Jessica Green

Professor, University of Oregon


This conversation is closed.

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.

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.

  • Jun 10 2011: Composting toilets are a promising application for microbes in the home. The bacteria that break down the waste thrive in this setting, while harmful bacteria are destroyed by these conditions. Implementing this type of system in areas with poor sanitation could potentially ease the burden of illnesses like Cholera. To top it all off, these systems require no water to operate!
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      Jun 10 2011: Yes you are right, there are microbes doing useful work in many parts of a building. I have mostly been thinking about airborne and surface microbes, but this is changing.

      You comment about areas with poor sanitation reminds me of work I hope to do in the developing world, where the frequency of pathogens (especially respiratory pathogens) is often higher, and where low-cost control strategies (such as natural ventilation) are especially important. I am interested in quantifying how affordable architectural design practices can be used to significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases in resource-limited settings. Do you have any suggestions for me about how I might have the biggest impact in this area?
  • Jun 10 2011: This came to my mind, any thoughts?

    * House ventilation -blowing air through water with microbes (see compost tea).

    * Household products with probiotics (apple cider vinegar?).

    * Creating small biotopes indoors with microbial cultures on natural elements.

    * Living buildings (using dirt as building material).
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      Jun 10 2011: Hi Troels - this sounds interesting.

      We think about lot about ventilation at the BioBE Center. Can you explain a bit more your ideas of blowing air through water with microbes?

      I'm inspired by your biotope idea, I have not seen this language used for microbes in the built environment.

      I am also very interested in sampling from buildings that have biological components as building materials, to see how this influences, for example, the airborne microbiota.

      With regards to your probiotic/household product idea .... I recently read a paper by Noah Fierer and his colleagues that shows how we leave our microbial "fingerprints" on surfaces. For example, they showed that you can link a computer keyboard to the person who it belongs to based on the microbial communities on their fingertips. I wonder if swabbing indoor surfaces with any microbial community (e.g. the apple cide vinegar) would leave a similar signature? Or, if over time the microbes would decrease in their abundance.
      • Jun 10 2011: -Water with microbes:
        I got to think of it as I'm currently experimenting with compost tea for my garden. Compost tea is made by steeping compost or worm castings in a bucked with an air hose filled with water and some liquid molasses and often other ingredients as liquid seaweed extract. It's used as a foliar spray -against pests and bugs and for nutrient absorption through the stomata in the leaves. It's also used to "feed" soil with beneficial bacteria and fungi to break down organic matter and minerals, and to work in symbiosis with the rootweb.

        The idea would be to implement a waterbased culture of microorganisms to the ventilation system, so that all the air would have to go through the water.
  • Jun 10 2011: Is there any data to suggest that there can be health benefits to inhalation or aspiration of organisms that grow naturally in the outdoor environment (aside from the circumstantial evidence of studies such as those tying reduced allergy/asthma in kids who grow up on farms)? I've wondered, for example, about whether there is an ideal nasal microflora that may protect against sinus infections, perhaps promoted by the occasional inhalation of a few grains of rich garden soil? In the event that facts or correlations are few, I'd be curious to hear more about your own hypotheses along these or similar lines. (?)
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      Jun 10 2011: Most of what I have read deals with the dangers of inhaling pathogens. But most of what we inhale is not pathogenic. To my knowledge, little is known about the health effects of inhaling commensal microbes. If you find anything about this I would love to learn more.

      I published a paper titled "Relationship between cystic fibrosis respiratory tract bacterial communities and age, genotype, antibiotics and Pseudomonas aeruginosa" you might find interesting (which can be downloaded here In this study, we explore how microbes colonize the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis. When we wrote the paper, the current thinking was that healthy human lungs are sterile. But my guess is that this will change, and we may find that healthy lungs are in fact not sterile.

      Some of what we inhale also gets into our gut. Do you have anything to share on this front?
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    Jun 10 2011: I love this notion of recognizing our kinship with and reliance on microbes—I wrote an essay on my blog a while back exploring the necessity to re-ally ourselves with this realm, and it's wonderful to hear that you're envisioning ways to incorporate this into the built environment. Imagine if everyone using these spaces were constantly aware—in a positive way—of the microscopic beings they were sharing them with!
  • Jun 10 2011: If we're looking at the probiotic idea in the abstract...

