Families with dogs in the home share more microbes than families with small children or married couples without a dog, according to a study published recently by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder. The research team led by Dr. Rob Knight emphasize in a recent NBC news interview that most of these microbes are non-threatening and simply part of the trillions of microbes that live on our skin.
At Galaxy, we live in the world of zoonotic and vector borne disease, so we are interested in the microbes that can be pathogenic. We say “can be” because researchers in infectious disease have long known that even well-known pathogenic microbes are not always pathogenic. For example, you can carry HIV, but not develop the disease AIDS.
The same may be true for Bartonella and other chronic infections. In fact, we expect to see some debate over the appropriate definition of disease thresholds where chronic infections are concerned. Another example is Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, a well-known hospital-acquired infection and gut bacteria. As much as 1/3 of perfectly healthy people may be walking around with C-diff in their gut, but it is not of much concern because C-diff is only a problem when the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut becomes unbalanced, as seen with antiobiotic treatments.
So, when your physician responds with skepticism or even a lack of interest (ouch), you might consider the problematic of a chronic infection hypothesis from his/her perspective. We live happily with millions of bacteria on our skin and in other parts of our body. The key questions are: When do things go wrong? How do we know? And, then, what do we do about it?