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Scientists Say a Dirty Child Is a Healthy Child 331

Posted by samzenpus
from the snack-is-going-to-be-on-the-floor-today dept.
Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California have shown that the more germs a child is exposed to, the better their immune system in later life. Their study found that keeping a child's skin too clean impaired the skin's ability to heal itself. From the article: "'These germs are actually good for us,' said Professor Richard Gallo, who led the research. Common bacterial species, known as staphylococci, which can cause inflammation when under the skin, are 'good bacteria' when on the surface, where they can reduce inflammation."


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Scientists Say a Dirty Child Is a Healthy Child

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  • How is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XPeter (1429763) * on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:09PM (#30220280) Homepage

    For years it's been known that kids from third world countries usually don't suffer from auto-immune diseases and things akin because of the sickly environment they are exposed too. It's simple, if you live constantly with the risk of infection your body will build up a stronger immune system than someone who lives in a bubble.

  • old news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:11PM (#30220320)

    My mother told me this 20 years ago, this is like household wisdom.

  • Knew This For Years (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:15PM (#30220364) Journal

    Of course nobody listened to me, and I doubt anyone will listen to this study either. They'll just keep cleaning their kid.

    Likewise exposing your kid to lots of allergens (like pollen, grass, et cetera) can prevent allergies as the body learns to ignore these things. Even in adulthood the body can be "trained" to allergens through frequent exposure.

  • Carlin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rainmaestro (996549) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:27PM (#30220518)

    George Carlin said it best []

  • Re:How is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheCarp (96830) <`ten.tenaprac' `ta' `cjs'> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:31PM (#30220556) Homepage

    I would expect that this would place a strong selective pressure on immune function. As such, I would think that you would expect the trend to continue in the children of families from such areas and transplanted them into a cleaner culture.

    I also would expect that this is the sort of question a good study would ask, and attempt to select participants such that they would be able to remove such an effect from their data. (which is not to say they did, just that a proper study would try to do that)


  • by Beowulf_Boy (239340) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:08PM (#30220928)

    I'm not a "dirty" person, but I also don't wash my hands all the time (of course I do after taking a crap, but thats a bit different).

    Antibacterial soaps have only landed us in more trouble, since the bacteria left are resistant to them. I do like the idea of the new alcohol based cleaners though, since they aren't antibacterial.

    I don't stress out about making sure my pork is cooked all the way through, I don't scrub down my kitchen with bleach every day, and I also never get sick.
    Compare this to others I know that are neat freaks, and tend to get really sick a few times a year and seem to get horribly sick every time they eat something a bit off. I've eaten the same shitty chinese food or tacos as someone else and while they were getting violently ill and had the shits for a few days, I didn't feel a thing.

  • by DrYak (748999) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:25PM (#30221112) Homepage

    Also another related advantage :

    It might get the kid exposed to parasite.
    Not only does the kid get preventive antibodies ready to be used in case of real parasites invasion (just like with bacteria as in the above explanation), it might as well diminish risks of allergy.

    As far as the hypothesis goes :

    - People exposed to parasite :
    100% of them make adapted anti-bodies (IgE) and prepares mast-cells, ready to use in case of real parasite invasion.

    - People never exposed to parasite :

    In most of people :
    nothing happens, the part of the immune system responsible for parasite response (IgE antibodies and mast cells) just sits idle.
    No allergy happens.

    In unlucky people with genetic predispositions :
    out of "bordom" is it doesn't have anything else to do, the system start to attack random mostly innocent stuff, which are just mildly irritating but have nothing to do with actual parasites.
    The body creates IgE targeted toward food or to animals' saliva, and has mast-call equipped against that.

    Unlike a real parasite (which is an animal, and thus can only exist in a single point of the body - well, ok : unless it's two specimen, in which case they are in 2 points, but you got the main idea), the target substance is soluble or is a liquide and can diffuse across the whole body.
    Thus the Mast-cell don't react only locally at the single point(s) where the paraiste(s) is/are, but react everywhere in the body, creating systemic symptoms => allergic reactions.

    This might get really dangerous, because the whole parasite reaction cascade (like dilating blood vessel and lowering blood-pression) was never designed to happen everywhere at the same time => anaphylaxis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:34PM (#30221194)

    This has been a known fact for years. I remember a story back when I was a kid about a mother wanting to sue a doctor for telling her to let her son get dirty. She was a neat freak and wouldn't let her son play outside because he would get dirty. When the son kept getting sick, she took him to the doctor to find out why. She said she was shocked when the doctor told her to let her son play outside in the dirt and mud. The doctor won the case because his reasoning was sound and proper. The son needed to get dirty for the reasons stated in the article plus he also needed fresh air and exercise.

