Healthy Dirt?

Eco-phobes take note!

Hygiene Hypothesis Supported By New Research Results.

As Mille’s mother said, every healthy kid should eat at least a half kilo of dirt a year… Or to put it another way, sterile is unsanitary.

‘The team, led by Nicholas Furnham of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, hypothesized that “there must be some molecular similarity between what the immune system is expecting and designed to see in parasites and what is present in the allergen proteins,” he told The Scientist. “The premise of the project is this observation that the same branch of the immune system, thought to evolve to combat multicellular parasite invasion like ticks and worms, kicks in when you have an allergic response.”

To validate its predictions, the team tested the in vitro immune responses of human cells to a protein from the parasitic worm Schistosoma mansoni, SmBv1L, which is similar to a protein found in birch pollen from protein family BetV1. “The family is one of the most prevalent pollen allergens,” said Furnham.

Using blood samples from 222 individuals in a Ugandan fishing village who were already infected withS. mansoni, the researchers measured the antibody response to the parasite’s protein. Not only did the blood serum react against the modeled parasitic infection, but the worm protein was targeted by the same antibodies that cause allergic reactions. “It was quite a novel finding,” said Furnham. “It was a way of showing that our predictions were working.”

The team hopes its work will inform the development of future therapies for allergic conditions, he added.’


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