    Let's look at a definition of probiotic (which I grabbed from Wikipedia): According to the currently adopted definition by FAO/WHO, probiotics are: "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host."

    So you A) introduce something B) in sufficient supply, in order to C) benefit D) the host.

    Perhaps using this rubric can help us ponder the topic of conversation:

    Who or what is the host?
    What is the desired benefit?
    What or who is introduced to convey the benefit?
    And how much or how many people are needed to make it happen?
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      Jun 10 2011: Thanks Josh. I like your questions. Let's explore them one by one.

      Who or what is the host? The way I proposed the question, it would be the building. But there is a host within the host in this case. Because ultimately what most people care about is their own health. While we occupy buildings, we (humans) are contributing to the built environment "microbiome", and we are picking up microbes from the building. So there is an exchange.

      What is the desired benefit? The desired benefit is to create spaces that are healthy for humans. An added benefit would be if we could design building that are healthy to humans, AND that have a reduced carbon footprint.

      What or who is introduced to convey the benefit? One easy place to start is to introduce microbes that compete with potential pathogens.

      And how much or how many people are needed to make it happen? I don't 100% understand this question, can you please elaborate?
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    Jun 10 2011: I am an engineer currently working on a bioreactor in Chicago designed to run on CO2 exhaust from a natural gas hot water heater and convert it into beneficial algae (ie Omega 3 Fatty Acid Producers, Protein Sources, etc).

    Is it possible that beneficial microbes could be polycultured and introduced into the environment by a system like this?
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      Jun 10 2011: Possibly. It might also be a good idea to foster colonization of local, native environmental microbes. As these are the microbes that we would be interacting with most if we spent more time outdoors. Are the microbes you are working with known to be beneficial to the human gut?
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        Jun 10 2011: I can't name specific strains beyond saying basic Chlorella was used to determine baselines, we're using a pretty wide variety of fresh and salt water algae and cyanobacteria. What I would suggest is culturing an algae that can feed the microbes in a closed artificial environment, possibly a staged system. Place this system inline with the drinking water of a house or a water fountain at an office and set it up to slowly release the culture into the water. Kind of like the opposite of a Brita fixture attachent. Culturing and adding beneficial life instead of sterilization.

        Actually, you might also find this interesting, in terms of symbiosis with a building. Right now, I have the prototype of the engine I mentioned before setup in my lab/office. I sit next to it all day long. I also have a fairly sizeable aquaponics system in the corner running another experiment. As near as we can tell, because of these two systems, I could be sealed inside this room airtight for about a month without a problem. 30 days in I will have run out of water in the reservoirs, but I would die of thirst long before I ran out of food or water.

        All the systems combined total less than 300W of power. The room is about 400 Square Feet and it could sustain me for 30 days, not a bad symbiosis overall.
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          Jun 10 2011: Your prototype reminds me of one question we are pondering: if/how plants impact the built environment microbiome (all communities of microbes within a building).

          How do you think your engine prototype and aquaponics system is changing the microbiology overall of your office? Do you think there are different microbes in the air and on surfaces than if they were not there? Do you think there are any implications if the answer is yes?
  • Jun 10 2011: It seems to me that this is about learning to live in harmony with all of creation...and refusing to participate in genocide, whether that is cultural or species...
  • Jun 10 2011: Soil bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) alters your mood (serotonin and anxiety levels). Are you aware of other microorganisms known to do similar things and could your studies lead to a decrease in depression?
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      Jun 10 2011: I have seen some press on this idea that microbes can alter your mood, but I am not sure how scientifically supported that principle is. It would not surprise me, however, because microbes are involved in just about everything.

      I have also seen literature suggesting that building design influences human health (e.g. see Healing Spaces by E. Sternberg). One component of our work that I am enthusiastic about is exploring how natural light and natural ventilation, both of which are believe to have positive health effects (for reasons that are not 100% understood), influence microbes indoors.
  • Jun 10 2011: " What do you think it will take for people to recognize how much we rely on microorganisms?"