    Now if this was know at least 38 years ago, why is a college spending money on research of already known facts now?

  • real data available (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:02PM (#30221446) Journal

    The top scientist is R Gallo at the Dept of Dermatology, Univ California San Diego. I couldn't find a mention on his web site, but the link below lists all his pubished papers.
    From the abstracts, I would speculate that the idea is something like this

    the normal skin bacteria - the microflora - secrete various antimicrobials peptides, that is compounds which are toxic to other bacteria. If you wash to much, you don't have the right peptides on your skin. at th bottom is an abstract from a recent paper []

    from this, the following article appears to have the clearest abstract:

    J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Sep;124(3 Suppl 2):R13-8.
    Antimicrobial peptides and the skin immune defense system.

    Schauber J, Gallo RL.

    Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.

    Our skin is constantly challenged by microbes but is rarely infected. Cutaneous production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a primary system for protection, and expression of some AMPs further increases in response to microbial invasion. Cathelicidins are unique AMPs that protect the skin through 2 distinct pathways: (1) direct antimicrobial activity and (2) initiation of a host response resulting in cytokine release, inflammation, angiogenesis, and reepithelialization. Cathelicidin dysfunction emerges as a central factor in the pathogenesis of several cutaneous diseases, including atopic dermatitis, in which cathelicidin is suppressed; rosacea, in which cathelicidin peptides are abnormally processed to forms that induce inflammation; and psoriasis, in which cathelicidin peptide converts self-DNA to a potent stimulus in an autoinflammatory cascade. Recent work identified vitamin D3 as a major factor involved in the regulation of cathelicidin. Therapies targeting control of cathelicidin and other AMPs might provide new approaches in the management of infectious and inflammatory skin diseases.

    PMID: 19720207 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

    an article of interest
    J Invest Dermatol. 2009 Aug 27. [Epub ahead of print]
    Selective Antimicrobial Action Is Provided by Phenol-Soluble Modulins Derived from Staphylococcus epidermidis, a Normal Resident of the Skin.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:03PM (#30221454) Homepage

    Related to your point:
    "The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force That Undermines Health & Happiness" []
    "Learn how to escape the dietary pleasure trap!" []
    From the perspective of our natural history, a daily life with such dietary choices is extraordinary. For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancient ancestors scratched and scraped, struggling against the harsh forces of nature in order to get enough food to survive. Even today, in undeveloped countries, significant food shortages are still a great concern, with millions dying each year from starvation. Yet, in a mere blink of history's eye--in just a few decades--industrialized societies have arisen from environments of scarcity and have transformed themselves into societies of unprecedented abundance. The most striking feature of that abundance is a virtually unlimited supply of food.
    An abundance of food, by itself, is not a cause of health problems. But modern technology has done more than to simply make food perpetually abundant. Food also has been made artificially tastier. Food is often more stimulating than ever before--as the particular chemicals in foods that cause pleasure reactions have been isolated--and artificially concentrated. These chemicals include fats (including oils), refined carbohydrates (such as refined sugar and flour), and salt. Meats were once consumed mostly in the form of wild game--typically about 15% fat. Today's meat is a much different product. Chemically and hormonally engineered, it can be as high as 50% fat or more. Ice cream is an extraordinary invention for intensifying taste pleasure--an artificial concoction of pure fat and refined sugar. Once an expensive delicacy, it is now a daily ritual for many people. French fries and potato chips, laden with artificially-concentrated fats, are currently the most commonly consumed "vegetable" in our society. These artificial products, and others like them, form the core of the American diet. Our teenage population, for example, consumes 25% of their calories in the form of soda pop!
    Most of our citizenry can't imagine how it could be any other way. To remove (or dramatically reduce) such products from America's daily diet seems intolerable--even absurd. Most people believe that if they were to do so, they would enjoy their food--and their lives--much less. Indeed, most people believe that they literally would suffer if they consumed a health-promoting diet devoid of such indulgences. But, it is here that their perception is greatly in error. The reality is that humans are well designed to fully enjoy the subtler tastes of whole natural foods, but are poorly equipped to realize this fact. And like a frog sitting in dangerously hot water, most people are being slowly destroyed by the limitations of their awareness.

    Personally, I feel many hunter/gatherers twenty thousand years ago may have lived longer and better than some people say they did (even as things got worse with rising population, competition, and agriculture). It really depends on where exactly they lived in what time period and what the local climate was like. There are places and times where six foot and taller skeletons were common, like on the shores of inland places that had big lakes.

    From: []
    "Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's - in which all the people's material wants were easily sat

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:07PM (#30221480) Homepage

    I love rare meat. There is probably more to it than just that.

