They say that the best way to build a child’s immune system is to allow them to be exposed to germs, and the same theory could be applied to asthma according to new scientific research.
A new study has revealed that growing up on a farm protects you from getting asthma triggered by allergies.
Breathing in farm dust stimulates the production of a protective protein which suppresses inflammation in the lungs leading to lower rates of asthma.
The findings could lead to better asthmatic drugs, Belgian scientsis claimed.
In the UK the number of people affected by allergies are increasing with around a quarter suffering from a seasonal allergy, such as hay fever or allergic asthma.
But why numbers are increasing was unclear although scientists knew children growing up on farms had fewer allergies than their urban counterparts.
Yet there was little evidence to show how the farm environment might protect against allergy.
The study in mice and humans suggested farm dust increased expression of the protein A20 which suppressed the inflammatory immune system by modifying the communication between the lining of the lungs and the immune system.
Children with a common mutation that altered one amino acid in the A20 protein showed higher levels of asthma.
However, growing up on farms had a protective effect on those with the mutation compared to those that had not been brought up on a farm.
PhD student Martijn Schuijs at the VIB-UGent Inflammation Research Centre in Ghent said: “Rates of allergies are increasing but we know relatively little about the factors that predispose an individual to develop these conditions.
“Our study has shone a light on why kids who grow up on farms appear to develop fewer allergies.
“Breathing in dust from farms seems to stimulate the production of a protein called A20, which limits inflammation in the lungs leading to lower rates of asthma.
“While this is an exciting first step, we now need to carry more studies to find out the mechanisms behind this relationship and to see if some of the functional findings from the studies using mouse models translate to humans.
“By targeting the A20 protein in the cells that line the airways, we hope this will lead towards the development of more effective medication for people with allergic asthma.”