TED Conversations

Anna Crist

student researcher , University of Oregon

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Purell now, Bacteri-ell later?

The hygiene hypothesis, the idea that “too much cleanliness prevents the development of a well-balanced immune response”(Sironi and Clerici, 2010), has received a lot of support and also criticism. It has recently been challenged by the hypothesis of “early immune challenge”, which states that a lack of appropriate immune stimulation during early childhood might account for the increased development of allergies in industrialized countries (Kramer et al, 2013). This proposal places less emphasis on excessive hygienic practices and focuses more on the insufficient exposure to specific environmental microbes, particularly those from non-urban environments, as the reason behind the rise of atopic disease. While different, both hypotheses point to the beneficial health affects of some microbes.

What do you think is the reason for increased allergy levels in industrialized countries? Do you think that a concoction of the “right” microbial species in the form of a lotion, drink, or inhalant (aka "Bacteri-ell") could be a future replacement for natural exposure to beneficial microbes?
Instead of using hand sanitizers like Purell, do you see a future where people from some regions of the world are unsanitizing their hands with “Bacteri-ell”?


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    Apr 30 2013: Thanks for all the great input! Here are the links to the two studies I referenced in the conversation starter. I had a glitch when uploading the talk so I didn't include them.

    1. Manuela Sironi, Mario Clerici, The hygiene hypothesis: an evolutionary perspective, Microbes and Infection, Volume 12, Issue 6, June 2010, Pages 421-427, ISSN 1286-4579, 10.1016/j.micinf.2010.02.002.

    2. A. Kramer, S. Bekeschus, B.M. Bröker, H. Schleibinger, B. Razavi, O. Assadian, Maintaining health by balancing microbial exposure and prevention of infection: the hygiene hypothesis versus the hypothesis of early immune challenge, Journal of Hospital Infection, Volume 83, Supplement 1, February 2013, Pages S29-S34, ISSN 0195-6701, 10.1016/S0195-6701(13)60007-9.

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