    People think, for whatever reason, that being cold is the reason they would catch a cold...virus. They continue thinking so in spite of the common knowledge that one can catch a cold in 100+ degree temperatures in the day. Some things such as colder temperatures can and will put the body's systems under stress, but if you are reasonably healthy, you will likely be fine and be able to resist a cold virus.

    With that said, meats that have been mishandled will tend to contain bacteria that could lead to food poisoning. Completely raw meat that has been handled carefully will never lead to food poisoning. In the past, the act of cooking food was a means to rid it of any infectious diseases or to otherwise make it edible. Today cooking still serves that purpose but is also something of an art form in which cooking with heat is varied and handled in a wide variety of ways. It is well known that sashimi meats from a variety of sources including beef is fairly common. My point is that it is actually the handling of the food that leads to problems with food and that proper handling can prevent many of the problems that cooking with heat are there to resolve.

    I feel pretty sure that my discussion here will not change your mind as a great deal of your belief is based on illness and other bad experiences from childhood and those tend to run pretty deep in the psyche. (This is why it's pretty hard to convince most religious people that modern day religions are no different from any other and are especially similar to even the most silly sounding myths.) But since you are here on Slashdot, there is a pretty good chance you have a rational and logical core and will analyze the obvious facts before you.

    With all that said, I am not suggesting you eat raw beef from a local grocery store. Some grocery stores have REALLY good meat departments.... others do not. You really have to know what you are getting into when it comes to meat -- it is still an extremely risky food when compared to others.

  • Re:old news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chrisG23 (812077) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:21PM (#30221552)
    It seems to have been forgotten. I don't know if its because my parents immigrated from another country, but they have a different view on health than the average American. Growing up, medicine from the pharmacy was the last resort to treat anything, with some important exceptions.

    If I had a headache, lay down, don't read or play a video game, go to sleep if you can, wait it out.

    A stomach ache - Some toast and tea, and then see if you can go poopie.

    Sore throat - My mom makes this stuff out of egg yolks, lemon and sugar. Maybe its a placebo. Also, every blue moone she would aslo give me a half shot or quarter shot of this high proof plum brandy/whiskey, "to kill the gems"

    A cold - Hot tea, garlic toast, bedrest.

    Chest congestion - Vicks vapor-rub type hing applied to my chest left on overnight.

    When things were real bad, like being sick and not getting better, or having high fevers, then I would go to the doctor, get examined, and be given penicillin. Thats about the only thing I got regularly as a child.

    Flash forward to adulthood. I am 30 now. I haven't been sick since I was 23 or 24, and before that it was some time in high school. I don't get seasonal flus. I don't get colds. I get a headache two or three times a year. I get a runny nose a few times a year (usually at the same time people are getting really sick with whatever is going around at the moment). I get sore throats and congestion, but I'm never sure if that is the cigarette smoking or something else.

    All in all, for someone that does not live a particularly healthy lifestyle, I'm doing pretty damn good. Knock on wood.

    One more thing, home cooked food was the norm, eating out was the exception. Soup almost every day. Lots of vegetables, lots of weird tasting/smelling vegetables. I'm also not allergic to anything that I know of.
  • Re:old news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:49PM (#30221780)

    I don't get seasonal flus. I don't get colds. I get a headache two or three times a year. I get a runny nose a few times a year (usually at the same time people are getting really sick with whatever is going around at the moment). I get sore throats and congestion, but I'm never sure if that is the cigarette smoking or something else.

    I was the same way until 6 month ago when I quit smoking. I thought that with my superior immune system, and new healthier lifestyle I was pretty much a lock to never get sick again.
    Boy was I wrong! Since then I have had H1N1 that lasted 10 days, and something my doctor couldn't identify. (I called it the my sleeping sickness.) For 5 days I could not stay awake. I was sleeping 20+ hours a day.
    My theory is that my immune system had gotten used to dealing with virus/bacteria that were swimming in nicotine, and many other toxic chemicals, and now it has to go up against these bugs at full strength.
    I hope my below average immune system adjusts soon.

  • Re:old news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Urza9814 (883915) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:51PM (#30221800)

    Eh, it has nothing to do with where you're from. My family is pretty much the same way, and I'm at least a 4th generation American. We don't even own a themometer. My opinion is that your body hurts for a reason, and taking pills to mask the symptoms is only going to make you unaware when you're hurting it more. I caught the flu a couple weeks ago from my girlfriend, and the strongest medicine I used was some Asprin, and only because my joints were aching too much to sleep. Other than that I just took lots of tea, crackers, and juice.

