There are millions of bacteria living in a normal, healthy person – I’ve counted, and don’t even know if I have the number right. Antibiotics and the current almost-paranoia with making sure homes are half-sterile don’t really do people favors, in that regard, since a lot of bacteria that’s normally around us is good for us: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteria_in_the_human_body) and (http://www.textbookofbacteriology.net/normalflora.html) for instance. We just don’t understand how it works, but we keep futzing with it. So, we end up eating probiotic supplements when we really didn’t need to before, (because we could have just eaten yogurt), and so on. Bacteria live in symbiosis with other creatures, always have — there are predatory ones, yes, just as there are good ones, and there are other bacteria whose purposes and motives we don’t even know or understand yet.
Almost a decade ago, I got the idea to write a book about this. An sf book, about a different type of human that was created by mistake by some poor guy just trying to find a cure for cancer for his wife. Bac people. I’m still working on it, because though I’m not a scientist I want to make it as believable and at least quasi-scientific as possible. I haven’t seen many other writers with this idea, so that runs in my favor. Greg Bear is one of the few, and his work’s damn good! (http://www.gregbear.com/)
I wonder sometimes if the heightened state of bacterial symbiosis, the Bac People, isn’t what we’re creating by accident ourselves these days. Maybe it’s to a lesser extent now, but with gene therapy becoming more and more plausible and important, and botox injections much more mainstream, who knows what the future will bring us medically? Scientistss have speculated that pinky fingers and toes might become less and less necessary to the human body in future times, but what other changes are possible?
I’ll eventually finish that book and will see what happens with it. Oh, like any author I have dreams, but I have no way of determining what people might like. The interesting thing is I’ve learned a ton about what good bacteria can do for people, but also about how fragile a balance we have between species in our little symbiosis. It’s how we get cold symptoms — they may not cause the common cold, but if your body has too much streptococcus, more than normally is in your nose and mouth, you get “strep throat,” for instance. Yet, on a normal basis, it should be there; it lives there in a regular person. Why? Why is it that if we have Ecoli normally within our intestines, that too can make us extremely sick if there’s too much taken in?
Like any sf writer, I wonder about stuff like that — “what-if” is a powerful phrase. Bac people are coming; to some extent they’re here now. But I have much more research and tightening of things before my own writing about them is publishable. In the meantime I watch, wait and wonder.