Overdosing on cleanliness

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It seems that we have taken the proverb, ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ , far too literally and that it’s going to take pig faeces to save us.

Yesterday I heard the news that there may be welcome relief for people suffering from auto immune diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and autism. The hope for sufferers comes from Coronado Biosciences Inc which is developing a drug which contains thousands of microscopic parasite eggs, obtained from pig faeces, and suspended in a tablespoon of saline solution to be taken orally.

In a pig, the eggs would grow into mature whipworms and reproduce, without harming their host. In humans, the same eggs barely survive two weeks. Yet in that short period they appear to modulate a patient’s immune system and prevent it from attacking the body’s own tissues and organs.

Studies have shown that there are higher rates of autoimmune disease in the developed world, and particularly among upper-income groups. This is thought to be connected with what is known as the hygiene hypothesis. Sadly, people in developed nations have largely lost touch with the natural world and with more of us living in cities and high-rise apartments we have little contact with dirt. When we come into contact with dirt, millions of organisms, including viruses, bacteria and worms, enter the body. Researchers believe many of these organisms are needed to train the body’s immune system to recognize and fight disease. So if we don’t get dirty we don’t give our immune systems a chance to develop. Unfortunately, living in a less than spotless environment is generally frowned upon and the over use of  antibacterial soaps, detergents and sanitizing gels grows. It is so distressing to watch these products being advertised on our TV screens and it’s little wonder that children think this is normal.

Then to add insult to injury is the ever-growing list of vaccines given to the very young, workers and the elderly. Children’s immune systems are suffering from lack of exposure to the natural world along with the endless bombardment of vaccines leaving their immature immune systems with little challenge to develop. Where once a young child’s immunity was challenged by common diseases such as measles, mumps and chicken pox, the use of vaccines has largely eliminated these along with the chance to develop natural immunity.

That humans with autoimmune diseases face the prospect of swallowing a drug which consists of thousands of microscopic parasite eggs, culled from pig faeces, suspended in a tablespoon of saline solution is not a good solution. Not because of the yuck factor but because the situation has arisen in the first place and there appears to be little chance of reversing the process. As the  family block shrinks there’s less need or occasion to place our hands in the health-inducing soil. Once again it’s a technological fix set to reap rewards for its developers when there is just no willingness to prevent the problem. We need to encourage children outside and playing in the dirt, playing with animals, and we need to throw out the sanitizing gels and detergents.

With 700,000 Americans suffering from Crohn’s disease, 1.3 million Americans afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and as many as 7.5 million suffering from psoriasis, sales of autoimmune disease drugs are expected to grow in the mid-single-digit percentages through 2016, from $34 billion in 2010, according to market research firm BCC Research.

 

 

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