By Helenka Rowe
As science and technology have advanced, so have our methods of disinfecting the world around us. In a developed country like the United States, we have antibacterial soaps, scrubs, and wipes at our disposal through every part of the day - from
Recently, however, strong evidence has been published supporting the hygiene hypothesis, which was originally presented by D.P. Strachan in 1989. Strachan observed that the allergic diseases of hay fever and eczema were less common in children from larger immediate families. Did children who were exposed to more infectious agents by their numerous siblings have more protection from allergies later in life?
With a greater appreciation for the intricacies of the immune system, this theory has been revisited in epidemiologic and immunologic circles. Allergies are an abnormal reaction of the immune system to harmless environmental substances and have been rising in prevalence over the past few decades, especially in developed countries (Grammatikos, 2008). One of the current explanations for the increase in allergic (or atopic) diseases is that the immune system needs exposure to a certain variety of foreign antigens to mature correctly (Grammatikos).
Helminths and Other Parasites
Worms have been found to be therapeutic in treating certain diseases. In countries like the U.S., parasites are an uncommon health
According to CU immunologist J.J. Cohen, the incidence of autoimmune and hypersensitive diseases continues to rise in the developed world, while the incidence of these diseases in the developing world (where parasite infection is quite common) is very low. Though many parents naturally think that protecting their children means sterilizing their toys and avoiding contact with public property, the truth may actually lie in a balance between hygiene and helminths. As Cohen suggests, “the new rule should be that if it falls on the floor and still looks like food 30 seconds after you pick it up, then it’s edible.”
Helenka Rowe is a
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McKay, DM. “The therapeutic helminth?” Trends Parasitol. 2009 Mar;25(3):109-14. Epub 2009 Jan 23.
Osada, Y, Kanazawa T. “Parasitic Helminths: New Weapons against Immunological Disorders” J Biomed Biotechnol. 2010; 2010: 743758. Published online 2010 February 10.
Strachan, D.P. “Hay fever, hygiene, and household size.” BMJ. 1989 November 18; 299(6710): 1259– 1260.