By Brian Thomas, M. S. and Christine Dao*
Broken communication seems to be the cause of many diseases, not bad bacteria, according to research from the University of Wisconsin. Microbiologist Margaret McFall-Ngai and her colleagues have recently uncovered hundreds of genes that are responsible for coding chemicals that communicate between host organisms and bacteria. What they have found is a failure to communicate.1
The researchers observed that the same genes are involved in both healthy and unhealthy communications between bacteria and their hosts. If the host’s genes remain the same, then why are their body tissue reactions to bacteria sometimes different?
The answer lies in the very specific way that host organisms and bacteria interact. When the host cannot recognize that bacteria are beneficial, an immune response occurs and disease ensues. As Dr. McFall-Ngai concluded in a 2004 study, the host organism’s “interpretation of these bacterial signal molecules…can either lead to inflammation and disease or to the establishment of a mutually beneficial animal-microbe association.”2
The recent study refined this understanding of host-bacteria interaction. “These [communication] pathways and these molecules are likely to be 'symbiosis' pathways more than 'anti-pathogen,' ” Dr. McFall-Ngai stated.1 In other words, it seems the cellular communication pathways’ original purpose was not for defense against bacteria but for mutually beneficial bacteria-host interactions. However, they no longer function properly. So, some diseases—such as certain bacterial infections—are the result of garbled chemical communication.
The idea that the human-bacteria relationship was once engineered to be mutually beneficial (i.e., “very good”3) but subsequently broke down is consistent with a sin-plagued world as described in the Bible.4 Also, miscommunication at the cellular level reflects the broken communication between the Creator and His estranged creation. This broken relationship, however, was addressed in the form of Christ the Creator, who “was wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” so that “with his stripes we are healed”5 when we believe on Him.6
- Symbiotic microbes induce profound changes in their hosts. University of Wisconsin-Madison News release, July 28, 2008, reporting on a study published in the August 12, 2008, edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (32): 11323-11328.
- Koropatnick, T. A. et al. 2004. Microbial Factor-Mediated Development in a Host-Bacterial Mutualism. Science. 306 (5699): 1186.
- Genesis 1:31.
- Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12; Romans 8:22.
- Isaiah 53:5.
- John 3:16.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer; Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Article posted on August 26, 2008.