New research published in Nature Communications has found that people are often misinformed about the role of microorganisms in human health.
Researchers from Imperial College London conducted an online survey of more than 2,000 people across the UK, asking them to identify the characteristics of microorganisms that could be harmful.
They also asked participants to rate the severity of microbe-related illness and whether they believed that microorganisms could pose a threat to the human health and the environment.
“Microorganisms are often portrayed as benign or benign and it is assumed that there is no harm associated with them, but this is not the case,” said Dr Chris Gee, lead author and a research fellow in the department of evolutionary biology at Imperial College.
“Many myths about microorganisms also lead people to believe that the role they play in human life is not a concern and therefore, it is not important to address.”
While the findings suggest that people may be misinformed, they also suggest that researchers are able to develop better information to combat misinformation.
“We know that there are many misconceptions about micro-organisms, which may be preventing them from becoming widespread in our world, or limiting their spread,” Dr Gee added.
“For example, many people are not aware that micro-organism species can carry the ‘disease’ coronavirus, or that the virus can infect humans in a much greater number than previously thought.”
“The best way to combat this misinformation is to educate people on the importance of micro-environments, as well as how to avoid micro-infections in general,” he said.
“People need to understand that they are not alone when it comes to their microbial and viral activities.”
Dr Gee said that people need to be aware of the importance that the environment plays in their health.
“In our research, we found that individuals who were more aware of these environmental aspects were more likely to have positive health outcomes, particularly in terms of reducing the number of harmful bacteria and viruses,” he explained.
“Therefore, this suggests that environmental health awareness and health promotion could be a way to prevent the spread of harmful micro-epidemics.”
In addition to being a focus for researchers in the area of human health, Dr Ge believes that the research could have an impact on the public health.
The research, entitled ‘Microorganisms and diseases: myths and myths?’ will be published in the journal Nature Communications.