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Bacteria: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Bacteria have gotten a bad reputation, and for good reason. Bacteria are behind a number of serious diseases – including food poisoning (E. coli and Salmonella), pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae), meningitis (Haemophilus influenzae), strep throat (Group A Streptococcus), and a variety of other nasty infections. Yet, not all bacteria are bad guys. In fact, our bodies are home to an estimated 100 trillion “good” bacteria, many of which reside in our gut. Not only do we live in harmony with these good, beneficial bacteria, but they are actually essential to many of the processes that support life. Everything from beneficial bacteria in our digestive system, to bacteria in the soil that’s necessary for plants to grow, and probiotic cultures found in our favorite fermented foods, like yogurt or kombucha. 

In fact, bacteria have existed from very early in the history of life on Earth. Bacteria fossils discovered in rocks date from at least the Devonian Period (419 million to 358 million years ago), and there are convincing arguments that bacteria have been present since the early Precambrian Period, about 3.5 billion years ago. Bacteria are very small organisms made of only one cell that exist either as aerobic bacteria (requires the presence of oxygen to live and grow) or anaerobic (can survive without the presence of oxygen in their immediate environment). Their ability to adapt creates both life-giving opportunities and life-threatening health problems. 

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly types of bacteria. 

The Good 

The human body is full of bacteria. In fact, it’s estimated to contain more bacterial cells than human cells. Bacteria can be harmful, but some species of bacteria are needed to keep us healthy. The “good” bacteria on our skin, in our airways, and in our digestive system are the first line of defense against pathogens that can cause infection and other problems. When helpful bacteria multiply and thrive in our bodies, they act as our protectors. 

Beneficial bacteria also act as “tuning forks” for our body’s immune system, making sure it’s pitched just right. The immune system shouldn’t be too sensitive or too sluggish; it needs to respond quickly to an infection, but it shouldn’t overreact, either. If our immune system does overreact and attacks the body itself, the result is an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Each person has a personalized collection of bacteria, called the microbiome. We acquire our first bacteria while being born, and every day our environment exposes us to more. Some of these bacteria will take up residence inside the body and help develop a robust immune system.

According to research published in the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, good bacteria also help our bodies digest food and absorb nutrients, and they produce several vitamins in the intestinal tract – including folic acid, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12.

Beneficial bacteria may also protect us against dangerous bacteria that cause disease by crowding them out in the gut, producing acids that inhibit their growth, and stimulating the immune system to fight them off. Bacteria help protect the cells in your intestines from invading pathogens and also promote repair of damaged tissue. Most importantly, the good bacteria in your body is there to help ward off bad bacterial infections. 

The Bad 

To cause disease, bacteria must invade the cells of a living organism. Pathogenic bacteria may enter the body by consumption of contaminated foods, through wounds that breach the skin barrier, or through the eyes, nose, or mouth. These “bad” bacteria are the reason why we diligently wash our hands and disinfect key areas in our homes, such as our kitchen sinks, bathrooms, frequently-touched surfaces, as well as any other places where germs tend to congregate. We have also developed a wide range of antibiotics, which are drugs designed to kill the bacteria that cause disease. Antibiotics kill bacteria, and some of those will be good bacteria that we need to protect our health. When that happens, the bad bacteria that normally are kept in check have room to grow, creating an environment ripe for disease.

Bad bacteria can exist at low levels in your body without causing harm or can grow too much and wreak havoc. Staphylococcus aureus can cause something as simple as a pimple, or as serious as pneumonia or meningitis. Salmonella can cause a common bacterial infection that can lead to serious illness. Listeriosis is caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes and is a leading cause of hospitalization and death due to foodborne illness.

The Ugly 

If this were a Spaghetti Western, the “ugly” would be antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Harmful bacteria have posed serious threats to our health for many centuries. Yet with the development of modern antibiotics like penicillin, many of the diseases of ancient times are today largely controlled. However, due to the misuse of these “miracle cures”, antibiotics have also allowed bacteria to once again adapt for survival, creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Resistance to first-line drugs to treat infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus – a common cause of severe infections in health facilities and the community – is widespread. People with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are estimated to be 64% more likely to die than people with a non-resistant form of the infection.

Vital Oxide - The New Sheriff in Town 

No need for a standoff; one of the best ways to combat bad and ugly bacterial infections is to prevent them from happening in the first place. While antibiotics are effective against infectious bacteria inside the body, using a disinfectant product, such as Vital Oxide, to eliminate pathogens on objects and surfaces can prevent bacteria from causing infection. Note: Do not ever ingest or inject cleaning or disinfectant products. It is not an effective method for treating infection and it is extremely dangerous. Disinfectants, when properly used, are very beneficial on objects and surfaces to help kill bacteria and viruses. 

Vital Oxide food contact surface sanitizer is NSF certified (no rinse required) and kills 99.999% of bacteria, including e Coli, Salmonella and Listeria in less than 60 seconds. Vital Oxide has also been proven effective against superbug MRSA. 

Vital Oxide effectively kills bacteria by chemically altering certain amino acids and the RNA in the cell. These amino acids (RNA) are important building blocks in the proteins that help to form cell walls. When these proteins are destroyed, the cell wall ruptures and the organism dies.

Learn more about the science behind our products, as well as tons of great tips on cleaning, disinfecting, and more. Have questions? We’re here to help! Contact us here or send us a message via Facebook.

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