Dirt, Microbes, and the Immune System

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dr. Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology/heptology at Tufts University Medical Center in Boston, explains how microbes and dirt help to improve our immune systems. He discusses his research into how exposure to certain microbes may help us develop resistance to allergies and autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes, asthma, and multiple sclerosis.


Dr. Joel Weinstock

Comments [8]

Bruce Lambert from Hempstead

Re: Polio. The polio epidemics of the 1940's-1950's spread and grew especially in more modern, sanitized nations. Experts were perplexed. Now the theory is that children were not exposed to small amounts of polio virus naturally when they were young, as children had been in the past. Thus the newer generation did not develop immunity and was more susceptible to infection when exposed later on.

Nov. 23 2010 06:08 PM
gene from NYC


A mother's immunity helps kickstart a child's immunity, up to about 6 years of age.

In human history, up until the last 100 years or so, people tended to be exposed to fecal matter on a fairly regular basis. Some think that early exposure to the polio virus in fecal matter helps to protect against the disease in adults. Thus, when FDR--raised in a fairly sterile environment--as an adult exposed himself to polluted water at a boys' camp, he was highly susceptible. Children in newly-sterile eras (early 1900s, 1940s+), were similarly at risk, and suffered in terrible epidemics.

Viruses and bacteria are just 2 types of microbe. I didn't know Weinstock's comments would concentrate on bacteria.

Nov. 22 2010 02:25 PM
Steve from Brooklyn, NY

Gene, I don't understand your comment. Polio is a virus. This guy is suggesting worms not virus could recalibrate the immune system. Worms are more closely related to us than to viruses!

Nov. 22 2010 01:32 PM
danny iselin from woodbridge, nj

Is there any connection between colonic bacteria and psoriasis?

Nov. 22 2010 01:28 PM

Thanks Leonard, I WAS eating lunch.

Nov. 22 2010 01:27 PM
capper from ny

Curious what Apple Cider Vinegar is supposed to be for.

Nov. 22 2010 01:27 PM

Is a colonic irrigation detrimental to these microbes in the GI tract?

Nov. 22 2010 01:24 PM
gene from NYC

Isn't the Polio epidemic of the late-40s, early 50s an object lesson in this?

Nov. 22 2010 01:22 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.