How Cats and Cows Protect These Kids From Asthma
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How Cats and Cows Protect These Kids From Asthma

News Staff — University of Zurich
Jul 11, 2017

“Our research results open up opportunities for transferring the protective effect of farms to all children. In this way, we can possibly lay an important foundation stone for effective allergy prevention." – Remo Frei

(Switzerland) — It is a known fact that microbes on farms protect children from asthma and allergies. But even non-microbial molecules can have a protective effect: Immunologists from the University of Zurich have shown that a sialic acid found in farm animals is effective against inflammation of lung tissue. This study opens up a wide variety of perspectives for the prevention of allergies. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

More and more people suffer from allergies and asthma. In the past decades, these diseases have massively increased in industrialized countries. Today, about 30 percent of children have allergies - with the exception of farm children. Among farm children, the disease is increasing less dramatically than in the case of their friends who live in the same village, but not on a farm. Microbes that occur in higher amounts and greater diversity on farms protect farm children from allergies and asthma. An environment that is not highly hygienic has a positive effect on the development of the immune system as it learns not to react to harmless materials as is the case with allergies.

Sialic acid acts as protection

Not only microbes protect against asthma, evidently, but also farm animals. Petting cats and cows, and drinking farm milk can also prevent asthma, as the team of researchers headed up by Remo Frei of the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research from the University of Zurich in cooperation with the Center for Allergy Research and Education (CK-CARE) in Davos and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Switzerland in St. Gallen: "Early childhood contact with animals and the consumption of food of animal origin seems to regulate the inflammatory reactions of the immune system," says immunologist Frei. His study shows that a non-microbial substance, a sialic acid, is responsible for this mechanism. This substance is wide spread in vertebrates - and therefore in many farm animals - but missing in the human organism …

“Our research results open up opportunities for transferring the protective effect of farms to all children. In this way, we can possibly lay an important foundation stone for effective allergy prevention."

Click here to read this report in its entirety.

University of Zurich

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