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Too-clean environment to blame for childhood asthma

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Staff writer |
Babies   Clean is good, too clean is not

Since the 1950s, rates of asthma have increased significantly, affecting nearly 20% of children in Western countries.

To investigate why asthma rates have risen so dramatically, the researchers - led by Prof. B. Brett Finlay - examined fecal samples from 319 children who were part of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.

Results showed that 3-month-old infants who were at an increased risk for asthma had lower levels of four types of gut bacteria, findings that could be used to develop a test for predicting asthma risk in children.

Babies typically obtain the four bacteria - Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, Rothia (FLVR) - from their environments, but due to various factors, some do not.

According to Prof. Finlay, the 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."

In the human body, there are trillions of bacteria that play a vital role in our health. The so-called hygiene hypothesis proposes that changes in our lifestyle over time - to a more "hygienic" way of living - have resulted in decreased exposure to microbes that are important for our immune system.

When the team studied 1-year-old children, they also found fewer FLVR levels, suggesting the first 3 months of life are pivotal for immunity.

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