Old MacDonald Has A Farm, Not Asthma

Farm raised children are 30 to 50 percent less likely to have asthma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) MOO-ve on over asthma! Children raised on farms are exposed to far more bacteria and fungi than those raised in urban settings. New research suggests this very exposure toughens up farm children's immune systems and leads to less occurrences of asthma.

The studies, which appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest the increasingly clean environments of urban settings may actually hamper the development of young children’s immune systems. This lack of immune system development makes children’s tendency to develop asthma more likely and has helped cause asthma rates in developed countries to double in the last 3 decades.

dailyRx Insight: Children exposed to bacteria and fungi have reduced asthma issues.

German researchers conducted DNA analysis on dust samples taken from mattresses of farm and non-farm children. The analysis confirmed farm dwelling children had lower asthma rates and were exposed to a wider range of bacteria and fungi than children who did not live on farms.

“The farm environment is somewhat special, so there may be something about the dirt on farms that is protective”, says researcher Markus J. Ege, MD, of the University Children’s Hospital. Hopefully, the next generation of research will identify the exact microbes found in farm dirt which is so helpful in developing the farm kid’s excellent immune systems.

“In the past we have thought that asthma results from contact with something bad in the environment, like tobacco smoke or air pollution,” James Gern, University of Wisconsin pediatric allergy and asthma specialist says. “While that may be true, it appears that there are also environmental factors that protect against asthma. That is very exciting."

Over 22 million people in the United States have Asthma, with African American and Latino children at the greatest risk. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs, which causes the airways to narrow, causing difficulty breathing. It is caused by a number of factors, but is generally agreed to be a primarily genetic and environmental disease. Symptoms of asthma are sudden difficulty in breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma is treated by lifestyle modification (avoiding allergens and triggers), as well as a multitude of medications for short term relief like albuterol(Ventolin®, ProAir®), ipratropium (Atrovent®), and epinephrine. Long-term care is treated with steroids (Clenil®, Pulmicort®, Symbicort®, Flovent®), leukotriene antagonists (ZYFLO®, Singulair®), and long acting beta-adrenoreceptor agonists (Serevent®, Foradil®). There is no precise diagnostic test for asthma, instead it is diagnosed based off of symptoms (airway blockage and hypersensitivity) and improvement of symptoms related to asthma medications.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 23, 2011
Last Updated:
March 23, 2011