The hygiene hypothesis is an idea that our immune systems are developed via the early exposure to pathogens. This means in order to have stronger immune systems later in life we have to be exposed to germs during the first few years of our lives.
However, due to the highly sterilized, over-medicated, and modern lifestyles of the western world the exposure to germs is decreasing and that is causing a rise in autoimmune diseases. In recent years, our healthcare system has reported a rise in asthma, type I diabetes, and food allergies. On the other hand, in developing countries where health care is not as modern kids are less prone to the autoimmune diseases when compared with children of the developed world.
Mikael Knip, a Finnish physician, explains: “The immune system is programmed within the first two years of life,” and goes on to say, “With less early infection, the immune system has too little to do, so it starts looking for other targets.”
The answer to figuring out just how autoimmune diseases are developed could be by studying the microbe as Aleksandar Kostic, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Ramnik Xavier at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, suggested: “Exposure to bacteria may play a pivotal role in the immune system, and that we might be able to understand what that role is by studying the human microbiome,”
A study is underway to look at the microbes of infants from 3 different countries. Understanding how they differ might be the key to figuring out just how these autoimmune disorders are developed.
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