Stupid question, read if you've time

DANIEL ROBERT HOLDSWORTH drh92 at aber.ac.uk
Fri Oct 25 10:55:14 EST 1996


In article <54nb31$12ok at aix1.cdc.polimi.it>, piu1903 at cdc8g5.cdc.polimi.it
(Luca De-Ponti) writes:
:
:Sorry to bother you with this stupid question:
:(and sorry for my bad english)
:
:How many are the microbs that provoke illness compared to the harmless
:ones ?
:1 on 100 
:1 on 1000
:1 on 1000000 ?

Well, seeing as you don't define what a "microbe" is, that's a hard one. 

If you take it to be a bacterial cell, then you have to decide what defines 
a species. If you can do that, then you're ahead of all of us biologists,
seeing
as a single precise definition of a species just doesn't exist.

Bacteria are especially tricky, since they've got this annoying habit of 
exchanging plasmids, which then alters the behaviour of that cell. 
 
Even if you then decide on a more or less workable species definition, you
still have the problem that more and more species of bacteria are turning up 
every day, and many species are being re-classified etc.

Finally, you have to decide if a bacterial "species" that is normally a
harmless
symbiont/commensal is an "illness-causer" or not, when said normally
harmless
bacterium causes a problem...

Oh, and you didn't say whether you were talking about numbers of species, 
or numbers of actual cells...

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