Elias Hakalehto,PhD, Adj. Prof.
CEO and inventor, Finnoflag Oy, Kuopio, Finland (1993-)
Founder of the Environmental Section (1983) of the Student Union of Helsinki University
An Alumnus of the University College London, U.K. (Biochemical Engineering)
Vice President (Europe and Africa), International Society of Environmental Indicators
Lifetime Fellow Member, International Society of Development and Sustainability (Japan)
(Published on the 26th of September,2023)
There is unanimous agreement in today´s Science that microbes facilitate the circulation of substances in the great cycles of ecosystems. Without their contribution, plants or animals could not survive. They trade the elements, substances and chemical energies in the biosphere just as human societies sell and buy goods in the macroscale. The microbial contribution is age-old. As long as there have been human cultures, micro-organisms have played their vital but invisible role in the scenes of our history. To keep this in mind, find below a photo of the ruins of an ancient guesthouse in the Negev desert, southern Israel. This was a resting place for the caravans and the travellers from Arabia to the Mediterranean Sea.
Throughout history, the invisible and microscopic organisms have played roles much more significant than their size but have acted as communities. Besides natural history events, microbes have contributed to agriculture's development. In that context, the balance of soil microbiome has influenced human health and nutrition. One of the most appreciated professions in the early times of Humankind was the husbandman.
As mentioned above, it is essential to recognize the vastly positive effects of bacteria and other microbes on our livelihood and well-being. However, recently, we have seen the adverse effects of some minority microbes, namely pathogens, which cause epidemics, pandemics, etc. As the different contagious diseases cause a lot of suffering and misery, the positive and existential role of the microbial kingdom is quickly forgotten. Therefore, it should be emphasized in various fields of progress in agriculture, healthcare, complementary chemical industries, energy production, ecosystem engineering and many other areas of human enterprise. However, to see the potential of ontogenesis, we may think about the ducklings. In the well-known fairy-tale of H.C. Andersen, a Danish writer in 1843, the seemingly ugly young bird metamorphosed by individual development into a grown-up swan. Correspondingly, any new technological trend is most likely preceded by a period of negligence and underrating of the innovations and development work behind it.
Fort Sumter's battle on the 12th of April, 1861, set up a series of events that contributed mainly to the history. The US Civil War left behind a heavy toll of casualties, but as the weapons killed "only" one million people, one bacterium, Salmonella typhi, was responsible for 2M deaths.- This underlines the importance of hygiene monitoring, early warning, infection control, microbial balance, antibiotics and other medications. Moreover, we should be prepared to handle the potential threats of distributing pathogens in the architectural design, planning of cities, traffic and transportation and other related activities.
The main reason for the massive outcome, or epidemics, of typhoid fever over 160 years ago was the worsening hygiene conditions during wartime associated with population movements, famine, and other hardships. The infective dose (which is enough to cause the illness for an individual) of S. typhi is one million bacterial cells. Therefore, contagion by typhoid fever usually requires relatively heavy contamination of water or food, not just occasional bacterial cells around or in the ambient air. Of course, other pathogens are much more infective. Still, it is essential to know the mechanisms of distribution of everyone since the disease's outcome on human individuals or populations depends on the characteristics and life patterns of the causative agents, on the immune system and the entire response of the body system and its microbiome.
In the future, it is more than likely that new pandemics will emerge. For example, there are many other viruses than the variants of Covid-19 agents. Such viruses as Ebola or bird flu agents could be much more harmful, horrific and deadly than the recently (and currently) active coronavirus germs. Consequently, our resources should be much more effectively directed to preparedness. In the forthcoming crises, the survival of societies will depend on the level of predictive and preparative hygiene control and maintenance, as well as treatment plans for the masses of diseased individuals.
Minimizing the risks warrants reliable microbiological surveys and situation maps, not only the ones which relate to potential epidemics that may occur but also to any disturbances in microbiological ecology. Since we live close to the microbial world and the global ecosystem, the risks of a polluted environment, eroded agriculture, corrupted societies, and other human tracks are unfortunately visible in our political and social lives. Desertification, toxication, loss of species and versatility further increase the vulnerabilities. On the contrary, more effective countermeasures are warranted. This should not oppress human individuals or mammal, bird, or insect vectors of zoonotic diseases. We as humans should not try to repair our mistakes at the expense of other creatures - or other humans. - Alternatively, there are ways to increase diversity, and there is potential for that in the natural ecosystems. In fact, if unharmed, the desert soil contains as many microbial species as the rainforest soil, for instance.
In any forthcoming crisis, microbiological expertise could make a competitive edge in meeting health, food or environmental challenges. The primary threat may not be any contagious agent, such as bird flu-causing virus, but the compromised health services and suffocated resources for the preventive methods to avoid public health or maintenance obscurity or inadequate resourcing. The central strong point for future success and security is the identification of upcoming significant actors, such as microbial entities and communities. But spotting them amongst our self-centred economic, societal or juridical thrives or forces may be crucial for progress.
