Researchers in Europe think farm dust might help protect children from developing allergies and asthma. Less exposure to germs, on the other hand, makes kids more vulnerable because their immune systems are not being trained to fight reactions.
TOO CLEAN OR TOO DIRTY?
Researchers found that bacteria in farm dust triggered an inflammatory response in mice that protected them from asthma. The findings are in contrast with the anti-germ compulsion and over-cleanliness that most children endure nowadays. The “don’t get dirty” mantra is being challenged.
“At this point, we have revealed an actual link between farm dust and protection against asthma and allergies,” Bart Lambrecht, a professor of pulmonary medicine at Ghent University, said in a statement. “We did this by exposing mice to farm dust extract from Germany and Switzerland. These tests revealed that the mice were fully protected against house dust mite allergy, the most common cause for allergies in humans.”
MICROORGANISMS ARE GOOD FOR ALLERGIES
For scientific purposes, microbes from farms called endotoxins were injected into mice’s noses every other day for two weeks. This set off an immune reaction in the form of inflammation that prevented mice from developing asthma later, even when exposed to house dust mites—a notorious cause for the respiratory condition.
Researchers consequently tested 2,000 children, including some who grew up on farms but who developed asthma, anyway. Many of the asthma patients had a weaker version of A20, an enzyme produced by the cells on the surface of the lungs which was identified as important to the immune response.
ALLERGIES: THE HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS
The researchers argue their study reinforces something called the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that changes in lifestyle within industrialized countries has led to a decrease of the infectious burden and are associated with the rise of allergic and autoimmune diseases.
“The hygiene hypothesis states that the rise in allergy and asthma that has been observed in affluent countries since the Second World War is caused by reduced ‘infectious pressure’ from the Western lifestyle environment,” the researchers wrote.
“The mechanism behind this association has been linked to an imbalance in the immune system,” they added.
The new discovery might lead to effective treatments to prevents allergies and asthma, researchers hope. However for now don’t be scared of getting closer to microbes and germs. Believe it or not, countries across Europe have already turned farms into daycare centers. Perhaps being dirty is not that bad after all.
What do you think of the link between farm dust and allergies? Share your views in the comments section below.
A GOOD DIET IS THE FIRST DEFENSE TO SICKNESS