Researchers Suggest “Too Hygienic” Environments Linked With Increased Risk of Asthma

While some bacteria are harmful, others are necessary for our good health. Even babies need exposure to certain strains of microorganisms. A new study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggests that infants might be shielded from asthma by acquiring 4 different types of gut bacteria when they are as young as three months old. Conversely, over-protecting one’s child by preventing him from obtaining these bacteria might come with unwanted consequences.

babies asthma

The research, performed by scientists from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the BC Children’s Hospital in Canada, was meant to determine the reason behind the drastic increase in asthma cases over the last few decades.

When the fecal samples of 319 children were analysed, it was found that 3-month-old babies having an increased risk for asthma had lower amounts of 4 types of gut bacteria. Infants normally acquire the bacteria known as Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, Rothia (FLVR) from their environments; however, some of them do not, for a number of reasons. This is the first time asthma development has been linked with bacteria in the alimentary canal.

It seems we are making our surroundings “too clean”, thereby depriving our bodies of beneficial microorganisms.

The lead author of the paper, Prof. B. Brett Finlay, believes their study “supports the hygiene hypothesis that we’re making our environment too clean. It shows that gut bacteria play a role in asthma, but it is early in life when the baby’s immune system is being established.”

The hygiene hypothesis suggests that switching to more “hygienic” lifestyles has resulted in a lower exposure to microbes that are essential for our immune system.

These findings might hopefully be used to create a test for predicting the risk of children developing the disease.

The team also examined 1-year-old kids. They found that the latter had lower FLVR levels. The researchers thus speculated that the first three months of our life might be critical for immunity. When this particular finding was tested in mice by injecting newborns with FLVR, it was found that the latter developed less severe asthma.

Now, the scientists look forward to finding ways to counter the conditions faced by infants because of a lack of exposure to the bacteria.

“This discovery gives us new potential ways to prevent this disease that is life-threatening for many children,” says co-lead researcher Dr. Stuart Turvey, from BC Children’s Hospital. “It shows there’s a short, maybe 100-day window for giving babies therapeutic interventions to protect against asthma.”

Find the researchers’ explanations in this video:-

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