Signals of change: If our gut is a germ's world, what does it mean to be 'clean'?

Sensemaking / Signals of change: If our gut is a germ's world, what does it mean to be 'clean'?

These signals of change show how a new understanding of bacteria is driving innovation in food, sanitation and healthcare. Are chemical cleaners and antibiotics on their way out?

By Anna Simpson / 05 Jul 2016

Trillions of bacteria live in and around our bodies, forming what scientists refer to as the human microbiome. Through projects such as the Human Microbiome Project, microbiologists are only beginning to understand the role bacteria play in our health and well-being. Many refer to the microbiome of our bodies as the ‘second genome’ – responsible for influencing our immune responses, digestion and possibly even our behaviour. This emerging understanding raises some challenging questions, affecting many industries from healthcare to food to apparel to the built environment.

How can we work with our bacteria to keep ourselves healthy and protect against the spread of disease?

It also prompts us to think more deeply about our connection to the world around us. Our bodies don’t stop with our skin: they are part of extensive microbial systems.

What new ways have you seen to nurture our microbiome for long life and good health?

[#signalofchange 1] New Zealand meat to be antibiotic-free by 2030

President of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, Dr Steve Merchant, has set goals for meat produced in New Zealand to be free of antibiotics by 2030. More here.

Image Credit: Rosino / Flickr

[#signalofchange 2] Swapping showers for a daily spray of live bacteria

Chemical engineer Dave Whitlock hasn’t showered in over 12 years. Instead, he has been spraying himself twice a day with a bacterial mist. According to those who have met him, he does not smell, and has great skin. More here.

Image credit: martinak15 / Flickr

[#signalofchange 3] Research into probiotic infant nutrition raises USD 9 million

Prominent biochemist Dr David Kyle, whose research 15 years ago resulted in the inclusion of DHA Omega-3 fats in almost all infant formulas, claims discoveries about the baby microbiome will lead to the “biggest development in infant nutrition in years”. In line with this, Tate and Lyle have invested two million dollars into Dr Kyle’s company Evolve Biosystems, earning the University of California spin out a total of nine million dollars for its first funding round. More here.

Image Credit: Brian Wolfe

[#signalofchange 4] Tyson Foods follows suit from McDonalds' antibiotic boycott

Less than two months after McDonalds announced it would not source antibiotic-fed chickens for their restaurants, its major poultry supplier, Tyson Foods, has followed suit, with plans to remove antibiotics from its entire livestock range by 2017. Despite many attempts by legislators to cut the use of antibiotics within livestock in recent years, consumer pressure was the main driver of change for this development in McDonalds and Tysons Foods. More here.

Image credit: Cody and Maureen / Flickr

What messages do you find in the margins of these Signals of Change? Share your findings in the comments box or join the discussion on social media with #signalsofchange.

Header art credit: Brian Oldham

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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