By Dr Georgios Efthimiou, molecular biologist – geneticist PhD
Microbiophobiaisaworryingpsychologicalconditionofourtimethatisbeingmainlyobservedamongsttheresidentsofbigcities, who live away from nature and daily cluster in means of public transportation, malls, elevators, etc. Like everything unknown, the invisible world of microbes scares many of our fellow citizens who are terribly afraid of catching various diseases. However, this irrational fear is often a result of ignorance about basic principles of the biology of microorganisms, which makes their imagination going wild .
- Only 1% of microbial species are pathogenic to humans
It is still not widely known that only 1% of the thousand microbial species found in naturecan cause any kind of disease to us. And only few of them can lead to serious illness. Therest, not only they are harmless, but can also help us by keeping our immune system on alert. Therefore, believing that
microbe = danger is wrong.
- Microbes don’t survive long on dry surfaces
Whoever is afraid of door handles in public buildings or bus handles should know that microbes, like all living organisms, need water and nutrients in order to survive or grow. So, the vast majority of microbes on a dry and relatively clean surface will die in less than an hour.
- The infectious dose
The organism of young healthy person can easily cope with small numbers of microbes. Therefore, even if some of the environmental germs enter our body via nose, mouth or skin, it is unlikely that they cause any disease.
- The “hygiene paradox”
Nowadays, many scientists support that children who grow up with pets or who play outdoors develop a stronger immune system compared to children who grow up in a relatively sterile environment, where parents clean frantically in order to protect their children from infections. This phenomenon is known as“hygieneparadox” or “hygienehypothesis” and is widely accepted in the medical community.
All this doesn’t mean that we should not abide to basic hygiene rules, since cleaning prevents excessive growth of microorganisms, especially in places such as the kitchen, the bathroom or the child’s room. But, we should not turn hysterical and bombard our houses with ‘hard’ cleaning solutions. We should understand that our symbiosis with microbes is inevitable whatever we do. We just have to maintain an elementary balance and protect ourselves, calmly and rationally!