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Kids Growing Up on Farms Less Likely to Have Asthma
Date:2/23/2011

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Exactly how exposure to a variety of microbes might protect against asthma is still unclear, researchers noted.

"How these microorganisms reduce the asthma risk remains largely unknown," said Ege. "A combination of environmental microorganisms might stimulate the innate immune system and counterbalance an asthma-prone immune status. Alternatively, the diversity of microbial exposure might prevent specific [disease-causing] microorganisms with an asthma-inducing potential."

The current study assessed the incidence of asthma in children living on farms compared to children without farm exposure in two different groups of youngsters. The researchers also tested dust samples from the children's bedrooms and mattresses to get an idea of what type of microbes the children were regularly exposed to.

The first group of children included 6,843 rural and suburban elementary school children from southern Germany. This study, dubbed PARSIFAL, also included dust samples from 489 children's mattresses. The second study, called GABRIELA, included 9,668 elementary school kids from rural areas of Austria, South Germany and Switzerland. Dust samples were collected from 444 children's bedrooms in this study.

House dust from farm homes had a greater variety of bacteria and fungi, a finding that was statistically related to a lower rate of asthma.

In both study populations, youngsters who lived on farms had lower rates of asthma and allergies, according to the study. In the PARSIFAL group, the risk of asthma was reduced by 51 percent in children living on farms. In GABRIELA, the reduction was 24 percent, according to Ege.

The researchers also found that diversity of microbial exposure lowered the odds of asthma by 38 percent in the PARSIFAL population and by 14 percent in GABRIELA, according to the study.

"Not all microbes are detrimental; some are beneficial for asthma and allergies," explained Ege. But, he cautioned that this doesn't me
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