Microbes evolve in complex environments that are often fashioned, in part, by human desires. In a global perspective, public health has played major roles in structuring how microbes are perceived, cultivated, and destroyed. The germ theory of disease cast microbes as enemies of the body and the body politic. Antibiotics have altered microbial development by providing stringent natural selection on bacterial species, and this has led to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Public health perspectives such as “Precision Public Health” and “One Health” have recently been proposed to further manage microbial populations. However, neither of these take into account the symbiotic relationships that exist between bacterial species and between bacteria, viruses, and their eukaryotic hosts. We propose a perspective on public health that recognizes microbial evolution through symbiotic associations (the hologenome theory) and through lateral gene transfer. This perspective has the advantage of including both the pathogenic and beneficial interactions of humans with bacteria, as well as combining the outlook of the “One Health” model with the genomic methodologies utilized in the “Precision Public Health” model. In the Anthropocene, the conditions for microbial evolution have been altered by human interventions, and public health initiatives must recognize both the beneficial (indeed, necessary) interactions of microbes with their hosts as well as their pathogenic interactions.
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