The arms race against pathogens is a losing proposition.
What if all the effort we put into killing bacteria, fungi and viruses only serves to evolve those microbes into variants that will eventually kill us off?
“Kills 99.9% of germs — Woo-hoo! Ninety-nine point nine percent, that’s great.”
“Uh, what about the other 0.1%?”
“Bah, they don’t count.”
Humanity has been fighting a war-on-microbes for more than a century now. And it’s been a boon to the eradication of illness. What used to kill us, infection, poor sanitation no longer does. I realize that not all of us have benefited, though. Lack of proper sanitation is still one of the top killers in economically challenged nations. Education and enablement of good hygiene and public health remains a top issue there.
Yet, I wonder what one hundred plus years of killing *nearly* all the microbes—leaving their most robust, heartiest brethren to evolve, repopulate and spread—has accomplished.
Wouldn’t it be ironic to learn that all of our germ-o-phobe behavior has actually been developing superior strains of super bugs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water (leaving the strongest bugs to live another day.) Wear deodorant that kills almost all of the odor causing bacteria (leaving only the smelliest to persist). “Kills 99.9% of germs on contact” — mouthwash, sanitizers, wipes…
- 99.9 percent reduction is the EPA’s arbitrary cutoff for sanitizer performance.
What if our efforts, for a century, has been creating an army of Killer Pathogens Set On Humanity’s Destruction!
Sure enough, the list of antibiotic resistant pathogens grows yearly. The more we fight the stronger they become.
Is this a war we can never win?
A war we will eventually lose, ending human civilization.
If it happens to us, this desire to protect ourselves by eradicating pathogens—which only escalates their evolution—might it not happen to most intelligent alien races? Killing them off, thereby solving Fermi’s Paradox?