Chimpanzee nests ‘cleaner than human beds’

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If you have a teenager at home, it may not come as a complete surprise to hear that chimpanzee beds are cleaner than human ones, at least according to a new study.

Scientists from North Carolina State University in the US found that nests built by chimps in Tanzania had fewer bacteria shed from bodies than mattresses in most people's homes.

The reason?

As humans moved indoors many thousands of years ago, we became increasingly separated from the outdoor environment – and all the organisms which live there.

In fact nowadays, more than a third of the bacteria in our beds comes from our own bodies.

To assess the impact of this indoor lifestyle, scientists looked at another mammal which builds structures for sleeping in – the chimpanzee – collecting samples from nests in the Issa Valley in Tanzania.

The researchers found they contained fewer faecal, oral or skin bacteria than beds in most human households – even though chimps go to the toilet over the side of their nests.

Part of the reason is that they move to a new nest every night.

And even though the chimps spend more than half the day in bed, the scientists also found hardly any fleas or lice in their nests – whereas our homes have been found to have hundreds of these parasites, including some specially adapted to living indoors with humans.

Megan Thoemmes, who carried out the research published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, says humans living indoors could learn from chimps.

"We definitely need to rethink the way that we design our homes and think about air movement and exposures to the environment," she told the BBC.