Skip to main content

Table 1 Some major differences between the anthropocentric and biocentric views of microbes

From: The case for biocentric microbiology

The anthropocentric view of microbes The (micro-) biocentric view of microbes
Humans – being more complex, more sophisticated, and more important than microorganisms – are the center of attention. Humans and microorganisms are cellular, nucleic acid-based life forms that struggle to survive and disseminate their nucleic material. They both deserve equal attention, and so do other acellular nucleic acid-based forms (e.g., viruses).
According to their effect on human health and lifestyle, microbes are classified into: Humans and microbes share many ecosystems. Their interests converge or diverge, and their interactions include symbiosis as well as mutual killing. To microbes, humans also represent an ecosystem that they use as a relatively safe (?) haven and a source of nutrition. For this purpose, microbes do whatever it takes to better survive and disseminate.
- those that are useful (e.g., generate vitamins, food, and fuel) and need to be exploited for the common good of humankind  
- those that are harmful (e.g., cause diseases or spoil food) and need to be controlled and exterminated if necessary  
- those that do not interfere with humans  
The first two classes, albeit a minority among microbes, are the best studied and are preferred by funding agencies.  
Because humans' energy and resources are limited, anthropocentric microbiology focuses on microbes of interest to humans. Biocentric microbiology implies that the thorough study of all bacteria, archaea, and other eukaryotic microbes (or representatives thereof) is imperative for the understanding of every single microbe, including those of direct interest to humans.