More medical benefits of dirt

Emily Shugars (11 AM Micro) is interested in dirt as well, and saw the same article that I did:

Recently, we have been learning about some of the causes of allergies, and how exposure to a bacteria or disease can prevent you from being affected by it in the future. Recent research conducted by the University of Copenhagen has proven that exposure to a wide range of bacteria provides children with a lower risk of developing an allergic disease later in life. An allergy is an exaggerated immune response or reaction to substances that are generally not harmful. A person’s immune system normally protects their body against harmful substances, but in a person with allergies, the immune response is oversensitive. When it recognizes an allergen, it releases chemicals such as histamines, which then fight off the allergen.

Allergies now affect 25 percent of our population, and about one in every third child. The number of children with allergies has been on the rise in recent decades, and researches have finally been able to explain why. “In our study of over 400 children we observed a direct link between the number of different bacteria in their rectums and the risk of development of allergic disease later in life,” says Professor Hans Bisgaard, head of the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood. Today, most parents are obsessed with making sure that their children are clean and free of pathogens. Unfortunately, this means that they are exposed to a reduced diversity of microbiota. With lower exposure to microbiota, the child’s immune system is not stimulated and will not get used to coping with foreign invaders. “We must improve hygiene to reduce the impact of infectious diseases, but at the same time, we must learn how to safely ‘train’ our immune system, especially during infancy, in order to prevent allergy” states Professor Hans Bisgaard.

Ten years ago, Professor David Stachan of St George’s hospital medical school in London, conducted a “dirt hypothesis” and found that children from large families who are exposed to infections at a young age are less likely to develop allergies than are children from smaller families, raised in a “cleaner” environment. Unfortunately, there is no one single allergy bacteria. Professors have studied staphylococci and coli bacteria thoroughly, and found no relation. Scientists claim that what matters most is the encounter a large number of different bacteria early in life when the immune system is developing and learning. Bottom Line: The idea that you can never be too clean is simply incorrect, some microbiota is needed in order to have a health immune system and lower your risk of allergies.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on November 9, 2011, in gross, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on More medical benefits of dirt.

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