(Inside Science TV) -- Everywhere you go, everything you touch, you are surrounded by microscopic germs. They bounce off your arm when you scratch, they fly off your hand when you wave to a friend, they spew out your mouth when you talk. Even when you sit around doing nothing, like watching this video… you’re sitting in your own, personal germ bubble.
But chill out all you germaphobes – it sounds way worse than it is, and here’s why: germs are your friend.
Jack Gilbert, PhD from the University of Chicago said, “I’m a microbial ecologist, so I study how bacteria interact with each other, how they communicate, how they interact with their environment, even their host… for example, you.”
Made up of trillions of individual bacterial cells: cell parts, viruses, and other microbes, the germ bubble we all live in is actually more like an invisible germ cloud -- and it’s unique to you. As gross as it may seem, everyone around you has a germ bubble too. People also shed microbial germ bits and pieces into the air, and right back at you.
“So you and I sitting in this room are sharing microbial organisms. There’s around 38 million bacterial cells leaving your body every single hour,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert also stated that, “If we grew up in the absence of any bacteria, if there were no bacteria in the world at all, right? And we were then exposed to the bacteria, we would probably overreact, we would probably, you know, would die or have some severe anaphylactic shock to all the exposure.”
But don’t worry, this is a worst case scenario if you never-ever came in contact with germs and bacteria -- we have an army inside us that’s at constant war with germs.
“We, in fact, developed an immune system to control the fact that we were constantly exposed to bacteria. We think of bacteria as being disease causing or bad…but we actually need them in our body to be healthy and to survive,” says Dr. Gilbert.
Keeping things clean is always a good idea, but we all know some people who go a little overboard.
Gilbert then said that, “Our over response, our overreaction to cleaning our environment, our homes, even our laboratories, has come from our desire to make sure we kill all of the organisms which we think are making us sick.”
Ponder on this thought at your next house party. Each guest entering your home sheds over 30 million germ cells per hour. 20 party goer’s equals over 600 million germs cells being flung around your house every hour.
“Most of those organisms aren’t making us sick,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert even hypothesizes that some of the close social things we do like, shaking hands and hugging -- may have evolved as a way to share, spread, and develop immunities to germs. So go ahead and make out with your spouse -- kissing may help promote healthy digestion by exchanging spit.
Remember the germ cloud we mentioned earlier? Scientists like Gilbert call that your individual “microbiome.” It has a unique germ signature that we all shed out into the environment. Much like a fingerprint or your DNA -- your germ signature reveals a lot about you and where you’ve been. Gilbert is working to help build a germ microbiome database. It will take years to develop, so in the meantime -- go ahead and get dirty.
Gilbert ends with saying that, “Embracing the microbial world is probably going to be a significant advantage in establishing a healthier, a more happier you.”