Bugstory (untold, forgotten, and retold)

They called it ‘magic bullets’, antibiotics did serve their (human’s) hubris well, drove us (microbes) to the cliff until extinction was imminent.  Millions and millions and millions succumbed to this orgy of violence. Their arsenal had the firepower disproportionate to our virulence; every Tom, Dick, and Harry fired at us randomly and got away with it, thanks to their lackadaisical antibiotic policing. True, there are rogues amongst us who occasionally breach their defense and play havoc. But for centuries we helped brew their beverages, raised their bread, and handed them the ultimate tools…” Genetic engineering?” This year two of them walked the red carpet to receive the coveted Nobel prize…ask me what they did? In a nutshell, stole our idea and tweaked it a bit here and bit there, and gave it the name CRISPR-CAS9. Sssh… but I should secretly confess that I am a huge fan of their naming skills. But mind you my predilection ends there (or maybe not?)…but we do not harbor any ill-will either…we and them? Philosophically the distinction is not set in stone; we outnumber the cells that constitute their body (are they humans or microbes then?)…

the truth is evolution intricately braids everything together creating a tapestry where annihilation is anathema and cooperation is the mantra.

Yet humans chose to be an exception… the exception to everything; it’s in their DNA to swim against the tide. Ironically ‘antibiotics’ is our gift; we literally handed it over on a plate we intended judicious use, restricted use…exceptional he was…resorted rather to misuse. Rampant, unrestricted usage left traces everywhere from wastewater to broiler chickens. These are akin to their ‘landmines’ and ‘carpet bombs’ that threatened our very existence. But we had our superheroes too; guardians of the critters; superbugs; their pantheon is named ESKAPE and rightfully so. They rose from the ashes, weapons of mass destruction lay waste before them, they heralded a new era, an era of ‘resistance’, and for the first time, humans are on the back foot. By the way apart from their naming skills, I respect their resilience and willingness to learn from mistakes…now what they have got for this? Ha…ha…ha…ha…

Authored by Ajith Madhavan, Assistant Professor at  Amrita School of Biotechnology