    Loss of alcohol ;)
  • Jun 10 2011: Air-con is plagued by legionnaires disease, which is usually fought by eradication, when it is possible one could grow an organism that out competes or fights the problem organism in the air-con system. I can't imagine it is that hard, as ponds have been used for a long time to achieve similar effects.
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    Jun 10 2011: Synthetic Biology will soon make everything possible, even the impossible.
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    Jun 10 2011: I have an idea for hunger relief that uses probiotics in a way that treats hunger, disease, and soil health all in one package - like for water purification, home health, and also in food that acts as "medicine" for region-specific pathogens. I have not yet found research in this area to inform how to move forward. Any resources you can share that would help me get more direction? (Like who knows about water purification with probiotics? Food probiotics and combating specific pathogens? Also, probiotics that can be embedded in biodegradable packaging that then nourishes the soil) Any ideas? Who do you know of who is already doing these things?

    I believe probiotics are the wave of the future. Seriously. Such an exciting field you are in!!

    Thank you for any help and all the best!
  • Jun 10 2011: It seems from what I understand about our individual microbe colonies that everyone's is just slightly different - is this correct? If so, how would a general blast of probiotics help a larger community, does it work like vitamins where your body absorbs what it needs from a mix?

    I'm asking because I was considering one of the threads about microclimates, that is, a building or block of buildings that house like-minded people and businesses. I'd assume that different parts of the country would sustain different kinds of businesses because of local economies (for example, a building in Arizona would necessarily house a different sort of "green build" business and different agriculturalists than one in Washington). The microclimate of probiotics happens to be internal; do different populations support slightly different ones? If we manufacture probiotics, are they "simple" enough to bypass the need for specific (probably name branded) strains and a homogeneous culture? I'm sorry if these are obvious questions, I was just thinking about how various yeast cultures can lead to different tastes in cooking.
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      Jun 10 2011: Scientists are still trying to figure out how the human microbiome (the microbes living in and on us) varies from person to person. So far, it seems like there is great variation among (and within) humans, and that the degree of microbe similarity depends on what part of the microbiome (e.g. skin, gut, mouth) and the types of microbes (e.g. viruses, bacteria, archaea, etc.) studied.

      For example, I just read a study on spit (by Mark Stoneking and colleagues) that shows there is great variation in saliva microbial diversity among individuals, but that your neighbor’s spit is just as likely to be similar to yours as the spit of someone on the other side of the globe. So, there is little geographic signal in saliva microbial diversity.

      If I understand your points correctly, I believe you are interested in the role of nature versus nurture (or genes versus environment) in shaping microbial community composition in and on the human body. Scientists are using twins to answer these types of questions. To date, twin studies suggest that host genetic factors and environmental exposures are both important drivers of gut microbial community composition.

      You are wondering if one type of building probiotic would work for everyone. In other words, one suite of indoor microbes could be healthy (or commensal) to some individuals, and unhealthy for others. For this reason, it might be sensible to tailor the building microbes to match the genotype/phenotype/environment/lifestyle of the people that are occupying those spaces.

      I really appreciate your thoughts and will consider this more.
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    Jun 10 2011: We shouldn't focus on eliminating the bad bacterias necessarily, for that would be an overwhelming impossiblity anyway ....that shouldn't be the entire focus maybe; It doesn't allow the immune system to strengthen. We need stronger immune systems, of which 80% of our immune system is in the gut. Probiotics is normal flora there, and is a huge part of the immune system.

    Antibiotics unfortantely though wipe out both good and bad bacteria, then add in other toxins and products that disrupt the system as well....thereby weakening the immune system over time and creating dysbiosis in the gut. Allopathic medicine does not routinely recommend the use of probiotics after a round of antibiotics to re-establish the good bacteria in the gut however. If dysbiosis is present, it cannot function to its true potential, as it was designed to do.

    I am just not aware that inhaling probiotics would result in the intended action. However, I do like the natural water filter idea. I like many of the ideas here. But the only absorption I am aware of with probiotics is that of ingestion. Does anyone know otherwise??

