Latest from IFH
Although there is increasing evidence that exposure to harmless microbes during infancy may be protective against development of allergy, it is proving difficult to pinpoint which microbes, at what time, and by which route this exposure should occur. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg report that parental sucking on the baby's pacifier may give significant protection against allergy development.
In a group of 184 children, researchers registered how many infants used a pacifier and how the parents cleaned it. Most parents rinsed the pacifier in tap water before giving it to the baby, some parents also boiled the pacifier to clean it, whilst others had the habit of putting it into their mouth to clean. It was found that children of parents that habitually sucked the pacifier were three times less likely to suffer from eczema at 1.5 years of age, compared with children of parents who did not do this. Importantly, no more upper respiratory infections were seen in children whose parents sucked on their dummies.
The researchers believe that oral commensal microbes are transferred from parent to infants when they suck on the same pacifier. They argue that early establishment of a complex oral microflora could promote healthy maturation of the immune system, thereby counteracting allergy development. The research team has previously conducted large-scale studies on the gut microbiota in relation to allergy development and showed in 2009 that a complex gut microbiota very early in life reduces the risk of allergy development. The onlione version of this paper is at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/04/30/peds.2012-3345
IFH has prepared a new report “The Hygiene Hypothesis and its implications for home hygiene, lifestyle and public health”. The report examines the scientific and epidemiological evidence relating to the hypothesis, and our relationship with the microbial world we live in. Both the full report and a summary of the key findings and conclusions are available from the IFH website.
The report challenges the idea that the recent epidemic rise in allergies has happened because we’re living in sterile homes and overdoing hygiene. However, far from saying microbial exposure is not important, the report concludes that losing touch with microbial “Old Friends” may be a factor underlying rises in an even wider array of diseases ranging from allergies to Type 1 diabetes to inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.
The “Old Friends” hypothesis suggests that the required “exposures” are not to infectious diseases, but to environmental, and human and animal commensal microbes. The report also concludes that altered exposure is not about day-to-day cleanliness, but the result of a broader range of measures and activities, vital to protecting us from infectious disease, but which have also inadvertently reduced or altered exposure to the microbial friends that regulate our immune systems. This includes food and water quality, sanitation and environmental cleanliness together with medical advances such as the introduction of vaccines, or antibiotic usage, which may have altered the way our bodies interact with microbes.
The good news is that this means we aren’t faced with a stark choice between running the risk of infectious disease, or suffering allergies and inflammatory diseases. The threat of infectious disease is increasing rather than decreasing because of antibiotic resistance, global mobility, the ageing population and so on. This means that the need for hygiene is as great as it ever was.
The report concludes that it’s time we recognised that talking about home and personal cleanliness as the cause of a problem that has a much more complex set of causes is ill-advised because it’s diverting attention from finding the true causes and workable solutions for this serious public health problem.
October 16-22, 2011 is the 25th Anniversary of International Infection Prevention Week, an event to highlight the importance of infection prevention around the globe and the work of healthcare professionals, administrators, legislators and the general public for their commitment to reducing infection worldwide. This year’s theme is “Infection Prevention is Everyone’s Business”.
On this occasion, IFH is proud to partner two leading organizations in the field of infection prevention in their individual efforts to promote IIPW: the UK National Resource on Infection Control (NRIC) and the US Association of Infection Practitioners (APIC). Over the years IFH has developed a strong partnership with NRIC, resulting in joint activities to raise awareness about the importance of hygiene in home settings; IFH has also explored ways to support the work of APIC in the last year. IFH values its partnership with NRIC and APIC and wholeheartedly supports Infection Prevention Week 2011 as an important means to develop wider understanding of infection prevention.
Health officials in Germany have confirmed that they have detected the first case of human-to-human spread of the E. coli bacterium. Authorities say a woman working in a kitchen of a catering company near Frankfurt, in the state of Hesse, became infected with the bacterium after eating sprouts and passed it on to twenty people she prepared food for.
The IFH website offers a detailed information sheet providing background information and public health advice on what to do if there is a risk of spread in families where someone is infected or at risk of infection (i.e a family member who has recently returned from Northern Germany).
The advice sheet 'Escherichia coli O104: understanding the risks and preventing the spread of infection' can be downloaded here
IFH has produced a scientific review of the infection risks associated with clothing and household linens such as towels, bed linen and so on. This includes data on how, and to what extent, these items become contaminated with pathogenic organisms and how they survive and are spread. This is reviewed together with data on the extent to which we are exposed to these agents in our daily lives. The paper also reviews epidemiological data and data from quantitative risk modelling techniques assessing the link between laundry hygiene and infectious disease risk. The extent of the risks associated with clothing etc is also assessed in relation to risks associated with other surfaces such as the hands, hand and food contact surfaces and so on.
The report can be downloaded here
IFH has produced a new report which illustrates the breadth and depth of what IFH has achieved and what it is working towards. It shows the extent to which IFH has now become a respected global player and influencer, and is making a very concrete contribution to work being carried out to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases.
The report can be downloaded here