Humans like to clean by killing germs. Products like bleach and antibacterial soap have been household items for decades, used to get rid of anything that make us feel unclean. But there’s shift occurring in the cleaning economy.
The trend is moving toward improving bacteria, rather than eliminating it. The concern is that after years of anti-bacterial thinking, humans have eliminated too much of the good bacteria in the microbiome (the fleet of bacteria and organisms living on the body), which is contributing to poor health. Corporations like Unilever, Clorox and S.C. Johnson & Son, all makers of germ-killing products, have invested in startups offering bacteria-based products.
The goal, for many of them, is to create medicines and cosmetics that introduce the body to healthy microbes. Caroline Winter, a staff writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, recently reported on the companies trying to bring back bacteria. She spoke to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about the ways introducing bacterial products can improve our health, and why the corporations that have tried to eliminate “germs” are now backing the companies selling them.
“The human microbiome is incredibly important for our health. And we’ve really decimated the diversity and populations of microbes that live in and on us,” said Winter.
Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.