People are used to touching surfaces without minding contamination; we touch mutilated Naira notes, railings in our offices and at home. Some even finish from the toilet without washing their hands. Well, that’s all shades of wrong.
Before we talk about bacteria, let us get a background knowledge about the subject:
Bacteria is a type of germ. There are four major types of germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Studies show that some of the places with high levels of contamination are: staircase or escalator rails, ATM buttons, cell phones, airport lavatories, public toilet soap dispenser (about 25% of them are contaminated with fecal bacteria), seat armrest, magazines, remote controls, refrigerator handles, purses/wallet, paper currency, cutting/chopping board, elevator buttons, shopping carts, etc.
One thing I know for sure is all these surfaces have bacteria that can lead to health issues.
So, what is bacteria?
Bacteria is defined as ‘microscopic, single-celled organisms that get nutrients from their environments in order to live’. In some cases, that environment is a human body. Bacteria can reproduce outside of the body or within the body as they cause infections. Some infections that bacteria can cause include ear infections, sore throats (tonsillitis or strep throat), cavities, and pneumonia. It is important to note that not all bacteria are bad, some are good and are even in our body – like the ones in our intestines that help our body break down food, absorb nutrients and produce vitamins. Some are also used for the production of vaccines and medicine.
Good bacteria, also known as beneficial bacteria, are defined as any bacteria that are beneficial to the body and enhance health. In fact, most bacteria are good. One of the most well-known types of good bacteria is probiotics.
Bad bacteria are traditionally defined as pathogenic bacteria, which means they may cause infection, make us sick or, in some cases, even kill us! Bad bacteria come from external influences such as food, environmental toxins and even the effects of stress on our bodies.
According to recent studies led by Prof. Jenal of the University of Basel in Biozentrum, they believe bacteria have a sense of touch. In their research, they talk about how bacteria recognize surfaces and respond to stimulus. Their study emphasis the point that the first moment of touch is often critical as during this period, infection can happen. The explanation for this theory, according to Prof Jenal is: “Swimming Caulobacter bacteria have a rotating motor in their cell envelope with a long protrusion, the flagellum. The rotation of the flagellum enables the bacteria to move in liquids. The rotor is also used as a mechano-sensing organ. Motor rotation is powered by proton flow into the cell via ion channels. When swimming cells touch surfaces, the motor is disturbed and the proton flux interrupted.”
The researchers assume that this is the signal that sparks off the response: “the bacterial cell now boosts the synthesis of a second messenger, which in turn stimulates the production of an adhesin that firmly anchors the bacteria on the surface within a few seconds.” In layman terms, when we touch surfaces, bacteria responds.
How do we protect ourselves from bad bacteria?
- Wash your hands! This cannot be overemphasized. Wash your hands every time you cough or sneeze, before you eat or prepare foods, after you use the bathroom, after you touch animals and pets, after you play outside, and after you visit a sick relative or friend.
- Use hand sanitizers frequently
- Avoid harsh antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and never scrub skin aggressively.
- When feeling ill/sick, go to your medical doctor for proper diagnosis. You could have a bacterial infection that antibiotics can treat in the early stages. Do not self-medicate.
- Avoid stress. When our body is stressed, it creates an environment in which the bacteria that were once good or ‘dormant’ can cause problems in our bodies.
- Sleep. At least for eight hours a day to keep your body in balance.
- Eat healthily. Eat foods rich in vitamins and nutrients such as whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Eat foods that are natural antibiotics such as ginger, garlic, honey, lemon, pineapple, coconut oil, and turmeric.
Lastly, just like Wizkid sang: “Bad energy stay far away, make you stay far away” 🎶🎶