UBC researchers Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta coauthor upcoming book on hygiene hypothesis

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      Microbes aren’t exactly sexy, but more and more research is being dedicated to these microbial cells and the role they play in human health.

      Vancouver’s B. Brett Finlay, a professor of microbiology and biochemistry at the University of British Columbia and the Peter Wall Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories, is considered a world leader in the understanding of bacterial infections.

      He’s about to be a published book author, sharing credit with another star microbiome researcher, UBC post-doctoral fellow Marie-Claire Arrieta.

      The forthcoming Let Them Eat Dirt will explore how the microbes that inhabit our bodies influence childhood development and how a microbial imbalance can lead to obesity, diabetes, asthma, autism, and reactions to vaccines, among other conditions. It will also look at what parents can do to prevent such an imbalance.

      The book will be published in Canada this fall by Greystone Books. Algonquin will publish simultaneously in the United States.

      “In this lucid, witty, and engaging book, Finlay and Arrieta explain how our modern lifestyle, with its emphasis on cleanliness, has altered the microbial communities in infants’ and children’s bodies and is taking a huge toll on their lifelong health,” states a Greystone press release. “The authors also describe how natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and solid foods influence children’s microbiota and offer parents practical advice on such matters as whether to sterilize all food implements for babies, whether it is OK for them to put dirt in their mouths, and why pets are a good idea.”

      The hygiene hypothesis suggests that if people aren’t exposed to certain microbes early in life or the bacteria in their gut are killed by antibiotics, they have a greater chance of developing all sorts of health conditions. That’s purportedly because changes in microbiota have been associated with inflammation of the gut, immune-system effectiveness and the release of molecules affecting brain development.