Farm-raised kids are less prone to asthma

Boston: Children who live or have been raised on farms are less likely to suffer from asthma as compared to kids who have been raised in an urban setting, thanks to the variety of germs the former are exposed to on the farms, a new research has said.

According to a paper published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, children on farms, where the bacteria population is far more diverse, were 30-50 per cent less likely to have asthma than their counterparts who did not live on farms.

The wider the range of microbes in an environment, the less likely it was that the children would suffer from asthma.

The main reason appears to be exposure to a diversity of germs – through animals such as cows and pigs, and hay – and not just more of them.

Another possible reason is that children`s immune system has to be"educated"by bacteria to learn how to differentiate between the "good" and "bad" germs, the study`s author, Markus Ege of Munich University Children`s Hospital in Germany said.

"Bacteria can be beneficial for asthma. You have to have microbes that educate the immune system. But you have to have the right ones," Ege said, adding that the risk of asthma decreased with an "increase in the diversity of microbial exposure."

The beneficial bacteria that live around farms could be staving off some of the harmful bacteria that increases the chance of asthma.

The study also added that children raised on farms were much less likely to have atopy – an umbrella term for certain types of hyper-allergic sensitivity such as hay fever, asthma and eczema.

Researchers surveyed and collected samples of house dust in two studies of children from South Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

One study comprised 6,800 children, about half of whom lived on farms. The other study surveyed 9,700 children, 16 per cent of whom were raised on a farm.

Researchers then examined the dust for presence and type of microbes. Those living on farms were exposed to a greater variety of bugs and also had a lower risk of asthma.

Identifying which microbes are beneficial to the immune system is important because those germs could help the development of new treatments or vaccines to prevent asthma, Ege said.