Lets Talk About Bugs

Micro-organisms, small insects & annoying things

The term bug was first used c1700, since then it’s meaning has changed to reflect the changes and observations in society, making it a very useful word to describe a number of totally unrelated phenomenon; for example:

If you were a microbiologist you might use the word ’bug’ to refer to a collective of undefined micro-organisms.

If you were in the company of IT specialists a ’bug’ may refer to a small piece of annoying code infesting a computer or your software.

Blending all the current definitions together from various dictionaries, one gets the impression that a ’bug is a small, annoying, opportunistic event that produces unpredictable results in a normally stable system’; it could be a listening device, an insect in electrical equipment (e.g. computer), a random piece of software code or a micro-organism, depending on the system being infested. One other important attribute to mention is the number of bugs, their number is so large that each type of infestation has its’ own dedicated industry, desperately trying to reduce the impact of an infestation by incorporating their preventative measures into the routine of a system maintenance programme.

The Last Attribute

We have defined a ’bug’ as small, annoying, opportunistic, great in number and usually characterised by its’ location (i.e. software bugs in computers), the last attribute and the most important one is a bugs’ ability to evolve; this is an important concept to grasp as it defines how we react to each an every event/infestation. Let me explain, as we develop more and more sophisticated techniques to protect ourselves from the bugs; this usually means eliminating the more abundant weaker ones or building walls to reduce the impact of the weaker bugs by changing habits and procedures, the competition for a finite set of resources that the bug requires reduces and the bug that is most resistant to the measures deployed to protect the system thrives and becomes more difficult to eliminate. Therefore a new counter measure must be deployed and the cycle continues until our technology is exhausted and we have created ’superbugs’ !


Superbug is a new term, only recently used and refers specifically, but not exclusively to;

  • A strain of bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotic drugs.
  • An insect that is difficult to control or eradicate, especially because it has become immune to insecticides.

One important concept to grasp here is that we (mankind) make the ’superbugs’ by our actions to control or eradicate them. By our over reliance on one type or group of treatments, we create bacteria and insects that are resistant to antibiotic drugs and insecticides; this then is a war, but luckily for us, it is not a war we can win, because if we win we die!

The Challenge

So when we declare ’War on Superbugs’, we must be clear about its’ objectives and the processes/techniques we are deploying in order to see a benefit because our existence, our quality of life is dependent upon the survival of these bugs. The indiscriminate deployment and use of any technique to control any type of bug will produce an unpredictable event (i.e. by definition a bug resistant to that technique -Superbug-).

In part two we will narrow our discussion to focus on micro-organisms (biological bugs) and the idea of creating environments where bugs can thrive, where they are tolerated and where they are not tolerated.


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