Date: Sun, 23 Jul 1995 12:43:39 -0500
From: Anne <>
Subject: Your paper

One thing the producers got right, at least to some extent, is Syndrome children. In this century, as we became more obcessed with cleanliness as a way to protect against disease, polio became epidemic. Those most likely to be affected were those of the middle and upper classes. This is very different than what is seen with most diseases, which hit the poorest the worst because their living conditions and nutrition contribute to their spread and maintainance. It turns out that people in third-world countries got polio as very young children, and for them, it is a very mild disease. Those of us of the middle and upper classes in first world countries, whose immune systems are not as well developed, are more susceptible to the worst effects of the disease. Why aren't our immune systems as well developed? The immune system is developed as a result of exposure (as a fetus and as an infant) to a wide variety of substances and organisms. As a result of that exposure, we develop antibodies to those things. So, in your first exposure to a disease, you will get the disease, but in the process, your body acquires the tools (antibodies) to fight off any subsequent attacks. Exposure to non-disease causing organisms contribute to our ability to fight off disease-causing organisms: they may be similar enough that the body can fight off a disease it has never seen before. In our "clean" world, there are many fewer of these non-disease causing organisms and fewer diseases. Our bodies do not have the chance to learn how to fight off polio at an age when getting the disease would be trivial (for a GREAT discussion of this read Plagues and People  by William H. McNeill, a truly wonderful book).

Anyway, growing up on an space station would be an extension of growing up in the relatively clean world in which we now live. Those children would have even less of a chance to acquire the antibodies needed to survive and would be even more susceptible to disease. So the idea that the Syndrome is the result of an absence of what nature can provide has some basis.

Anne Kubelik (