to a steamy autoclave-based death, but that wasn't personal!
Them infecting me isn't personal either, though, not at all. What's that quote about ants not noticing  the people driving along the motorway because of the difference in scale? The same goes for microbes and us. There are probably more viral particles (or bacteria, I think it's probably viral though) dancing round in my sinuses than there are humans on Earth, and just like we can't really see how big the Earth is unless we fly up and get a good look from altitude, viruses and bacteria don't know I'm a comparatively enormous person going about my business. They are just interacting with me on a tiny scale, cell-to-cell (or viral-particle-to-cell). They aren't sitting there thinking 'haha, let's infect Gareth, he looks like he has lots to do this week so it will be annoying', they are looking at my cells as a big tasty bag of food for them, or a big bag of machinery to make more of themselves.

It makes sense when you put it like that. I'm 4'10", or 4"10' depending on which way round that goes, and weigh 60 kilograms or something like that, but all of that weight was built up using proteins and enzymes as machinery, and fats and sugars and what have you as the building materials; I'm made of food, pretty much, especially from the point of view of a bacteria. Similarly, each cell of my body is made and maintained by molecular machines which viruses can steal. I am a walking, talking one-stop-shop for pathogens to get anything they need to grow and replicate!

So I'm not angry with them, I'm not upset at them, I understand. The microbial world is full of harsh conditions, fierce competition and scarce resources. Just like some post-apocalyptic type scenario. And wouldn't we all go to the supermarket and get pillaging in some Fallout/The Road type scenario? I know I would, so I don't begrudge the microbes at all.

It's nothing personal. I'd do the same.

(Still going to do everything I can to make them stop though! Go, immune system, kill them all!)

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