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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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  • May 1 2013: People choose to use or not to use sanitizers like Purell. This means that people who want to get rid of the microbes on their hands (for good or ill) will choose to use them, while those that do not, won't. Oversanitation is not yet unavoidable, and until it is, a product like "Bacteri-ell" would suit no one. Those that would see it favorably don't need it, and those that need it (due to overuse of sanitation products) wouldn't see it favorably. The only answer to the issue of oversanitation is to combat the stigma that "germs are bad."
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      May 1 2013: I think this is an interesting point. I can see how a "Bacteri-ell" product would be marketable, but you could be right in that it would target the audience that doesn't need it. I agree that overcoming the stigma against microbes is a bigger issue...perhaps instead of focusing our resources on developing Bacteri-ell, we should focus them on creating antibacterial products that only target microbes that will make us sick. Sanitation obviously has its benefits but maybe there's a more effective and nuanced way of going about it.
    • May 1 2013: But in the same way there's a nuanced way of eliminating bad bacteria, surly there's a way to introduce good bacteria in a nuanced way. Being skeptical of the public's perception is quite short-sited... just figure out a way it could be marketed to also say it will help you lose weight and you got yourself the newest fad.

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