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Sleeping on Animal Fur During Infancy Can Lower the Risk of Asthma, Study

First Posted: Sep 08, 2014 04:43 AM EDT
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A team of researchers has found that sleeping on animal fur during the first three months of life helps ward off the risk of asthma in later childhood.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects a person's airways - also known as breathing tubes. This common long-term condition can be very well controlled in most of the children. According to Lung.org, asthma currently affects around 7.1 million children under the age of 18 years.

The latest study was led by the European Lung Foundation. The researchers suggest that it is the exposure to microbial environment present in the animal fur that offers protective effect against asthma and allergies.

Studies conducted earlier showed that children's exposure to a wider range of environments at a very young age helps protect against asthma and allergies. But these findings are not confirmed in an urban environment. In the current study, the researchers looked at children dwelling in the city environment who slept on the animal fur shortly after birth.

To investigate this, they worked on the data retrieved from the German birth cohort 'Lisaplus' that included more than 3,000 healthy newborns who were recruited in 1998. Data on exposure to animal skin during the initial three years of life was gathered. Apart from this, the researchers also worked on data regarding the health of children until the age of 10 years.  Data on 2,441 children was used and 55 percent of these slept on animal skin during the first three months of life.

The researchers noticed that sleeping on animal fur was strongly associated with a lower risk of several factors linked to asthma. The risk of getting asthma at the age of 6 years dropped by 79 percent in children who slept on animal fur after birth.  By the age of 10 years, the risk further dropped by 41 percent.

Dr Christina Tischer, from the Helmholtz Zentrum München Research Centre, said: "Previous studies have suggested that microbes found in rural settings can protect from asthma. An animal skin might also be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments. Our findings have confirmed that it is crucial to study further the actual microbial environment within the animal fur to confirm these associations."

The finding was presented at the European Respiratory Society (RES) International Congress.

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