WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- In a European study that echoes the findings of other scientists, researchers have found that children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop childhood asthma.
The risk of asthma was reduced by as much as 51 percent for children living on farms, and researchers suspect that it's the diversity of exposure to different microbes that may offer protection against the airway disease.
"The risk of asthma decreased with an increase in the diversity of microbial exposure," said study author Dr. Markus Ege, a researcher at Munich University Children's Hospital in Germany.
"Within the microbial spectrum under investigation, several germs with a potential for asthma prevention were identified," he added.
Results of the study are published in the Feb. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation of the airways. This inflammation narrows the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest pain and tightness, and shortness of breath, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
The exact cause of asthma remains unknown. People with a family history of the disease are more likely to develop asthma, suggesting a possible genetic component to the disease. But environmental exposures, such as encountering certain viruses, are also associated with the development of the condition, according to the NHLBI.
Numerous studies have also found that exposure to a variety of microbes in the environment, such as bacteria or fungi, appear to provide protection against asthma, perhaps by helping the body create a tolerance for allergens.
And, other research has found that children living on farms -- especially those exposed to cows, pigs and hay -- seem to be less likely to have asthma and allergies.'/>"/>
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