Skip main navigation

Background: Where are microbes found?

Article discussing where microbes can be found using a video from BBC news, and explaining the "hygiene hypothesis".

Links to activities: make your own microbes, horrid hands, soap, water, and pepper experiment.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

The above video is from BBC News.

A PDF summary of the video can be found in the downloads section below.

The “hygiene hypothesis”

The Royal Society of Public Health report “Too Clean Or Not Too Clean” published in June 2019 showed that one in four adults in the UK felt that ‘hygiene in the home is not important because children need to be exposed to harmful germs to build their immune system’. Media frequently pose the question: “are we too clean?” which is likely to have contributed to this.

Unfortunately, because the concept of a link between reduced microbial exposure and disease is often, incorrectly, referred to as “the hygiene hypothesis” the public has come to believe that the underlying cause is “too much hygiene or cleanliness” and this often-repeated myth is now being accepted as fact.

In the last 20 years, it has become known that, although protection from harmful microbes is vital, exposure to “friendly microbes” from other people, our animal world, and our natural environment is equally important for our health. This exposure is needed to build healthy and diverse microbes in our gut, mouth, respiratory tract and on our skin. This is referred to as our microbiome. Lack of exposure to microbes due to a whole range of lifestyle changes (less time spent outdoors, overuse of antibiotics, etc) could contribute to rising levels of diseases ranging from allergies, to diabetes, to depression.

In the comments below let us know what children and adults tell you about their approach to cleanliness and exposure to microbes.

We encourage you to interact with other learners by ‘liking’ and replying.

This article is from the free online

e-Bug Health Educator Training

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education