    I like the central cooling idea though too....and if the benefit lies not in the utilization of the bacteria in the body specifically, but for the purpose of challenging the bad bacteria in a particular enviornment, this may be do-able. But how would you create it to be self-sustaining, could you do that, to eliminate costs?? Would it be economically feasible, and of a great benefit? I could see hospitals benefitting from such technology, as nosocomial infection is a huge problem there.
  • Jun 10 2011: Cleaning with water only or water and natural acid like vinegar or lemon
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    Jun 10 2011: A beautiful idea Jessica . Do you know that old story about the monk and the eframer adopting the donkey had been told by the monknthat the trick is kindness..thta tthe donkey will do anything you ask if you ask in kindness,..butthe donkey does nothing or the extra kind farmer and so he call sthe monk who comes over and whacks the donkey on th eback..but I thoght you said kindness stammers the farmer.

    But you have to get his attention firts says the monk.

    And so it is with yiur beutaiful plan. People say theu sharethese values but their hearts and minds arent ther ein determination.

    Can you bring your talk back as open ended so we can explore that more????

    Thank you again for your beautiful vision. I hold it with you.
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    Jun 10 2011: Great idea Hilal! I hope he can make that work too!

    I wonder if we couldn't use probiotics in place of perservatives? Take the toxic, less beneficial things out of the food supply of which people do react to or have a much higher probability of reacting to, and use probiotics instead? Not only will it preserve the food hopefully, but the people will be ingesting health instead of other things not specifically geared towards health.
    • Jun 10 2011: Thank you and for your idea I think, for the beginning, it is hard to preserve probiotics themself. maybe we can only use their 'beneficial enzymes' here instead of whole cells but in this scenario it highs up the prices. there are limitless place of these microbes can be used but the production costs always a handicap :(
  • Jun 10 2011: As I read these comments, it makes me wonder if our 'unnatural' environments are contributing to astounding health problems by having eliminated these healthy biological allies.
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      Jun 10 2011: Our preliminary data from the BioBE Center suggests that natural ventilation, versus mechanical ventilation, reduces the proportion of potential airborne pathogens indoors.

      Here is another thought. It is possible that by constantly disinfecting surfaces, we are removing "healthy" microbes that would otherwise compete with potential pathogens.
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    Jun 10 2011: In the sense of using symbiotic relationships to promote a healthy environment the biggest idea that comes to mind is communal living and working spaces. Here is an example of an incubator I would like to start that promotes this ideal environment.
    Take a building that is at least 3 stories with a good sized flat roof. The bottom floor is work space(offices and reception), middle is entertainment and lounge, and the third is living quarters. Now finding the right match of individuals and organizations to work and live in this space is important too. I will speak from my perspective but many different combinations could work. In my ideal settings it would contain my company, (a web development firm), a marketing company, a green tech company, and an urban gardening company(with farming and gardening on the roof). Combined these 4 companies could all support each other and for the most part be self-sustainable.

    This concept can be extrapolated to the city block or even the entire city level with different combinations of co-living/working space.
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      Jun 10 2011: One reason this model would be interesting, from my perspective, is that it would allow us to identify if changes in human activity played a role in changing the types of microbes inside. We could do this if the same people worked on the 1st floor, lounged/entertained on the 2nd floor, and slept on the 3rd floor.

      Do you know of spaces that are currently designed this way?
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        Jun 10 2011: I have not seen anything setup like this but I did borrow the idea from the typical incubator setup. The typical setup is geared to be just business and not co-living spaces that foster a self-sustaining lifestyle. As more people find ways to be successful doing what they love, and as our cities grow and resources become more scarce, this co-living/working space could be a vital solution for our future.

        I like the idea of being able to also learn from the study of these combinations. We would have to look at many factors including how an individuals stress level brought on by their daily tasks, the quality of air and water produced by the green-tech element, and the food produced by the farming element. Using the same types of microbes, ie, people/businesses, but where they each have a different approach would yield interesting results. Example: One urban farmer might grow more vegetables and another might grow more fruit and yet another might even have a large chicken coup. These small differences could have huge impact on the day-to-day health and vitality of those living within this space.

