Covid-fearing parents may think they’re doing their kids a favor by keeping them inside, masked and encased in a bubble of hand sanitizer. But as humans we need pathogens to function – literally and metaphorically. Evolution, it turns out, isn’t stupid. There’s a reason our guts are swarming with bacteria, and while we’ve been taught to recoil at the very concept (especially after a year and a half of plague-talk in which bacteria are regularly brutally assaulted with jets of hand sanitizer for nothing more than existing), those microscopic creatures actually digest our food for us. If it weren’t for them, we’d starve. The bacterial colonies that call us home also need to interact with one another, which means once in a while touching a doorknob (or even a subway pole) and not immediately dousing your microscopic hitchhikers in caustic death-juice; sneezing on public transit without having to worry you’ll be lynched; and letting your kid play in the mud with other kids. Their lives could depend on it, as several countries previously praised for their ability to control their citizens are being reminded.
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