Dirty showers

Mother Dirt
USA (Cambridge)

More than 100 trillion bacteria live in and around our bodies, with some ‘good guys’ and others ‘bad’, yet researchers are only beginning to understand the role that they play in triggering fundamental changes in our health and wellbeing. Many refer to this as the human ‘microbiome or second genome – responsible for influencing our immune responses, digestion and possibly even our behaviour.  A deeper knowledge of bacteria unlocks meaningful insights into disease and therapeutic intervention.

Chemical engineer Dave Whitlock has been spraying himself twice a day with a bacterial mist and believes it could replace our need for soap – which removes ‘good’ bacteria. He created Mother’s Dirt to reintroduce the ammonia oxidising bacteria (AOB) often removed by soaps and shower gels back onto the skin. It maintains healthy skin by converting ammonia (produced by sweat) into nitrate – which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This could change how we diagnose and treat serious skin ailments such as acne eczema, rosacea and other inflammatory skin diseases.

If it catches on, a conversion from soap to spraying with bacteria could also mean a reduction in our daily water consumption – as well as challenging us to rethink what it means to be clean and healthy. According to Whitlock’s pals, he does not smell, yet he hasn’t showered in over 12 years.

Adapted from a piece by Juliette Aplin for the Futures Centre.

Written by

Lisa Goldapple, Editor, Atlas of the Future (19 October 2015)

Project leader

Dave Whitlock, Chemical Engineer, AOBiome

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