Are Lice The Answer To Allergies And Asthma?

Researchers from Britain’s University of Nottingham found out in a study that mice infested with lice had calmer immune systems than uninfected lice. Those with allergies and asthma have excitable immune systems which react to harmless triggers such as pet dander, pollen etc. This study supports the hygiene hypothesis, which states that allergies and asthma have increased due to hyper-clean environment and lifestyle.

What is Hygiene Hypothesis?

According to hygiene hypothesis, the rise in allergies and asthma is caused due to clean environment and lifestyle which does not  challenge the immune sytem to parasites, pathogens etc. This makes the immune system react to harmless triggers, causing allergies and asthma.

The Study:

This study was published in BioMed Central journal BMC Biology. The researchers trapped wild mice instead of laboratory mice (which are usually raised in clean environments). The immune systems of the wild mice was studied.

The researchers found out that the mice which were infested with the louse Polypax serrata and other parasites had calmer immune systems (the immune systems which do not react to harmless triggers) than the mice which were not infested ( i.e. infested mice were less susceptible towards allergies than uninfected mice.)

How can this be possible? Researchers say that the Are lice may be suppressing the immune system of the rodents  by transmitting microbes, parasites, or its saliva. This might be making the immune system calmer.

Researchers opine that similar to laboratory mice (in clean environments), people in developed countries are not exposed to parasites, pathogens, infections. This might make them sensitive towards harmless triggers, giving rise to allergies.

This study might change the way the causes of allergies and asthma are studied. In future, doctors may ask people to get less hygienic to overcome allergies and asthm.

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