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: Our bodies are teaming with microbes and from the research that we now know each of us seem to have our own set of microbes covering every inch of our bodies. Culture, community and genetics may all affect the different microbes that support our bodies. Every human has been living in a symbiotic relationship their entire lives, but no one knows it due to the fact that microbes are microscopic. Advertisements and media portray most microbes as pathogens that can cause serious illnesses. When in reality they are the key to life, as we know it. Our society over uses antibacterial cleaners but as fascinating as an idea as “Bacteri-ell” sounds I would hope that it is only used for specific medical needs. The thought that people would have to wake up in the morning to apply microbes to increase there immune system would be a horrifying. Enjoying the world around us and increasing our immune system naturally seems like the best cure.

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