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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    May 1 2013: If there is a way to let our immune system to distinguish beneficial microbes from bad microbes, this way could be carried out. Of course, microbes is a part of our organisms, like the TED talk we look on the class said. I think that microbes in our body is a balanced and homeostasis system, so we shouldn't disrupt it both "too much cleaning" and "adding microbes in".
    I thought there could be two reasons why allergy levels in industrialized countries is high. Firstly, people is more sensitive than before. They clean everything everyday, so even normal microbes can even arouse allergy. Secondly, the microbes turn to be more abundant and various by mutation or some other environmental factors, which people never met them before.

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