Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Circumcision may bolster immune system against harmful bacteria

LA Times   Circumcision is known to reduce a man's risk of HIV infection by at least half, but scientists don't know why. A new study offers support for the theory that removing the foreskin deprives troublesome bacteria of a place to live, leaving the immune system in much better shape to keep the human immunodeficiency virus at bay.

Anyone who has ever lifted a rock and watched as the earth beneath it was quickly vacated by legions of bugs and tiny worms would be familiar with the principle, said study leader Dr. Cindy Liu: After the foreskin is cut away, the masses of genital bacteria that once existed beneath it end up disappearing.

"It's the same as if you clear-cut a forest," said Liu, a pathologist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Ariz. "The community of animals that once lived in that forest is going to change."

Of particular note is that circumcision undercuts anaerobic bacteria, the microbes that thrive in oxygen-deprived environments, she said. By reducing the number of anaerobic bacteria, the body's immune cells may be better able to destroy the virus — and less likely to fall prey to its Trojan horse-style of attack, the authors suggest.


  1. The title of your post is misleading, I think. It is not that circumcision bolsters the immune system against bacteria, but takes away the immune systems need to waste time and energy on extra bacteria.

    1. According to this article, I don't think that explanation is true in the slightest.

  2. the key entry point is the Langerhans cells which is on the inner side of the foreskin.

    This is already well known, so not sure why LA times don't know about it.


  4. I really don't like these arguments. Every few years there is some study that shows the circumcision is beneficial. Then along comes another that says it is not.

    I don't think we should be touting these studies, because then it gives the impression that we perform milah for its health benefits. In fact, we do it for halachic reasons - we believe we are commanded to. And we do it regardless of any health benefits.

    Now, we have to ensure that we do it as safely as possible for the infant based on the most up to date medical knowledge. And, I believe if our current technique has potential for medical problems then we have to find a halachic way to perform the mitzvah while avoiding these problems.

    But, if this study is disproven, are we NOT going to circumcise our children?

    Just my thoughts...

  5. And therefore what?,what is your point with this post?,i hope it has nothing to do with justifying metzitzah b'peh

  6. If you've looked at my comments regarding circumcision on this blog earlier this week, you'd see that I'm a physician who is vehemently opposed to MBP.

    I merely want to point out that we don't circumcise our children because of medical benefits. Every few years the pendulum swings back and forth regarding whether there really are any benefits or not. We do not want to harm our children or ever put them at risk - which, despite all the charedi protesters, MBP certainly does - but, we do circumcision for halachic, not medical reasons.

    If we tout supposed medical benefits, and then those benefits are disproved, are we not going to perform milah?


  7. Torah observance, including monogamy, is also effective against sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.