Bob Burdekin, AES, CHHP
Pathogens -- Friend or Foe?
Pathogens, our trusted friends since the beginning of time…or something like that. To be honest, pathogens have had an awkward relationship with humanity. Depending on the situation, pathogens can be either a friend or a foe.
Take Covid-19, for example. It was definitely a foe, wreaking havoc in our day-to-day lives and taking the lives of many. But, according to some, it may have provided several benefits as well. Namely, it has forced many people to slow down and re-evaluate their lives, given us an opportunity to clean up our environment, and reminded us of the importance of science.
But pathogens don’t always have to be negative. Some can actually be quite useful. For instance, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is often used as a biological pest control agent. It produces a toxin that is harmless to humans but can kill or repel insect pests, making it a friend to farmers everywhere.
Other pathogens can be beneficial for other reasons as well. Probiotics, for example, are bacteria that are beneficial for gut health and can be found in food and supplements. Additionally, some fungi, such as Penicillium, can be used to make antibiotics, which are used to treat infections.
So, are pathogens our friends or foes? The answer is not clear-cut. In some cases, they can be both. But despite the havoc they may sometimes cause, our relationship with pathogens has an incendiary upside, as they can also provide numerous benefits.