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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: I think this hygiene hypothesis is a great idea that people hardly ever think about. I agree with the statement, " Too much cleanliness prevents the development of well-balanced immune response" because by using products that eliminate the microbial communities on our skin will take away the natural "good" microbes that we need for survival. I believe the increase in allergy levels in industrialized countries is because these microbes evolving. In response to the statement, "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?" I do not agree with this because of how much microbial species you must introduce to a person in order for this to replace natural exposure to beneficial microbes. Is there even a way to separate "good" vs "harmful" microbes in order for only the good ones to be exposed to humans? And do we know an estimate of how much natural microbes we should on average be exposed to that is going to benefit our immunity system?

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