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Medical Is less bacteria good?

  1. Jul 27, 2012 #1
    I'm having this endless dispute with my mother: she cleans her computer keyboard everyday, is careful not to put her handbag on the table etc... in the name of keeping bacteria away. This kinda makes sense, since bacteria can cause illnesses, but...

    I don't see any reason why it couldn't be the other way, meaning that more exposure to common bacteria could lead to less illnesses. After all, immune system learns from the bacteria entering the body and therefore could be better prepared for illness if it saw the same bacteria before(but in smaller numbers).

    Does anyone know which way it is?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2012 #2


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    There are, in fact, some bacteria in the human body that are necessary for digestion.

    And, I have read that the great polio epidemic of the early to mid twentieth century was largely a result of increased cleanliness. Rather than every one being exposed to weakened virus early in life and developing an immunity, a few people were exposed to the full strength virus without immumnity.

    From http://polio.emedtv.com/polio/polio-history.html:
    "In the immediate pre-vaccine era, improved sanitation allowed less frequent exposure and increased the age of primary infection. Boosting of immunity from natural exposure became more infrequent, and the number of susceptible people increased, which ultimately resulted in the occurrence of polio epidemics, with 13,000 to 20,000 paralytic cases reported annually."
  4. Jul 27, 2012 #3
    Interesting. It reminds me of this clip of Goerge Carlin.

    One comment on youtube says
    What is one to make of this? I seriously doubt there is answer to my question.
  5. Jul 27, 2012 #4


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  6. Jul 27, 2012 #5


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  7. Jul 27, 2012 #6
  8. Jul 27, 2012 #7
    Alesak are you going to have a philosophical debate on this now. Your mother is doing a commendable thing keeping her house clean in order to make sure her family is healthy. The fact you, yourself probably do go outside for whatever means you have already exposed yourself to the bacteria you want your body to train against. If she wants to keep the bacteria that you are exposed to from getting in then thats her thing.

    And if this still doesnt convince you then go hang out at the subway station for a day and then come back.
  9. Jul 27, 2012 #8


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    I agree with mazinse.

    While it's true that you don't want to expunge bacteria from your life, cleaning heavily infested areas such as keyboards is still good hygiene.

    Lots of food and oils and other crap cling to kbs, and the stuff growing in there is not necessarily good for you.

    Leave her be.
  10. Jul 28, 2012 #9
    Agreed, it's best to leave it be. I just wish she would listen to me more. She spends a lot of time with apparently pointless cleaning, in belief it will keep the family healthy, yet then she goes and eats large brick of salami or sausage.

    I think she is in high-risk stroke group, based on fat accumulating around waist, high blood pressure and sedentary work. I told her all that and it's her choice now, but it saddens me to see she doesn't lift finger to prevent stroke. But it doesn't seem to be a rare behavior, I knew a person who had one lung removed but continued smoking, or another who has diabetes but keeps getting even fatter. It would be interesting to see how these people think about it, because it seems like madness to me.
  11. Jul 28, 2012 #10
    does she have a doctor to follow up with. Not only is stroke a danger but heart disease is more more worrysome, especially since heart disease onset is younger than stroke.
  12. Jul 28, 2012 #11


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    Well, clearly she's not completely sedentary.
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