In an opinion piece published on the ASM’s open access journal, Eric T. Harvill suggests we should get to know the enemy of our enemy (pathogens). Easy to read, free of technical jargon and very interesting.
To understand how this approach might work in practice read the NEJM’s blog : Doctors Turned Ecologists: Infusion of Donor Feces for Recurrent C. Difficile
Cultivating Our “Frienemies”: Viewing Immunity as Microbiome Management
Our ability to study the microbial world around us has historically been limited by our ability to culture them in vitro. Infectious disease research, guided by Koch’s postulates, generally begins with the need to culture the microorganism to purity. Importantly, we can culture many pathogens on medium that contains blood or serum, nutrients many of the most dangerous pathogens are well adapted to utilize. We have had much less success in the culture and, therefore, the study of the many commensal or symbiotic organisms of our microbiota that do not directly parasitize us. They do not eat our blood but have more complex and/or specific needs that are harder to mimic in the lab, and they are therefore generally more fastidious and difficult to culture. Thus, our great interest in human disease and our relative success in the culture of pathogens have converged to keep our focus on adversarial interactions between complex, multicellular organisms like ourselves and the pathogens, rather than the broader microbial world around us. However, our rapidly growing knowledge of the predominance of nonpathogens in our microbiome allows for a reevaluation of this adversarial view.