Bill Gates likes germs, and thinks you should too

Kit McDonald

Bill Gates is known for his interest in improving global healthcare. Of course, in his speeches, he expresses how he wants to ‘wipe microbes off the map’. These are the microorganisms such as bacterium that cause diseases, viruses, and so on. But after reading Ed Yong’s book I Contain Multitudes, Gates has changed his opinion about the microscopic ‘threat’.

The sentiment was shared on Gate’s personal blog post, Gates Notes. On it, he told readers that after chatting with Yong, he too believes that microbes shouldn’t be feared, but studied.

“Yong makes clear that only a tiny fraction of microbes have the ability to make us sick. There are approximately 100 species of bacteria that cause infectious disease in humans. But there are hundreds of thousands of species that live peacefully, symbiotically within us, primarily in our gut. Microbes help us digest our food, break down toxins, guide our physical development, protect us from disease, and even speed human evolution. We are utterly dependent on them.”

The difficult part, as Gate notes, is finding a way to harness benign microbes to fight the dangerous ones. In his short video with Yong, the two compared the goal to their fight against the dengue fever. By inserting a bacterium called Wolbachia into mosquitos, eventually the populous was replaced with the ‘infected’ generations and essentially destroying chances of contracting the dengue virus.

It’s in this way that Gates and Yong believe studying can be useful in enhancing overall health and fighting diseases. And that starts with the acceptance of these misunderstood but not necessarily evil microbes.

Be sure to read his full thoughts over at Gates Notes and let us know what you think in the comments below.