In today’s world, many people have a very negative connotation when they hear the word “bacteria”. Bacteria have been the cause to many diseases, however bacteria do have some benefits and uses. There are thousands and thousands of different types of bacteria in the world and one group of bacteria, Gut Flora, has become evident in the bacterial community for being beneficial. Gut Flora is a group of bacteria that consists of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of animals. A healthy adult has around a trillion microbes of these bacteria in the gut.
These bacteria have a vital role in the body and without them people probably would not survive. It is essential that people take care of their gut flora because a damaged gut flora has been the main cause of many diseases. Despite the fact that gut bacteria may have some harmful effects on humans and animals, the existence of gut bacteria within the intestinal tract result in the gain of many benefits for the bacteria and the host. Bacteria can gain a lot from being in the intestinal tract. The intestinal tract provides a place for the bacteria to live and bacteria feeds on the food we eat, or on the compounds we produce.
However, at the same time bacteria is frequently assaulted by things like antibiotic treatment, birth control pills, radiation therapy, constipation and a diet that is low in calcium, fiber, lactose and other complex carbohydrates, but high in meats, coffee, tea and alcohol (Intestinal Ecology). It is very beneficial to have bacteria in the intestinal tracts, because the bacteria can close up the ecological space in our bodies, so that invading pathogens cannot get a solid foothold. Also some species in our guts can break down food in ways that we can’t, and synthesize certain vitamins and other compounds beyond human biochemistry (Zimmer 2).
For example, herbivores carry a certain type of bacteria that can aid in the digestion of the otherwise indigestible cellulose. In humans, certain types of carbohydrates such as starches, fiber, oligosaccharides, and sugars can only be digested with the help of bacteria. The bacteria turn carbohydrates into short chain fatty acids that are used to provide energy and nutrients for humans. Bacteria increases the gut’s absorption of water, reduce the amount of damaging bacteria, increase growth of human gut cells, and are used for the growth of indigenous bacteria.
Along with benefits there are a few detriments with having bacteria in the intestinal tracts. New research has recently proved that Gut Bacteria is a cause of obesity. Andrew Gewirtz, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, states, “Previous research has suggested that bacteria can influence how well energy is absorbed from food, but these findings demonstrate that intestinal bacteria can actually influence appetite”. Gut bacteria can be detrimental to a person’s health because it could affect their appetite, in turn creating obesity.
This theory has been shown through an experiment done by a biologist, Jeffrey Gordon. Gordon kept some mice in a bacteria-free environment and these mice remained skinny. When the food enters the mice’s intestine, a great amount of it remains undigested. Conversely, the mice that live in a normal environment gain more weight because they take in more calories (“Gut Bacteria May Cause and Fight Disease, Obesity”). Sometimes, helpful bacteria may end up becoming very harmful. Translocation is an example of process in which the bacteria get outside of the intestinal tract. Infections, through translocation of intestinal bacteria, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality during acute pancreatitis, sepsis and liver cirrhosis. Bacterial translocation is defined as the passage of viable indigenous bacteria from the intestinal tract through the epithelial mucosa to the mesenteric lymph nodes, and then to systemic circulation” (Dr A. A. Al-Bader). . Translocation can occur when there’s “too much bacteria growth in the gut, reduced immunity of the human, or increased gut lining permeability” as a result of diseases such as cirrhosis.
In such cases, bacteria will invade the body, and if the bacteria are anaerobic, they can absorb the oxygen, and kill the anaerobes. In the worst-case scenario, bacteria such as typhoid, dysentery, cholera, and paratyphoid organisms can infect the intestinal tract, and proliferate the disease by reproducing. An organism’s diet affects the population of bacteria in its gut, because high consumption of animal fats, processed foods that contains inadequate fiber, usually results in a sluggish intestinal tract, which may subsequently lead to colitis, diverticulosis and crohn’s disease (Intestinal Ecology).
