Reduced Environmental Bacterial Biodiversity Is Associated with Increased Allergy in Urban Populations
Early humans coevolved with an array of microbes and parasites that modern city dwellers no longer encounter. A growing body of evidence suggests that reduced contact with these ancient microbial partners may be helping to fuel an epidemic of inflammatory diseases such as asthma, allergies, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis—all of which are on the rise in urban populations. Now ecology and evolutionary biology professor Ilkka Hanski and his colleagues at the University of Helsinki have observed a link between the environments people inhabit, the diversity of microbes residing on their skin, and their susceptibility to allergic reactions. In a study of teenagers living in urban and rural environments in eastern Finland, Hanski’s team used molecular analysis to show that allergic children hosted a less diverse array of bacteria on their skin compared with healthy counterparts. In addition, children living in homes with a greater diversity of native flowers in the yard had a more varied array of microbes on their skin and a lower risk of allergy. The expression of interleukin-10, a key anti-inflammatory cytokine, was positively correlated with abundance of one particular genus, Acinetobacter, on skin.
- Environmental biodiversity, human microbiota, and allergy are interrelated
- Co-occurrence of linguistic and biological diversity in biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversity wilderness areas
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