Those growing up on farms are protected against asthma and allergies: Study

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Scientists have finally managed to solve the mystery of why people who have grew up in farms are protected against asthma and allergies.

Though a new study, researchers at VIB – a leading life sciences institute in Flanders, Belgium – and Ghent University have established that exposure to farm dust while growing up in a farm provides protection against asthma and allergies later in life.

For the study researchers exposed mice to farm dust extract from Germany and Switzerland and found that the mice were fully protected against house dust mite allergy, which is the most common cause for allergies in humans.

The 14-member research team, led by professors Bart Lambrecht and Hamida Hammad (both associated with VIB and Ghent University) also discovered the mechanism behind the protection. According to researchers, farm dust makes the mucous membrane inside our respiratory tracts react less severely to allergens such as house dust mite.

This is because of a particular protein dubbed A20, which the body produces when it comes in contact with farm dust. “When we inactivate the A20 protein in the mucous membrane of the lungs, farm dust is no longer able to reduce an allergic or asthmatic reaction”, said Professor Hammad.

When researchers examined patients with asthma, they found that they were deficient of the protective protein A20 thereby explaining why those suffering from asthma react to allergens so severely.

The researchers also examined a test group of 2,000 children growing up on farms, and found that most of them are protected against allergies and asthma. However, those who were not protected develop a genetic variant of the A20 gene which causes the A20 protein to malfunction.

The findings of the study, published in journal Science, have been pegged as a breakthrough discovery that will pave way for treatments as well as vaccine against asthma vaccine. As of now, the researchers are trying to identify the active substance in farm dust that is responsible for providing protection. Once they are able to pinpoint the active substance, they will be in a better position to develop a preventive medicine against asthma.