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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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    Apr 30 2013: You said "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?" and I find that this sort of a product would be impossible. I say this because our bodily immune systems are built little by little, not i huge strides. Pushing that many bacteria into your body at once will not help your immune system, it will devastate it, even if they are mostly beneficial microbes.

    A better question would be: Could there be a series of drinks in which a person is exposed to all the bacteria that could strengthen the bodies natural processes and it immune system?
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      May 1 2013: That is a great point, Clinton. Our immune system is something we develop slowly over time. Slow exposure to different microbes, whether pathogenic or not, allow our bodies to properly function and build up necessary immunities we need to survive. Even though biomedical technology is currently doing amazing things and new, unimaginable medicines are being created, I don't think there would be a way to subject the body to a "bacteria-elle" without doing serious damage to the overall immune system. The immune system cannot be built up instantaneously, and it could be very dangerous, even life threatening, to expose the body to an exorbitant number of (possibly foreign) microbes at one time.
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      May 1 2013: I liked this idea as well and thought that a variety of drinks could be interesting new way to shape our microbial community for the type of life style we want to live. But in reality I do not think anything will ever be as unanimously effective as nature can be on developing this community
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        May 1 2013: The point isn't to replace natures role, the point is to fill in a role nature should play, but can't. Not everyone has the time to take their kids hiking and camping that often, so this would be able to counteract the effects of not being able to.

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