One of the major health goals that have not yet been completely achieved is facilitating clean water to everyone on the planet. But, scientists have warned that though drinking clean water may keep us safe from deadly diseases, it could also increase the risk of asthma.
Dr Brett Finlay of the British Columbia University, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, suggested that the obsession with hygiene could even be turning some beneficial bacteria found in the human gut into ‘endangered species’.
Researchers, during a study in Canada, found the presence of four types of bacteria in the gut of babies less than 100 days old which seemed to prevent them from developing asthma in later life. After their findings, the researchers then decided to see whether the same is true for the children elsewhere in the world.
For their next study, the researchers settled on Ecuador, where about 10 percent of children have asthma. In Ecuador, they found the same protective effect of the four bugs, but also two unexpected factors that increased the risk of the condition. One of which was a particular type of yeast in the gut and the other was access to a clean water supply.
“Ironically the kids with clean water had a higher risk of asthma,” Dr Finlay said. “I guess it makes sense (because of the lower levels of bacteria) but I must admit we were surprised to see that. You’d think clean water is good for the world.”
In the developed world, the hygiene hypothesis has become the most important factor that explains the rise of asthma and allergies. In spite of this, Dr Finlay, who is the author of the book ‘Let Them Eat Dirt’, said that too many people still felt the need to kill bugs and urged them to throw away their anti-bacterial wipes.
“I would say we’re suffering from a hygiene hangover. We have cleaned the world up too much,” he said. “Maybe these microbes are actually an endangered species. Your great grandkids are going to have different microbes than you do.”
“There are people biobanking things, I am not suggesting you should biobank your poop now and give it to your grandkids, I don’t know, I worry we have got too clean and we have got to ease off a little bit. We have evolved with these microbes all along,” he said, adding, “I do think we have to rethink this absolute war on all microbes ‘kill them all, carpet bomb them’, I think that’s wrong.”
But, above all, he stressed there were benefits to being clean.
Dr Finlay said, “hygiene works, we have got rid of infectious diseases, no doubt about it, but this is a consequence of that. Certain microbes fix one condition but make another worse so it’s complex.”
Information source: Independent
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