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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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    Eun Min

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    Apr 30 2013: Microbes were thought to be bad and dirty, pathogen. Although we have found that many microbes are good and necessary for the whole ecosystem, not only for human, some people still think microbes are pathogen; it reminds me of a rotten apple in a barrel. I do not know that not exposure to certain microbes causes or increase allergy levels, which might be related.
    As Jonathan Eisen said in the video that probiotic, poo-tea and fecal transplant, microbes are used to treat unhealthy animal. I guess bacteri-ell might come out the market soon or similar one; it is good way to get good microbes! Maybe we can buy a can of good microbes; we can sort microbes, which are necessary and help our health, and culture them and put in a can although culturing microbes are hard! Then, we can put the microbes directly on our body or put on a bed to last longer, growing them on your own bed!
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      Apr 30 2013: Thanks for pointing out the practicality of "Bacteri-ell"! One of the problems I thought of is exactly what you pointed out: microbes are hard to culture! We already have trouble with creating cultures of bacteria, would we really be able to maintain them in "Bacteri-ell?" Can you think of yet another method we could use to expose people to helpful microbes (besides poo-tee and fecal transplant...)? I was thinking that another possible medium could be animals. Maybe petting zoos with animals that definitely have helpful microbes on them (e.g. frogs!) that people could take their children to. :)
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        Apr 30 2013: Animals can do that too, but I worry about the stress what animals get and safety issue. I guess we can select an individual who is healthy and test what kind of microbes the healthy person has by collecting microbes from the person and sequencing the microbes if there is a pathogen. If not, we can let the person wear a shirt for a day and take the shirt from the healthy person and put it on a sick person, transferring microbes naturally. It sounds disgusting, but we can try?
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      Apr 30 2013: I definitely agree. It's not a matter of eliminating microbes but selecting for the beneficial ones to our health and eliminating the detrimental ones. How we select between these two still needs development however, could revolutionize our buildings and the possibility of integrating microbes environments to the surface of everyday objects.

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