Science Podcasts

Question of the Week episode

Thu, 9th May 2013

Are city dwellers more immune to bugs?

Kings Cross Station crowd control (c) User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Is living in the big smoke better for your immune system in the long term as you are exposed to more people and their bugs? Plus we ask, what is wind and why do we have it?

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No they are not because people who are in the city are around more people, which increases their chances of getting a bug. However, that doesn't exempt country people from getting it either. City people are just more likely to get a bug. Patricia92, Sat, 11th May 2013

You didn't answer the question Patricia. It wasn't 'do they get more bugs' but are they more immune to the diseases bugs transmit . I assume the answer must be that herd immunity will be higher due to more infections available to cause antibodies to be created. Measles is a good example; it killed native peoples who had never encountered it but was a relatively mild disease in Britain due to herd immunity gained over centuries. That this immunity - antibodies passed on in mothers' milk - now no longer exists due to the introduction of MMR vaccine illustrates the point, and further, I think, suggests if it's not too serious leave well alone, it's what our immune systems are for. But that's of no interest to multinational drug companies with their 'Three for the price of one' offers that politicians just can't refuse. Easier to blame it on a maverick doctor who thought he saw connections to autism and who has never been persuasively rubbished despite the concerted campaign mounted by governmnt and medical establishment. Makes you think.

I had measles as a child as did all kids, never heard of any being anything more than slightly feverish. My eldest child had measles vaccine in the sixties and got full blown measles and was in bed for a week with high fever, and then gave it to his younger siblings. Progress anyone?

But back on topic, there's so much travel these days that living rural doesn't mean never mixing in cities, so occasional visitors may be more at risk of getting ill because of less exposure.
Peter the painter, Tue, 14th May 2013

This immunity would fair well if there were no people visiting the city from outside the city, this was proven years ago when westerners visited an isolated native settlement on an island, the naitives soon developed measles and other nasty infectious deseases, they had never ever encountered such viral infections before, so were not immune and soon came down with fevers, some dying in this process. confusious says, Tue, 14th May 2013

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