Symbiosis, we now begin to realize, is more common in the living world than we ever imagined, fundamental even. Symbiosis, defined as the living together of two or more more dissimilar organisms, in more or less intimate association, in either of three kind of relationships.  One is where both species benefit from the relationship (mutualistic), two, where one benefits and the other does not benefit nor is harmed (commensalistic), or  three where one benefits and the other is harmed (parasitic). Each organism engaged in either form in such relationship is termed a symbiont.

And no, the title is not a typo. 

Humans are symbionts. We could not survive if not for the microbial gut community we host. We are co-dependent, we need to nurture and nourish our microbiome to stay healthy. We, whatever we are, are the protagonist in the play. And that is when it becomes interesting. We, with our assured selves, often ignore the importance of this mutualistic relationship, what can go wrong anyway, we are hosting, they should be happy to have a home. We think.

As we can read in the wikipedia entry, “the Klyntar are a fictional species of extraterrestrial symbiotes”…most well known in association with Spider-Man. It further reads “ The symbiotes form a symbiotic bond with their hosts, through which a single entity is created, They also are able to slightly alter their hosts’ personalities, and/or memories by influencing their darkest desires and wants, along with amplifying their physical and emotional traits and personally granting them super-human abilities”.

Although they originated in a dark past, their malevolent leader Knull was defeated on Earth by Thor, and subsequently the symbiotes began to explore notions of honor and nobility as they bonded to benevolent hosts and desired to spread and maintain peace throughout the Cosmos. “However, these altruistic goals were imperfect, as the Klyntar symbiotes could be corrupted by hosts with harmful chemical imbalances or problematic personality attributes, turning them into destructive parasites who would spread lies and disinformation about their own kind in order to make other people fear and hate the Klyntar species as a whole.” *

A symbiote of sorts, maybe they are among us, maybe they form at very different space-time scales unable to detect by our sensors and senses.

When fiction meets facts; it sounds eerily real, a hypothesis of sorts to explore the role of our microbiome. The gut-brain axis is something we have come across, the complex bidirectional crosstalk between gut and brain, it not only assures the proper maintenance of our gastrointestinal homeostasis, but is likely to have “multiple effects on affect, motivation, and higher cognitive functions.

 And is extraterrestrial life a possibility? Research in astrobiology* * certainly entertains this possibility as it seeks to understand the origin of life, the steps that led inanimate materials, such as rocks and water to come together and build living organisms, and why should it only have happened on our planet? And “is it possible, likely even, that life exists elsewhere based on elements other than carbon and a system different than DNA? Could such life even exist here on Earth, but is as yet undetected?

Whatever the reality of the symbiotes may be, the description of their ability to influence lies, misinformation, the fear of and desire to destruct microbial ‘enemies’ sounds awfully like our current reality. Benevolent hosts is what we need. 

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbiote_(comics)

** https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/pdf/AnnGastroenterol-28-203.pdf 

*** https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/about/