The hygiene hypothesis    

Express News Service

Examining new research from across the world

Name of study: Microbial exposures that establish immunoregulation are compatible with targeted hygiene
By who and where: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,  UCL Infection and Immunity, 
and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

What does it say?

✥ It challenges the popular belief that because modern society is so clean and sanitised, that children born into them never build strong immunities.

✥ This is because exposure to certain microorganisms protects against allergic diseases and builds immunity. The study, however, argues that this hypothesis is not accurate.

For Germ-free is priority

Dr Trupti Gilada 
Infectious Disease Specialist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai

Infectious disease is one of the leading causes of mortality in both children until age 14 years in India. This highlights the need for continued efforts in improving hygiene practices. Indeed, certain beneficial microorganisms that populate our gut, skin, and airways play an important role in maintaining our health, but domestic cleaning and hygiene practices have no bearing on our exposure to these organisms. The association between clean homes and a higher risk of allergies is not caused by the removal of germs, but rather exposure to cleaning products.       

Against

Infections are good
Dr Fazal Nabi Consultant Paediatrician, Global Hospital, Mumbai

Overprotecting children from germs is not a good idea.
Immunity develops in three phases—foetal, infant and child. In the third phase, specifically, immunity tends to develop with recurrent exposure and experiences with infections. Children, who are brought up in extremely hygienic environments, have no exposure to these infections and by the time they are in preschool, they exhibit lower immunity than those who had some exposure to some germs. These are mostly mild, self-limiting upper airway and gastrointestinal infections but getting them in the early years means you’ll have lesser infections in the later years.            

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