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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 would be a very tricky idea to introduce to people. There is a great amount of knowledge out there that yes being to hygienic is not necessarily going to mean you get sick less often or have a better immune system. However, asking people to willingly "dirty" their hands would be a hard sell because that is how most people would view it, as dirtying their hands. I think that with a greater amount of research and testing this could be possible. I like the idea but people in the non-science community have barely begun to scratch the surface on their knowledge of microbes that scientists have known for a while longer. Getting people much more knowledgeable about microbes and specifically what certain microbes can do would be the best way to start. Considering the main goal of every business is to make a profit, no business will not to manufacture a hand lotion that people may view in a negative way because their sales would be atrocious.

    That being said I like this idea and I think there could be a lot of potential breakthroughs in the study of microbes that could bring about the need for a product like this.
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      Apr 30 2013: I don't think it would take people long to get used to the idea of "dirtying" their hands with beneficial bacterial species. Have you heard of maggot medicine*? Many people trust medical experts, and if people can get used to the idea of maggots cleaning their wounds, I don't think they will mind a lot of invisible organisms on their hands.

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        May 1 2013: It's true that maggot medicine and probiotics are becoming popular, but in what sector? Who can actually afford these things in our current economy. Especially when most families are struggling just to get food on the table, who has the extra money to pay for these medical remedies when their families survival may be on the line. I think these things are a very high-end clientele type of product that only gain interest from people who can afford health insurance in which their doctors recommend them. Much of the U.S. doesn't even have health insurance because it is to expensive. I like the idea, but as a poor college student I think it is going to be left to the higher end tax bracket and everyone else will just have to get our microbes naturally.
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          May 1 2013: I agree with you Shelby. Most of these remedies are for the high end clientele and what we need is a lost cost way of being able to get these microbes without breaking the bank. My thought is if we can get the microbes we need by spending more time outside than why not. Spending time in the outdoors is free and provides may health benefits. Many companies have came out with ways of getting probiotics like in yogurt, drinks and even in pills that people can take. It seems like people are covering the internal microbes, but not the ones that live on the surface of our bodies. I think until a way of replenishing them on our bodies is found then maybe we just need to use old school techniques and go back outside.

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