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    • My voracious reader wife loves Rob Dunn's science books. He's professor of ecology and his new book, Never Home Alone, is so fascinating he ended up on Fresh Air, being interviewed by Terry Gross. We sat mesmerized by the interview.

      He loves studying microbes and his career began by going where he thought he'd find undiscovered ones—in faraway jungles. But it turns out we've created new environments in our homes that never existed before: in hot water heaters, in chlorinated water, on the handles of antibacterial soap dispensers.

      We fear the 200,000 species of microbes that live in our homes so we've tried to kill them all and the unintended consequence is we've given rise to harmful ones.

      People who are on municipal water supply — cities like Philadelphia and New York — that are heavily chlorinated, that chlorine seems to kill most of the bacteria in the water system. But it leaves nontuberculous mycobacteria alone because they're chlorine-tolerant. So it kind of creates a world in which they can live happily without much competition. On the other hand, in well water (from rural environments or municipal water from some of the European cities that don't treat their water with chlorine), the mycobacterium seems very, very rare. And so we're accidentally making them common by trying to kill everything.

      👆 The nontuberculous mycobacteria that live on your showerhead, and other bacteria that live on the handles of your antibacterial soap handles, actually are worth worrying about.

      If a flu virus lands on your hand, the first thing it encounters is not your immune system; it's the layer of your microbes on your hand. I think that some of what your glands are doing may be to feed some of the microbes that best defend us from some of those things we actually have to worry about.

      He thinks one of the best things we can do is get a dog to spread beneficial microbes around our homes, like a good probiotic. "Our bodies don't exist but for the species that live on and in them," he says. "We can't scrub ourselves free of the rest of life."

      What do you think? Should we believe him?

    • Have you read it, Pathfinder? The Fresh Air interview was so compelling and his other books are so great, I can't understand why it only has two reviews on Amazon. Maybe he's the rare author who didn't send out advance free copies to reviewers.

    • I did finish it yesterday. I enjoyed it a great deal, he writes well, and gives enough facts and references that one can pursue details he mentions along the way.

      The early part of the book is an interesting discussion of shower fixtures, that the water we all drink from our faucets is not sterile, but clean and non-pathogen bearing - usually. He talks about nontuberculous mycobacteria growing in shower heads, and that it might be a risk for the immunocompromised individuals. It is interesting that surgical tools and instruments are autoclaved, but even autoclaving does not kill one hundred percent of all living microbes.

      He writes about the bacterial and fungal organisms cultured from the International Space Station - mostly organisms from the surface of humans. I did regret that he did not discuss the fact that we are probably spreading Earth based DNA to other large bodies in the solar system, especially Mars.

      "Look What The Cat Dragged In" is a chapter about cats and Toxoplasma gondii infected humans and their driving records, and their increased risk taking as drivers and other activities. This is not new information, it has been on the web for some time ( I forget where I first read about it ) but the author describes the initial research and researchers in some detail.

      He actually does say that a dog can introduce some biologic diversity in ones home also, but does also talk a bit about tapeworms and dogs. So dogs aren't given a completely positive review either. I am a dog owner and have been for most of my adult life, so I am biased in favor of dogs.

      There is a great discussion of the microbial life on bakers hands and the microbial life in their baked goods. My spouse is a baker, and so I am partaking of the microbial life on her hands - although most of her bread mixing is done by machines, rather than hands these days. Humans have been eating foods altered by microbes for millenia - cheeses, wines, beers, breads, kimchi, cabbages, etc. There is fairly good evidence that a too clean and sterile an environment is not ideal for childhood growth and development.

      The over-arching hypothesis of the book is that indoor space, built by and for humans, now is a larger and a bigger habitat for non-human species than the outdoor space in many modern cities. In New York the indoor space is many time the outdoor space ( almost 3x more ) , and yet, biologists and ecologist have not really studied these indoor spaces very much. We clean them and control the temperatures and humidities, and spray chemicals within them that give certain species a very satisfying environment for their non-human use. Our cleaning and pesticide use means that we remove biologics that compete with these organisms as well.

      KInd of like antibiotics kill all organisms and thus make environments very favorable for anti-biotic resistant organism that normally cannot and do not compete well with a nice diverse biologic community.

      I think the book is worth reading and contemplating. I enjoyed it a great deal.

      I am now reading George GIlder's latest - Life After Google Very typical Gilder langugage and phrasing. I am finding it very interesting also, but then Mr Gilder convinced me of the value of CDMA/Qualcomm in the early 1990s...

    • Kids with dogs have been found to have fewer allergies in general.

      What things would you recommend we do to change our home and living habits to improve on this situation we've created?