Tag Archives: pathogens

Eating your mucous: a defence mechanism?



Mucous-ingestion:source flickr commons

Mucous-ingestion by this man, although disgusting,may actually be aiding his immune system. Image by imgarcade. Source: Google Image



As much as everyone would like to hide it, you have all picked your nose at one point or another in your life. And each time, you’ve probably been reminded of how disgusting and unhygienic the act is. Some people even take this behaviour to the next level, proceeding to ingest the hidden treasures. Could ingesting the contents of your nose actually be the opposite of what your mother has told you? Even, healthy?

Professor Napper at the University of Saskatchewan hypothesizes that eating the pathogen-containing mucous from the nose can actually produce an effect similar to that of a vaccine. The mucous and the hairs in the nose are a part of the innate immune response, which is essentially the first line of defence against invading pathogens. When you ingest the mucous, you’re ingesting all of these pathogens, some of which are potentially very dangerous if they enter into your bloodstream. Once ingested, these pathogens skip the bloodstream and make their way to the gastrointestinal tract where they teach our immune system to defend, such as a vaccine would. Professor Napper’s work is still in the beginning stages and no formal study has been conducted.

S.aureus, common pathogen in nose: source Google commons

S.aureus is a common pathogen in the nose that may be ingested and induce an immune response. Raeky. Source: Wikipedia

On the other hand, Dr Bischinger’s work, which is summarized in this article , describes the mechanism with which the immune system is boosted. He believed that  the pathogens that you introduce from the nose to the body, similar to those of vaccines, are already weakened. He suggested that there are bacteria-killing properties in the mucous of the nose that kill and weaken most of the bacteria, allowing it to be easily contained by our immune system. This mechanism  produces antibodies that our body desperately needs when the full-strength pathogens enter the body.

Moreover, parallels could be drawn from this to that of mothers who kiss their babies in the hopes of boosting their child’s immune system.  In the same way, pathogens that the baby is exposed to are weakened by the mother and then passed on to the baby, producing long-lasting immunity.

Mother kissing the baby: source Google commons

Mother kissing the baby in the hopes that she can provide the baby with weakened pathogens that can be more easily handled by the baby’s weak immune system. Image by Vera Kratochvil. Source Google Image

In conclusion, although pending actual scientific studies, I think that this just might be the natural immunity boost that we all need. However, I don’t think we are ready as a society to start picking away at our noses whenever we please!


-Gurtaj Mahil