Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist

Rural Teens Have Fewer Allergies

The diversity of microbes in the great outdoors may protect against inflammatory disorders.

By | May 8, 2012

image: Rural Teens Have Fewer Allergies Flickr, Marcel van Schooten

FLICKR, MARCEL VAN SCHOOTEN

Rapidly declining biodiversity may contribute to the increasing prevalence of allergies among urban populations, according to a study published Monday (May 7) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Teens in rural areas of Finland, who had significantly more exposure to a diverse array of friendly microbes, had fewer allergies than urban teens surrounded by less biodiversity.

"We are proposing that contact of people, particularly children, with the natural environment and biodiversity could be really important for the development of the immune system," Ilkka Hanski, an ecologist at the University of Helsinki and lead author of the study, told ScienceNOW.

The researchers collected skin swabs from 118 teenagers in eastern Finland who lived in the same houses their whole lives, some on rural farms and other in urban towns. The team found that teens living on farms or near forests had more diverse bacteria on their skin and displayed lower allergen sensitivity. Teenagers living near bodies of water or in urban centers had higher levels of allergies. To further test the biodiversity hypothesis—which states that reduced contact with the natural environment and biodiversity may adversely affect our immune systems—the Helsinki team also surveyed the number of plants around the teens’ homes and found, unsurprisingly, that rural homes were surrounded by more biodiversity than urban homes.

"We're not claiming that contact with nature and biodiversity is the only important thing [to allergies], but it could be a significant contributing factor,” Hanski told ScienceNOW. And it may be a reversible trend, he added. "Urbanization can't be stopped, but perhaps we should take the planning of green spaces in cities more seriously."

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: Nathan Unseth

Nathan Unseth

Posts: 3

May 9, 2012

I live among farmers, and, for them, this comes as no surprise. They've always known that rural kids tend to be healthier than city kids because rural kids don't mind getting dirty. 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

May 9, 2012

I live among farmers, and, for them, this comes as no surprise. They've always known that rural kids tend to be healthier than city kids because rural kids don't mind getting dirty. 

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist