By John Salak –
First came a warning from Florida Atlantic University that about 95 percent of all wristbands are loaded with potentially harmful pathogenic bacteria. Now another alert has been issued that probably has grandmothers across the country smiling.
It is essential to scrub behind ears and between toes to offset the risk of unhealthy microbes taking over those areas and wreaking havoc with a person’s well-being.
Researchers at George Washington University came to this conclusion after testing the “Grandmother Hypothesis”. The work involved examining various skin microbiomes, effectively a collection of microbes, of almost 130 healthy graduate and undergraduate students at the university.
The university was particularly interested in looking into the microbiomes related to ears, toes and bellybuttons because Professor Keith Crandall, Director of the Computational Biology Institute, remembered that his grandmother always pressed family members to scrub in those areas. He suspected that most people still might not pay enough attention to those zones, making them bacteria hotspots. Ultimately, he wanted to determine if this was true and whether there were health ramifications. Apparently, people do a poor cleaning job and there are ramifications.
The university, among other things, found that the composition of the microbiomes varies across dry, moist and oily regions of the skin. The results also showed that areas like forearms and calves, which are often cleaned more thoroughly, tend to have greater diversity and thus potentially a healthier collection of microbes compared to the samples taken in the ear, toes and bellybutton hotspots.
Not cleaning properly opens the possibility that certain trouble-making microbes can take over the microbiome, creating health risks, Crandall warns. A shift towards an imbalance of detrimental microbes in these—or any skin microbiome—can lead to diseases like eczema and acne.
The students proved the grandmother hypothesis and their results suggested that cleaning habits can change the microbes living on your skin and consequently its health status, Crandall says.
The George Washington team noted its research is one of the first looks into the diversity of skin microbiome and the related health risks.
Grandmothers, however, are probably scoffing at this claim, noting somebody doesn’t need to be a scientist to know it is important to scrub everywhere.