        (I hope I am staying true to form in your conversation, please correct me if I am not.)
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      Jun 10 2011: Hi Nafissa. You are spot on. The funding we received from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is to answer several of these questions, and we have already conducted a study at a hospital in Portland (currently in review).

      Can you elaborate on what you mean by understand the structure/nature of the building blocks in our subways/houses/offices?

      Do you have ideas on the types of clinical data that we should be suggesting to hospitals that they gather when we are gathering the architectural, environmental, and microbiological data?

      Finally, it is my sense that both surfaces and air are important. What do you think common knowledge is about this?
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          Jun 10 2011: When you mention hotspots above, what do you mean? Do you mean a spatial location within the health care facility where people commonly get the most sick?

          Something I have not discussed much in this conversation is that we know microbial diversity to varies from place to place within a building, and even from place to place within a single room. We are very interested in within-building microbial bioegeography.

          I had never considered the spatial distribution of clinical data, and I did not know that hospitals collected this type of information.
  • Jun 10 2011: On There is an article called
    Gut Bacteria Know Secrets About Your Future by Robert Krulwich. It discusses the idea that people are in microbe sub groups like blood types and that these gut flora produce future outcomes such as being skinny or fat or if someone will develops ulcers or Autism.. Quite interesting if one day we can test our own set Gut Mapping to see what microbes hang out in us and what ones environmentally and benefit us. Well beyond just one probiotic strain.
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      Jun 10 2011: Yes, I recently read the article you are referring to, "Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome" by Arumugam et al.. Just as it is now possible to have your personal genome sequenced (e.g. through 23&Me), it will not be long before you can also have your gut microbiome sequenced. It is very cheap to do the sequencing now, and this technology will soon become readily available to the general public.

      Would you be interested to test your own home, or office, to see what microbes hang out around you?
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    Jun 10 2011: Could you have a microbe "farm" attached to a central heating system.
    The farm purpose would be two-fold. First it would take a "swab" of incoming air and make an analysis of microbes living within (is that possible?)
    Secondly the farm would grow microbes we determined to be helpful and release them in an even supply to the home or office.
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      Jun 10 2011: Fantastic idea. We are actually implementing some of this in an upcoming study on classrooms at the University of Oregon. We are sampling incoming air, and also air that is being recirculated through the building, to understand how human occupancy patterns influence the built environment microbiome.

      I had not thought of the farm idea. Because we are still in the beginning stages of understanding how human host-associated microbes influence our health, it is not clear what types of microbes we would want to release. But the field is moving so rapidly, I can see this happening in the future.
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        Jun 10 2011: I look forward to seeing results, I had never given much thought into how human interaction can change office on the microbial scale.
  • Jun 10 2011: Hi, I am a molecular biologist, recently, I helped an architect friend of mine in a theoretical project which is based on using algea to cover up the buildings. the goal here is to convert the non-used areas (surface of buildings) into the self-generating oxygen sources.
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      Jun 10 2011: That sounds great. Rachael Armstrong also thinks about this use of microbes.

      I wonder how those surface microbes influence the colonization of microbes indoors? I bet it would. The outdoor, surface microbes would like enter the building in a variety of ways.
      • Jun 10 2011: I'd like to read her article. If possible, could you send me the title of the related article?
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    Jun 10 2011: wouldn't you have to get the probiotics into the body somehow for any benefit to occur? I'm not quite understanding how you are seeing this working? Can you elaborate some?
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      Jun 10 2011: Hi Belinda. One way the building probiotics would interact with humans is through the air that we breathe while indoors. Another is by touch. All surfaces within buildings are covered with microbial biofilms. When we touch surfaces, we leave some of our microbes there, and we also pick some up.
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    Jun 10 2011: well, the stuff chemical wise that is on the market, no one addresses or concerns themselves with allergies. Not sure why they would have an issue with probiotics, it is part of the human design, and actually beneficial. But of course, we are all unique I suppose.
  • Jun 10 2011: Although probiotics can be beneficial to the microbial system in certain situations, an excess of microbial proliferation can cause ill side effects such as gas and infection. In the same way that the digestive system works best with an even microbial balance, any closed environment such as a home or office is managed best with a healthy balance of benefeactors, whatever those benefactors may be.
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      Jun 10 2011: I am interested in your ideas Emory. It is my understanding that buildings are not closed environments. Microbes enter and leave buildings by occupants that come and go, through windows, and through mechanical ventilation systems. So buildings are constantly "breathing". Our preliminary data through the BioBE Center suggests that the density of airborne bacteria is relatively constant (~1 million per cubic meter of air), regardless of whether the building is naturally or mechanically ventilated. What does change, however, is the composition of the microbes.

