Really? With the current hype about hygiene and disinfection to prevent the spread of the pandemic flu, this statement may sound bizarre. But recent studies reveal that dirty can indeed be healthy and bugs can even be helpful. Let’s take a look at two of these studies.
A team of American researchers report that bacteria normally found on the skin can trigger something that actually repents inflammation and infection. Thus exposing children to bugs may actually be good and healthy. The bacteria Staphylococcus, for example, block the pathway that lead to inflammation.
Exposure to allergens starts in the womb. So does the protection. German researchers report that when pregnant mice are exposed to environmental bacteria, a mild inflammatory response occurs that can later provide protection allergies to offsprings after delivery.
Both studies support that accumulating evidence that increase in allergy incidence is linked to our supersanitized environment. A theory called the hygiene hypothesis states:
As an example:
“… children raised on farms, which teem with microbes, developed fewer allergies than those raised in cities or non-farming rural regions. But it may not be the kids’ exposure that counts; children of farming mothers are also less susceptible to allergies regardless of their own exposure. But the biological mechanisms behind this phenomenon were a mystery.”
The two studies described above may just shed a light to this mystery. The German researchers demonstrated that pregnant mice exposed to barnyard bugs that are inhalable produce offsprings which are allergy-resistant.
“The exposure triggered a mild inflammatory response in the moms, characterized by the increased expression of microbe-sensing “Toll-like” receptors (TLRs) and the production of immune molecules called cytokines. The maternal TLRs were essential for transmitting protection, but how TLR signals translate into allergy resistance in the offspring is not yet known.”
The American study reports:
“…the harmless bacteria did this [prevent inflammation] by making a molecule called lipoteichoic acid or LTA, which acted on keratinocytes – the main cell types found in the outer layer of the skin. The LTA keeps the keratinocytes in check, stopping them from mounting an aggressive inflammatory response.“
The next step is to determine whether this exposure – protection effect also applies to food allergens.