TED Conversations

Jessica Green

Professor, University of Oregon

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Probiotics, like yogurt, are known to support healthy gut microbes. How could we apply this idea support a healthy house, subway, or office?

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Jessica Green

Jessica is the Director of the Biology and Built Environment (BioBE) Center. Our goal is to optimize the design and operation of buildings to promote both human health and environmental sustainability.

*UPDATE* Jessica will be answering questions LIVE from 1:30PM - 3PM EDT, June 10th, 2011. This conversation will remain open until 6:30PM EDT, June 10th, 2011.

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Closing Statement from Jessica Green

Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts. I will take this conversation with me as we continue to explore issues surrounding biology and the built environment.

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    Jun 10 2011: Jessica can you give me an idea of what you have in mind for applying the idea of probiotics to a healthy house?
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      Jun 10 2011: Here is an example. Imagine that we can design buildings with materials that select for microbes that are good for our health. Or, that we can operate buildings in such a way that we reduce the proportion of potential pathogens in the air. Based on our preliminary data at the BioBE Center, I believe one way to do this is by using natural ventilation (windows open), versus mechanical ventilation (windows closed).
      • Jun 10 2011: I think it's good to have pathogens in the air. If we completely aired them out, evolution will not thank us in the future when our immune systems are totally shot, where three and a half steps outside can pose a serious threat.
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          Jun 10 2011: Great point. But in some situations we may be selecting for a disproportionately large relative abundance of a particularly virulent pathogen, based on the way we are designing and operating buildings.

          I believe that we may be able to better control, for example, nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections.

          Do you feel that there would be an overall health cost to the general public if we were to reduce nosocomial infection rates?

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