What are germs?

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Germs and microbes are often confused as the same thing. Germs are actually a subset of microbes that includes the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause disease and make humans sick.

Our modern crusade against germs goes back as far back as the nineteenth century. Pioneering microbiologists and scientists discovered and identified the microorganisms that cause infectious diseases, including cholera, tuberculosis, diarrhea, rabies and anthrax.

Around the middle of the twentieth century everything changed, and we found ways to control them. We developed antibiotics to rid ourselves some of these germs and disease-causing infections. This was followed by other inventions such as hand sanitizer, antimicrobial mouthwashes, and household antibacterial cleaning solutions that became everyday products in the developed world.

While antibiotics have saved millions of lives, this war on germs has led to us to aggressively indiscriminately kill both good and bad microbes, which in turn has contributed to new disease epidemics and other health complications.

There is now a movement to balance our understanding of how to fight infectious diseases while also preserving the health of our helpful microbes.


Photo credit: @CDC on Unsplash

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