Study: Childhood exposure to germs could help build immunity

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Study: Childhood exposure to germs could help build immunity

According to the findings of a new study by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), bacteria and other germs are apparently "a necessary part of a healthy immune system"; and exposure to germs in childhood can help build immunity to different microbes in adulthood.

The study, underscoring the belief called "hygiene hypothesis", claims that germs play a vital role in strengthening the body's defenses and fighting illnesses in future. To put it differently, it points out that a decreased exposure to germs in childhood can lead to increased problems later in life.

While the study contradicts the general belief that people should try to remain germ-free in all situations, the BWH researchers are of the opinion that the "hygiene hypothesis" serves as a satisfactory explanation for the increased instances of allergic reactions and auto-immune diseases in cities all over the world.

About the findings of the study, Nature's Helen Thompson said that the exposing mice to microbes early in life reduced "the body's inventory of invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells", which - along with fighting infection - turn on the body and cause an array of disorders like asthma or inflammatory bowel disease.

Noting that the study chiefly suggests that germs can be beneficial for human health, the study's senior author Dr. Richard Blumberg said that humans have "co-evolved with microbes for millions of years," and the new findings primarily highlight "the critical importance of those microbes in the earliest periods of life."

 


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