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The Rise of Allergies: Key findings from the 5th Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum

A voyage into the entrails of humanity: the microbiome

The human microbiome term refers to microbial communities living in symbiosis in different organs in our bodies. Our intestines, mouth, nostrils, skin, sexual organs, and others profit from this lively win-win collaboration. In recent years, the scientific community has tried to understand these ‘invisible’ associations and their impact on people’s health. It appears, for instance, that if the intestinal bugs aren’t there in quite the right proportions, this imbalance may favour obesity, allergies, gut disorders or even diabetes and this list is far from exhaustive. Overall, scientists agree that bacterial diversity is a key parameter in a healthy microbiome.

We humans have around 10 times more bacterial cells than eukaryotic cells that build our muscles, organs and body, adding up to trillions of little companions. This means we are made of a mix of eukaryotic and bacterial cells; the latter accounts for 2 kg in average on the body of a 100-kg adult. Their relationship is dictated by such factors as our diet, medication, hygiene, disease state, genetic profile and so on. As hosts of microbes, we profit from their presence – first benefitting from their role as bodyguards, and second because we obtain essential elements we wouldn’t otherwise. However, research suggests our current societies’ excessive intake of medication, obsession with hygiene, Western high fat and low fibre diets and the rise in C-sections may threaten this much-needed cooperation.

The rise of allergies worldwide illustrates that these actions are unhealthy. Professor Cathryn Nagler from the University of Chicago opened up the 5th Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum in Rotterdam in March by pointing out the fact that two kids in each American school have food allergies nowadays. This is definitely surprising when we take into consideration that decades ago, kids in the United States ate peanut butter and jelly in school every day. What could possibly have gone wrong? Well, C-section may be one of the parameters in this equation. Scientists have been closely studying the development of a child’s gut microbiome, which becomes stable only by the age of three or so – and stunning discoveries have already been made. For instance, babies born from natural delivery are colonised by the mother’s rich vaginal microbiota as well as her skin, whereas C-section babies are colonised mostly by the bacteria present in the environment and on the caregiver’s skin. Children in the latter group may be more vulnerable to allergies later in life. The ultimate take-home message here is that C-section should be a choice only if there are risks to the mother-to-be and/or baby from a vaginal birth.

A voyage into the entrails of humanity: the microbiome

Additionally, researchers noted that kids are less inclined to get exposed to infections these days as a result of living in highly sanitised environments. Their immune systems get less of a workout. In nature, whenever a limb is no longer essential for the specimen survival, evolution gradually rules it out. However, this shouldn’t be the fate of a person’s immune system since it is very much required to allow us to thrive in all sorts of hostile environments.

Fortunately, we can make changes to our medical systems and choose healthier habits that will result in a more vigorous microbiome. We can discourage C-sections unless there are risks to a mother or baby. We can work on balancing, whenever possible, medicine intake with probiotics — and only take medication when needed. Additionally, to promote the positive development of our children’s immune system, research shows we should let them play with dirt, which contains a lot of other funny-looking microscopic creatures. This will not only allow them to grow healthier, but happier!

The microbiome research domain is still only in its infancy, as speaker after speaker of the 5th Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum and 2nd Probiotics Congress repeated, and many more discoveries will come into the spotlight soon. This said, keep in mind that you should nourish your microbes well, starting with a healthy diet, because they will accompany you until the end of your story – for good or for ill!

Fernanda Haffner is the founder of Esperluette – a free, compact, high-quality monthly publication whose mission is to do outreach about current research being done at Universities across Europe.

To find out more about the next event in the series, please view the agenda for the 6th Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum here

One Response to “The Rise of Allergies: Key findings from the 5th Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum”

  1. Thanks for sharing this nice article ! Yes Probiotics is not only a simple good bacteria that can help to your digestive system it is help also your allergies heal. 🙂


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