New! Sign up for our free email newsletter.
Science News
from research organizations

Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?

Date:
November 26, 2019
Source:
PLOS
Summary:
Poverty increases the risk for numerous diseases by limiting people's access to healthy food, environments and stress-free conditions. Researchers argue that poverty also compromises health by creating unequal access to beneficial microorganisms.
Share:
FULL STORY

Poverty increases the risk for numerous diseases by limiting people's access to healthy food, environments and stress-free conditions. In a new essay published November 26 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, Suzanne Ishaq and colleagues at the University of Oregon, argue that poverty also compromises health by creating unequal access to beneficial microorganisms. 

People living in low-income communities lack many of the factors that help promote healthy microbiomes, such as access to fresh food, clean air and water, adequate pre- and postnatal care, and healthy indoor environments. Scientists have linked low microbial diversity to poor health, including obesity and associated metabolic problems and multiple mental health and psychiatric disorders. These problems may disproportionally affect poorer individuals and compound existing health disparities.

Ishaq and her colleagues outline efforts to address these disparities by boosting microbial health. Adequate maternity leave and prenatal care, for example, will help ensure that babies receive a beneficial community of microorganisms from their mothers during delivery, and that the community is nourished through breastfeeding. Eliminating food deserts and improving access to healthy school lunches will help provide the fiber-rich diet necessary for maintaining diverse microbes. And changes in zoning and neighborhood development can reduce the abundance and transmission of potentially dangerous microbes that thrive in industrial areas with inadequate greenspace and unhygienic, poorly maintained buildings.

Microorganisms play such an integral role in our health and wellbeing, the authors argue, that access to them is a human right. As a result, governments have an obligation to dismantle social barriers that prevent people from maintaining a healthy microbial community as an issue of social equity.

"It seems like a stretch to think that microbes are involved in social equity," said Ishaq, "until you realize that so many social equity issues affect your exposure to microorganisms in some way, and your ability to recruit and maintain a beneficial microbial community."


Story Source:

Materials provided by PLOS. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Suzanne L. Ishaq, Maurisa Rapp, Risa Byerly, Loretta S. McClellan, Maya R. O’Boyle, Anika Nykanen, Patrick J. Fuller, Calvin Aas, Jude M. Stone, Sean Killpatrick, Manami M. Uptegrove, Alex Vischer, Hannah Wolf, Fiona Smallman, Houston Eymann, Simon Narode, Ellee Stapleton, Camille C. Cioffi, Hannah F. Tavalire. Framing the discussion of microorganisms as a facet of social equity in human health. PLOS Biology, 2019; 17 (11): e3000536 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000536

Cite This Page:

PLOS. "Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191126155504.htm>.
PLOS. (2019, November 26). Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 21, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191126155504.htm
PLOS. "Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191126155504.htm (accessed February 21, 2024).

Explore More
from ScienceDaily

RELATED STORIES