BOB HIRSHON (host):
Have we over-sanitized our guts? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
People living in Papua New Guinea have far more kinds of microbes living in their guts than U.S. residents do, and this diversity may protect them from some disorders. In the journal Cell Reports, University of Alberta microbial ecologist Jens Walter suggests the main reason is sanitation. He and his colleagues found that although Papua New Guineans had many varieties of microbes, there was little variation person to person, suggesting they’re sharing their germs.
JENS WALTER (University of Alberta):
In modern societies, we improved sanitation, to try and limit the dispersal of pathogenic organisms, and probably as kind of a negative side effect, we are preventing the dispersal of symbiotic bacteria.
Rather than cut back on sanitation, he suggests learning how best to reintroduce the helpful bacteria we may have lost. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.