Tags: germs | kid | immunity | microbes | inflammation

Germs May Boost Kids’ Health

Tuesday, 12 June 2012 01:22 PM

Note to parents: Go ahead and let the kids play in the dirt. It may be good for them.
Yet another health study – this one by Northwestern University scientists – provides fresh evidence that children exposed to germs, bacteria and other microbes early in life are less likely to develop chronic diseases later on.
Just why this is so isn’t clear. Past studies have suggested early germ exposure may boost children’s immune systems so they can fight diseases better as they age. But the new study suggests childhood microbial exposures may actually reduce long-term inflammation in the body linked with chronic disease.
The study, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, is based on health research involving 52 adults in rural Ecuador that had virtually “no evidence of chronic low-grade inflammation,” associated with heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
In contrast, about one-third of adults in the United States have chronically elevated levels of a protein in the blood – called C-reactive protein (CRP) -- that rises as part of the body’s natural inflammatory response to germs and other infectious agents. But when CRP is chronically produced, it is associated with chronic diseases.
"In other words, CRP goes up when you need it, but it is almost undetectable when you don't, after the infection resolves," explained lead researcher Thomas W. McDade. "This is a pretty remarkable finding, and very different from prior research in the U.S., where lots of people tend to have chronically elevated CRP, probably putting them at higher risk for chronic disease."
McDade said the findings build on previous research in the Philippines that found that higher levels of microbial exposure in infancy were associated with lower CRP as an adult. Similar exposures during infancy in Ecuador, where rates of infectious disease are high, may have a lasting effect on the pattern of inflammation in adulthood.
"In my mind the study … may have significant implications for our understanding of the links between inflammation and chronic disease," McDade said.
The new research suggests that high levels of childhood germ exposure may change how we regulate inflammation as adults. McDade noted infectious microbes have been around for millennia, and it is only recently that more hygienic environments in affluent settings have reduced our exposures.

© HealthDay

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Study: Children exposed to microbes early are less likely to develop chronic diseases later on.
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 01:22 PM
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