    And on the other end of the spectrum you have my girlfriend - the one who gave me the flu. She gets these extremely powerful antibiotics ('z-pak') prescribed for _anything_. Even just a light cold. She always says they must work, because it's a 5 day treatment and by the end of the 5 days she feels better. But of course, it's a cold. It's only gonna last 5 days anyway. She also takes three Motrin damn near every morning, and wakes up with a headache every other day. And she uses hand sanitizer several times a day. Basically, she's _always_ sick. She's the most fragile person I know. And her parents are the same way. I blame it on the fact that her family is very wealthy - like, her aunt is 'rent a private jet to fly up to Nantucket for a few weeks' wealthy. Her parents go to Hawaii every year. They could afford to watch their child constantly and enforce 'good hygiene' 24/7. And with their status in society they can't ever been seen as being dirty. Plus it's easy for them to get meds - they call up their good family friend and he calls in the order to the nearest pharmacy. It's just too easy for them to be super clean all the time and assume modern medicine can take care of anything. And ads for products like Purell and Lysol certainly don't help any.

  • Re:Anecdote time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by buswolley (591500) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:09PM (#30221914) Journal
    My mother was raised on a farm. Dirt. and more dirt. My mother has horrible and debilitating allergies. I counter your anecdotal with my anecdotal.
  • Re:Bare foot... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Faerunner (1077423) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:14PM (#30221956)
    People have been going barefoot and risking parasites for years. Funny thing, though. When you walk barefoot for long periods of time, you get these things called calluses on the bottoms of your feet, which protect them from being cut open and make it a lot harder for a parasite to burrow through! Also note that soil-borne parasites don't survive well in temperate or cold climates (such as most of the US and Canada), are rare except in soil contaminated by animal/human waste, and are generally easily treatable. Personally, I like going barefoot. The risk of stepping on broken glass, especially in urban areas, is far higher than the risk of picking up roundworms.
  • Re:Bare foot... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:14PM (#30221960) Homepage
    If God had meant us to live naked in a cave with no fire while hunter-gathering, he wouldn't have given us these big brains that can figure out how to make clothes and shoes and houses and fire and fridges and supermarkets and big screen TVs.

    Why can't people accept that the way humans live right now IS 'the natural way'. A gorilla's natural way is to eat nuts and berries and the odd chimpanzee. A human's natural way is to build tools and machines and try to understand their surroundings in order to control them. You don't complain that a beaver damming a river is 'interfering with the natural order'.
  • Re:nt (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DJRumpy (1345787) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:49PM (#30222194)

    The article says specifically what they are referring to. From TFA:

    "The San Diego-based team discovered that normal bacteria that live on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when we get hurt.

    These bugs dampen down overactive immune responses which can cause cuts and grazes to swell, or lead to rashes, according to research published in the online edition of Nature Medicine."

    It is also a well known mechanism that is the primary method in vaccines, where the immune system is primed for something before hand so that it can recognize it later as a thread and respond accordingly. If someone is exposed to a lot of these viruses and bacteria at a young age, it follows that they might have a stronger or more rapid immune response later on.

  • Re:How is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by indi0144 (1264518) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:45AM (#30222870) Journal
    >>For years it's been known that kids from third world countries usually don't suffer from auto-immune diseases and things akin because of the sickly environment they are exposed too. It's simple, if you live constantly with the risk of infection your body will build up a stronger immune system than someone who lives in a bubble.

    It's not even related to a harsh environment assuming you think 100.00% of the third world it's like elbonia. I was born very premature, very weak and with an immune system practically absent. My mother, who was raised in harsh conditions knew that the only think that would make me a decent immune system was letting me be a very dirty boy, against medical advise, she created "the country" inside our house in the middle of the city. The pediatrician even told my mom that if I even make it beyond 2 years, it was impossible for me have a normal childhood because interaction with other kids (bacteria, virus, fungi) would kill me. Mom said "meh" and 27 year after I'm the guy who have flu once in a year, no allergies, no skin conditions no nothing.

    Let you kids be fucking pigs! they WILL thank you now and every day for the rest of their lives. Be warned, your kid would try to turn your basement into a nasty jungle past puberty and even beyond, untidy environment it's something you attach to psychologically from very early in life. Mi actual room it's so fucked up that some of the girls visiting here had to visit a dermatologist the next day (thats was my acid test for a girl btw), a glass of fresh milk it's fucked up in like 2 hours, a banana turns completely black in 12 hours :)

    Yes, we brown people are fucking nasty tanks but don't mind us, mind your bubble kids of today.
  • by LowlyWorm (966676) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:02AM (#30223400) Homepage
    I read somewhere humor is associated with farts in all known human cultures. I have noticed we are one of the few species that produce audible farts. Anthropologist have theorized that farts may lend itself to social bonding.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth