Country kids have fewer respiratory allergies, and now we know why. Research published in US journal Science shows how growing up with farm dust gives asthma and allergy protection.
Exposure to farm dust early on helps us develop a protein known as A20. Presence of this protein in our system is a good predictor of how vulnerable someone is to asthma and hay fever reactions to house dust mites, the most common cause of allergic response.
The Belgian researchers from Ghent University studied 2,000 people who grew up on farms and found that most did not have asthma or allergies, and that those that did had either missed out on developing the protein or had a genetic variant that caused the A20 protein to malfunction.
The research also studied mice exposed to farm dust that had been brought in from Germany and found that they were all protected from house dust mite allergic reactions. If the A20 protein was rendered inactive, then the mucous lining of the mouse’s lungs wasn’t able to reduce an allergic reaction.
The next step is find out exactly what it is in the farm dust that causes A20 proteins – and then one day develop it into a vaccine.
In the meantime, it sounds like a good idea to take your young children to the country as often as possible. It would be interesting to see if those who were out in gardens from an early age had any level of protection too.