Scientists link childhood asthma with depleted microbiome in our ‘too clean’ world


News this week that Canadian scientists have linked a depleted microbiome to asthma has certainly made many throughout the world sit up and take notice.

The research’s damning views on modern hygiene methods are also very noteworthy.

This research by the team at the University of British Columbia and the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, revealed that being exposed to specific good bacteria early in life could protect against the development of asthma in later years.

The scientists, reporting in Science Translation Medicine analysed the microbiomes of 319 children and found that those with lower levels of four types of bacteria – Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (‘FLVR’) – at 3 months of age were at higher risk of developing asthma (based on wheeze and skin allergy tests) at 3 years.

The high-risk infants were also more likely to have been treated with antibiotics before the age of one.

In an attempt to understand this relationship further, the researchers colonised germ free mice with these specific bacteria. This resulted in decreased airway inflammation, suggesting a potential causative role of a lack of these microbes in asthma development.

Here at the Taymount Clinic we found the words of Lead scientist Professor Brett Finlay from the University of British Columbia in Canada very powerful and in keeping with our views.

He said: “This research supports the hygiene hypothesis that we’re making our environment too clean.”

In the UK, we have one of the highest asthma rates in Europe, and the condition now affects up to a fifth of all children in western countries. It is estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, but disease rates have not increased in poorer, developing countries

At the Taymount Clinic we have said before that the human body is not a pristine vessel and the modern preoccupation with astonishing levels of hygiene is ‘not healthy.’

There are too many people out there terrified of germs. Washing with antibacterial solutions, Caesarean births, use of antibiotics, and not having contact with animals were all cited as factors that might contribute to our problems.

We are pleased the microbiome is being scrutinised once more in such a positive way. It is becoming clearer with every study published, that the bacteria and other micro-organisms which inhabit us are part of our normal lives and are integral to health.

We hope that this asthma research continues to add to the debate about the way we live in the richest parts of the world and our unhealthy obsession with hygiene.

Furthermore, we believe it highlights yet again the therapeutic potential of Faecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) in this overly sanitised western environment.

The sooner it stops the better it is for all of us.

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