Life on the farm may help sufferers.


While asthma is known to have a genetic component, the recent dramatic increase in its prevalence across Westernized countries cannot be due to this factor alone, suggesting that environment plays a major role. Asthma, the most prevalent childhood disease, affects more than 278,000,000 people worldwide and predisposes individuals to a range of serious consequences later in life. Yet, current approved therapies address symptoms only and do not halt disease progression.

The critical nature of early childhood environmental exposures in asthma development has been well documented in previous studies, which reveal strong protection against asthma in children raised on traditional animal farms in Alpine Europe and in the U.S. Children exposed to farm life early on--specifically those coming in contact with livestock, hay, and silage--show a much lower prevalence of asthma (1.4%) compared with almost 12% among children from nonfarming environments.

Recent studies by Fernando Martinez, regents' professor of pediatrics and director of the BIO5 Institute and the Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona, Tucson; Donata Vercelli, professor of cellular and molecular medicine; and collaborators show that similar differences in asthma prevalence...

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