TED Conversations

Anna Crist

student researcher , University of Oregon

This conversation is closed.

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”?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Apr 30 2013: I think that Bacteri-ell would be a great idea, but I think we also need to find a way of making people not so afraid of germs. Yeah, germs make us sick and can can even end up killing people, but can't the same thing happen by wiping away all the germs from your body? The germs on our bodies help to build our immune systems and keep us from getting ill, so having a lotion like bacteri-ell in a world full of germaphobes is an amazing idea, but will it help in solving the problem or just cover it up?
    • thumb
      May 1 2013: This is an important point, that the publics idea of bacteria needs to change. National Geographic pushed in the right direction recently with a feature on microbes. In the link below there are some amazing pictures of different bacteria and viruses. I think that this visual representation, along with all of the new data on the importance of our microbiome will be a huge part of changing their image. If we can only get the BBC and David Attenborough to make a series on microbes, people will change their tune.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.