Today I came across an interesting article concerning claims by researchers that single-celled organisms, such as bacteria, can be trained using associative learning in a similar way to that used with Pavlov’s dogs. Once I’d stopped amusing myself with the subtitle (“Single-celled organisms could be ‘trained’ to deliver drugs”), imagining multitudes of bacterial “mules” clip-clopping through customs after having tiny condoms full of cocaine inserted in inappropriate places, I settled down and read the piece — marvelling at the possibility of E. coli being conditioned to recognize certain chemical processes in the body and reacting to them accordingly.
And then I thought of the possible negative side of this. Smart bacterial warfare. Sleeper cells of single-celled organisms being passed from one individual to another, waiting for a trigger — the germ equivalent of a ringing bell. I’m not easily spooked where science is concerned. I see, on the whole, highly responsible behaviour by the majority. But the application of science — what politicians and those in the military do with it — always has to be a concern when something like this is proposed/discovered.
Used responsibly, this could have an incredible life-changing/life-enhancing potential. Used inappropriately… I don’t really need to say it, do I? Nevertheless, I look forward to the benefits that could come from this, content in the knowledge that by the time it becomes an issue I’ll probably have my own highly-trained (and suitably cultured… sorry, couldn’t resist it!) defensive team of bacteria, marching around my body and shouting “Halt! Who goes there?” when anything fishy crops up.