Any misconduct in policies or unfavourable succession of events could lead to ecocatastrophes, famine, or other crisis escalation. The early warnings could help turn the ominous views into more favourable ones. This is how a microbial community reacts to the signs of coming changes. We could have learnt from microbes that have initiated accelerative development for speeding up sometimes radical or disruptive choices of technologies. Did we? - Wider thinking could emancipate resources now. Like a whooper swan is clumsy on its watery runway on a lake surface, whereas, in flight, it thoroughly enjoys the freeness of open skies.
Some references of our work related to the topic:
Hakalehto, E., Pesola, J., Heitto, L., Narvanen, A., & Heitto, A. (2007). Aerobic and anaerobic growth modes and expression of type 1 fimbriae in Salmonella. Pathophysiology, 14: 61-69.
Hakalehto, E. (2011). Simulation of enhanced growth and metabolism of intestinal Escherichia coli in the Portable Microbe Enrichment Unit (PMEU). In: Rogers MC, Peterson ND (eds.) E. coli infections: causes, treatment and prevention. New York, USA: Nova Science Publishers, pp.159-175.
Hakalehto, E. (2011). Antibiotic resistance traits of facultative Enterobacter cloacae strain studied with the PMEU (Portable Microbe Enrichment Unit). In: Antonio Méndez-Vilas (ed.) Science against microbial pathogens: communicating current research and technological advances, Formatex Research Center, Badajoz. Spain: Microbiology Series N:o 3. Vol. 2. pp.786-796.
Hakalehto, E., Heitto, A., Heitto, L., Humppi, T., Rissanen, K., Jääskeläinen, A., Hänninen, O. (2011). Fast monitoring of water distribution system with portable enrichment unit –Measurement of volatile compounds of coliforms and Salmonella sp. in tap water. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences, 3: 223-233.
Hakalehto, E., & Heitto, L. (2012). Minute microbial levels detection in water samples by Portable Microbe Enrichment Unit Technology. Environment and Natural Resources Research, 2: 80-88.
Hakalehto, E.(2012). Introduction of the alimentary tract with its microbes. In: Hakalehto, E. (Ed.). (2012). Alimentary Microbiome - a PMEU Approach. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, USA, pp. 1-8.
Hakalehto, E. (2013). Enhanced mycobacterial diagnostics in liquid medium by microaerobic bubble flow in Portable Microbe Enrichment Unit. Pathophysiology, 20: 177–180.
Hakalehto, E. (2015). Bacteriological indications of human activities in the ecosystems. In: Armon, R. & Hänninen, O. (eds.) Environmental indicators. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 579-611.
Hakalehto, E., Pesola, J., Puhakainen, E. (2015). Trends in clinical microbiology toward Point-of-Care diagnostics. In: Hakalehto, E. (ed.) Microbiological Clinical Hygiene. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York, NY, USA, pp. 1-14.
Hakalehto, E., Pesola, J., Heitto, A., Hänninen, H., Hendolin, P., Hänninen, O., Armon, R., Humppi, T., Paakkanen, H. (2015). First detection of Salmonella contaminations. In: Hakalehto, E. (ed.) Microbiological Food Hygiene. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York, NY, USA, pp. 131-154.
Väätäinen, U., Hakalehto, E. (2016). Hygienic aspects in healthcare industries and services. In: Hakalehto, E. (ed.) Microbiological Industrial Hygiene. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York, NY, USA, pp. 1-16.
Hakalehto, E., Sauramäki, E., Sauramäki, N., Sauramäki, J., Pesola, J., Humppi, T. (2018). Microbiology in traffic systems and vessels. In: Hakalehto, E. (ed.) Microbiological Environmental Hygiene. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York, NY, USA, pp. 405-430.
Hakalehto, E. (2020). Current megatrends in food production related to microbes. 5th International Conference on Food Chemistry and Technology (FCT-2019), Los Angeles, USA, 4.-6.11.2019. Journal of Food Chemistry and Nanotechnology 6 (1): 78-87.
Hakalehto, E. (2021). Chicken IgY antibodies provide mucosal barrier against SARS CoV-2 virus and other pathogens. IMAJ, vol. 23 (April 2021), pp. 208-211.
Hakalehto, E., Heitto, A., Adusei-Mensah, F., Pesola, A., Pesola, J., Armon, R. (2022). Different strategies for viral and bacterial prevention and eradication from foods. In: Hakalehto, E. (ed.) Microbiology of Food Quality - Challenges in Food Production and Distribution During and After the Pandemics, Walter de Gruyter GmBH, Berlin/Boston, pp. 107-148.