One of the biggest problems in America is the diet. American Diets tend to have high fat/low fiber, which has a tendency to stick to the inner walls of the intestinal tract. The body reacts by forming a mucous layer over materials that impact the intestines. The organisms’ diets play an important part in determining the bacteria population within their guts. Research has shown that mice that have a diet high in fat and sugar will change the types of bacteria in the intestinal tract, so that gaining weight becomes easier.
Scientists took bacteria from mutant mice without TLR5, which is a protein that recognizes/prevents the body from killing bacteria, and they transferred it into the body of ordinary mice who had all their own germs stripped out. This experiment is an example of Horizontal Gene Transfer. Horizontal gene transfer occurs when an organism transfers its genetic material to a being other than one of its own offspring (Citizendium). The spread of genes to and between bacteria and other microbes can occur in three ways. The first is through the surroundings.
Bacteria can take up naked DNA from the surroundings. The second is bacteria can obtain genes from infecting viruses. And the third is through mating. These demonstrate the symbiont dependency of the host and the bacteria. When the bacteria are put into the ordinary mice, the experiment showed that the mice became 20% fatter. Nonetheless, once the particular types of bacteria were eradicated, the mice lost their hunger, and return to their normal state (Zimmer 3). An appendectomy is the surgical removal of the vermiform appendix.
This procedure is normally performed as an emergency procedure, when the patient is suffering from acute appendicitis. (“Appendectomy”, Wikipedia). After undergoing an appendectomy, followed by a course of antibiotics, individual’s gut microbiota can drastically change. When a person takes antibiotics to cure appendicitis it will cause a change in the ability to digest food. Because of antibiotics, the balance of bacteria within the gut will be off. Consequently, the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria may start to increase, resulting in illnesses that are harder to treat.
When the number of gut flora bacteria is changed, the body’s ability to perform fermentation and metabolize acids such as bile acids are reduced. This will create an instantaneous effect on the individual, because the carbohydrates will not be broken down, and they will absorb great amounts of water, leading to diarrhea when free from the body (“Gut flora”). There are advantages that exist for host and the bacteria by having bacteria in an animal’s intestinal tract. However there are a few disadvantages as well.
Ultimately, however, the benefits of Gut Flora outweigh the detriments for both the host and bacteria. For the bacteria it provides a place for them to live and strive. While for the host it facilitates the body to perform health mechanisms. The unexpected changes can drastically change the gut microbiota. Most importantly, it is essential and important to remember to maintain a steady balance of gut flora. An organism’s diet can greatly affect this, so eat well to gain many more years of healthy living.
Works Cited Al-Bader, A. A. , T. C. Mathew, H. Abul, M. Al-Mosawi, D. Panigrahi, and H. Dashti. “Bacterial Translocation. ” The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh – Education ;amp; Information for Surgeons. 9 Sept. 1997. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. ;lt;http://www. rcsed. ac. uk/journal/vol43_4/4340018. htm;gt;. “Appendectomy. ” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 19 Apr. 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. ;lt;http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Appendectomy;gt;. “Gut Flora. ” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. ;lt;http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Gut_flora;gt;. Horizontal Gene Transfer – Encyclopedia Article – Citizendium. ” Welcome to Citizendium – Citizendium. 14 Jan. 2008. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. <http://en. citizendium. org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer>. “Intestinal Ecology :: Health-Science. Com. ” Natural Progesterone And Womens Health :: Progesterone Cream::. Web. 24 Apr. 2010. <http://www. health- science. com/intestinal_health. html>. Kendall, A. I. “The Bacteria of the Intestinal Tract of Man. ” Science, New Series. 1076 ed. Vol. 42. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2009. 09- 12. Print. Krulwich, Robert. “Gut Bacteria May Cause And Fight Disease, Obesity : NPR. ” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. 4 Nov. 2008. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. <http://www. npr. org/templates/story/story. php? storyId=95900616>. Zimmer, Carl. “I For One Welcome Our Microbial Overlords | The Loom | Discover Magazine. ” Discover Blogs | Discover Magazine. 4 Mar. 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. <http://blogs. discovermagazine. com/loom/2010/03/04/i-for-one-welcome-our microbial-overlords>.