This is something I heard my parents and grandparents say several times when I was a child. Working on some kind of vaguely-understood idea that antibodies were produced as a response to infection of the body, they decreed that paying too much attention to hygiene was not only pointless but counter-productive. As a result, if I as a child dropped my ice lolly (popsicle) on the ground, it would just be dusted off and shoved back into my mouth.

And you know what, it worked. As a kid I not only seemed to catch fewer diseases than most of the other children my age, but when I did go down with the obligatory dose of mumps or rubella it seemed to last for a shorter time than many others in my age group.

Now I know that this could be purely coincidence, as there have always been children who are "sickly" and those who seem to have a cast-iron constitution. One thing, however, is certain. Nearly all scientists who have investigated the anti-bacterial-resistant so-called "superbugs" such as MRSA say the reason that these microbes have become so widespread in recent years is down to overuse of anti-bacterial products. The modern western obsession with hygiene is slowly but surely killing us all by speeding up the natural selection process and creating organisms which we have no way of fighting.

Obviously the solution isn't to refuse to clean our houses or wash our bodies, but maybe people ought to bear in mind that soap or non-soap based washing products are perfectly adequate: there's no need to smother your skin in anti-bacterial products. Equally with food preparation: unless you're in a commercial environment making hundreds of meals a day, then ordinary cleanliness is sufficient to stop infections occurring. Double-washing every last utensil in bacteria-killing stuff not only smacks of the neurotic but is also helping those few bacteria with antibiotic-resistant genes to survive and multiply.