Asthma attacks, triggers & remedies: living in the farm prevents attacks in kids, study confirms

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Sep 04, 2015 06:54 AM EDT

TORO, ZAMORA - SEPTEMBER 01: Cows graze at a field of Santa Maria de la Vega farm on September 1, 2015 in Toro, near Zamora, in Spain. Many farmers are losing money from the production of milk due to falling prices and cheap foreign imports. Dairy farmers are being forced out of business as they face problems with access to a salary and difficulties paying suppliers of food, mechanical and veterinary services, despite long working hours. At least 500 farmers are expected to take part in a protest march that started in Leon and will arrive in Madrid on September 4, where they will demonstrate outside the ministry of agriculture. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images) (Photo : Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

"Were you raised in a barn?" A proud yes may be an answer to that question the next time someone asks, as a new study finds that farm dust can actually protect children from allergies such as asthma, Skynews reports.

The study was published in the US journal Science, and was conducted by Belgian experts led by Bart Lambrecht of Ghent University and Hamida Hammad. The Washington Post reports that the researchers induced dust mite allergies in mice. The mice's exposure to dust from a dairy farm early in life made them immune. In fact, it was the protein A20 in the mice's mucous membranes that were protecting the mice from the allergens. A20 was produced when exposed to farm dust. However, when A20 was removed from the mice's lungs, the farm dust could not protect from allergic reactions.

"At this point, we have revealed an actual link between farm dust and protection against asthma and allergies," Lambrecht said. "We did this by exposing mice to farm dust extract from Germany and Switzerland. These tests revealed that the mice were fully protected against house dust mite allergy, the most common cause for allergies in humans."

Lambrecht further explained to the Washington Post that "A20 was not a coincidence, it was really necessary. This is linking, showing a cause and effect link, between exposure to farm dust and fewer allergies. I think our study is a big step forward."

A previous study revealed that only 25 percent of children living in Swiss farms reacted to common allergies such as dust mites, pollen, animals and mold, compared to 45 percent of children in the general population.

In the US, as much as 50 million people suffer from seasonal allergies caused by grass, pollen, trees and molds, among others.

Lambrecht and his team previously discovered the importance of the epithelial cells of the lungs in the development of allergy responses. He said: "The first cells that recognize the allergen are not so much the cells of the immune system, but the structural cells that make up the inside of the lungs."

Mark Holbreich, a physician who studies the hygiene hypothesis, told the Press Herald: "The study opens a new area of investigation in our long quest to understand the hygiene hypothesis, which is the complex interaction of farm exposures and their impact on the function of structural cells of the airway."

"We know from many studies that there appear to be multiple factors that contribute to protection. This article adds to our expanding knowledge yet we are still far from developing a means for the primary prevention of allergies and asthma," he added.

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