      Do you have ideas about what might lead to an unusually high density of microbes within buildings?
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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?
  • Jun 10 2011: ( I was thinking about the current trend to use anti-biotic soaps, washes, etc to eliminate all bacteria.)
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      Jun 10 2011: It is my understanding that antibiotic soaps are not necessarily good for you. I saw Sarah Janssen give a talk at a meeting called CleanMed. She explained that Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor, and found in 75% of all antimicrobial liquid hand soaps.
      • Jun 10 2011: Exactly, and it sets up a mindset in our general culture that we need to make war on all bacteria. The notion that interrelatedness with the microbes in our environment is healthy and can be fostered is a brilliant new direction to take our mass thinking (and of course an ancient fact of life.)
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          Jun 10 2011: Anrahyah, I think you will like this. One question that almost got posted for this conversation was the following:

          When people think about microbes, they commonly think about harmful pathogens. In what context do you hear or think about "good" microbes, and how could knowledge about good microbes be spread?

          My question for you now is more specific. What do you think it will take for people to recognize how much we rely on microorganisms?
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    Jun 10 2011: don't probiotics die at a certain temp? I always understood you had to keep them refrigerated for the truly live bacteria to function.
  • Jun 10 2011: Wondering the affect of being 'allergic' to specific microbes some people may not be aware if they are allergic to mold, fungus or other microbes. Are the yeasts and other friendly bacteria not so friendly to us and how would the positives out way any negatives? And what uses could this idea reflect? Decomposing skin cells with microbes for a great facial or cleaning products that eat mildew and mold on surfaces? Always curious and excited to get some input!
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      Jun 10 2011: While indoors (and outdoors) we are exposed to (and comprised of) trillions of diverse microbes. Most of these are commensal (meaning they are good for us or neutral). Few are allergens or pathogenic. The idea would be to develop a global database of what types of microbes colonize different buildings and to relate this information quantitatively to health metrics (e.g. allergic reactions or increasing productivity, if there is a way to measure this).
  • Jun 10 2011: I work as a Professional Organizer. I am always looking for ways to improve my clients homes and offices. I do know that cleaning out the "junk" both mental and physical that takes up their space is just the start of their journey.
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      Jun 10 2011: Do you think your clients would be motivated to have microbial diversity sampled in their homes and offices, and to partner this information with personal health data? This is very feasible and could pave the way to a better understanding of how building environments interact with our health.
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    Jun 10 2011: Chris, I'm sorry but I am allergic to the word 'mandatory.' Jessica, you have a good idea if you can figure out how to make it feasible.
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    Jun 10 2011: I've know people who had to wear a pedometer for work, in order to keep their insurance plan as status quo they had to meet a quota of steps per day.

    Maybe proactive solutions like probiotics should be mandatory for keeping health-care premiums down.
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    Jun 10 2011: Hi Chris - what I am dreaming of is ways the work and home environment could be improved by controlling the types of microbes that are in these spaces. In other words, by applying probiotics to the buildings we live, work, and play in. This is a bit different than humans taking probiotics.
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      Jun 10 2011: Oh shoot! I guess I misunderstood.

      With that in mind I think it is a wonderful idea but only when wholly understood.
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      Jun 10 2011: Stefanie please tell me a bit more about using the human microbiome as a way to rethink the "body politic".

      I am envisioning rethinking our perceptions of buildings. Imagine a day when we receive two sets of blue prints for a building. One set is the traditional architectural plans. The next set is the microbial genomic blue print, with predictions about what suites of microbes will be present in the building depending on the time of year and how it is operated.