There’s a new study which shows that people who grew up in rural areas or environments have a lesser chance to develop allergies. One reason behind all these is that environments that are rich with species have more good or friendly microbes that colonize our bodies which also protects our body from some inflammatory disorders.
An ecologist at theUniversityofHelsinkinamed Ilkka Hanski said that the contact of people with the outside environment is really essential for the development and strenghtening of the immune system. The study that he is leading is very important to a growing urban society especially to the children living in it.
Hanski, together with his colleagues, have investigated and founded the biodiversity hypothesis. To confirm if biodiversity really does create a protection towards such conditions, the team used 118 teenagers to investigate the microbial diversity. The participants in this study have lived in the same house through their entire lives and they were randomly chosen within a 100 by 150 kilometer block in easternFinland. Some participants lived in rural and isolated farms while the rest came from bigger towns. The researchers also considered factors such as having a member of the family who smokes, having pets in the household, and the kind of allergens that the participants were sensitive to make sure that a single allergen wouldn’t affect the bacteria’s health benefits.
The researchers also gathered microbial samples from the subjects’ forearms and then sequenced the DNA to determine the species of microbes that were present. They also surveyed the types and species of plants growing around the participants’ homes. Since the participants are also part or included in a separate long-term study which involves allergy, researchers used that data to determine the connection between allergies and biodiversity.
Since some individuals with allergies are living throughout the study area, authors found out that the allergies have a connection with the amount of biodiversity surrounding the participants’ homes. This means if the surrounding area has more agricultural land and forest, the lower the widespread of such allergies. As for the participants who live near or beside bodies of water or urban areas, they have higher levels of allergies.
The participants who lived in rural areas have higher biodiversity compared to those living in urban areas which also makes them have more species or types of microbes. In comparison, the researchers also reported online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the number of species/types of uncommon native flowering plants was 25% higher in the yards of healthy participants compare to their allergic counterparts. WhetherFinland’s native plants have something special in them or this research is applicable all-over-the world is still an open question according to Hanski.
Aside from having higher levels of plants biodiversity surrounding their homes, participants from rural areas also have large numbers of microbial species in their skin. Gammaproteobacteria, a group of bacteria, was also predominant on their skin. Acinetobacter, which is a part of this group, can often be found in soil. They are also known to have a higher anti-inflammatory rate which makes the immune system of participants from rural areas ignore the allergens. A pediatrician atLinköping University in Sweden named Thomas Abrahamsson said that these bacteria play a very important role in determining whether children develop allergies or not.
According to Hanski, allergies aren’t the ones that should be concerned here. He also suggests that the presence of microbes in us definitely influences other diseases and even depression. He also said that people living in urban areas might as well use an ointment which contains gammaproteobacteria as a substitute to natural exposure is yet to be seen.
As for Abrahamsson, he thinks that Hanski’s study would be more compelling if the group also analyzed the participants’ gut microbiota. Hanski also pointed out that not all of us can become a farmer. He wanted us to know that the other purpose of the study is for us to be aware of how we are going to develop a planet which carries a lot of allergies. And since urbanization is unavoidable, we should also seriously consider about putting greener areas in the cities.