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Non-hygienic environments may offer protection from asthma

Harold Mandel's picture

Researchers say that exposure to microbes may offer protection against asthma.


Asthma can be a life threatening condition which causes problems breathing, wheezing, cough and chest pain. Clearly prevention of this condition is desirable. Scientists believe that being exposed to microbes in the environment may actually protect people from asthma.

Exposure to microbes offers protection against asthma

The University of Liège reports that exposure to microbes offers protection against asthma. Novel treatments for asthma with cell therapy has been proposed.

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Asthma has been becoming a more serious problem than ever before. The incidence of this illness has been steadily increasing, particularly in developed nations. Excessive hygiene in the environment has been cited as one of the reasons for the increased incidence of asthma.

Environments which are too hygienic predispose to asthma

It has been shown that exposure to environments which are considered not to be hygienic and which are full of microbes creates a protective situation against the development of allergies, including asthma. It has also been observed that environments which are too hygienic predispose to asthma, but the reasons for this are not clear.

There is failure of our immune system to function well as it responds on an exaggerated way to harmful allergens in the environment seen with allergic reactions such as asthma. Pollens and mites are among these harmful allergens.

Researchers at the University of Liège have published an article in Immunity which says exposure to bacterial DNA, which is one of the microbial compounds, makes pulmonary macrophages extremely immunosuppressive. In mice this prevents asthma. This finding offers hope for the development of a cell therapy which is based on the administration of these regulatory macrophages to patients who are suffering from asthma.
What this means is an environment which is not hygienic and which is rich in bacterial DNA may help to develop protection against asthma. Professor Fabrice Bureau says it appears it may be possible to create suppressive macrophages from blood monocytes of patients suffering from asthma. These cells could have therapeutic potential.

It is of keen interest that living in an environment which is rich in microbes decreases the risk of asthma. This finding challenges assumptions that keeping our environment immaculately clean is best for our health. Therefore a little less obsessive compulsive behavior dealing with cleanliness and more of a zest for life in our natural environment may be best for everyone.