Unique Microbial Profile Shields the Amish from Asthma

Unique Microbial Profile Shields the Amish from Asthma

Scientists have made yet another real-world connection between human physical health and the state of the microbes that live in and on our bodies, and tag along for the ride our entire lives.
This time, a team out of the University of Chicago sought to investigate why the Amish population in the United States experiences half the national average rates of asthma. As a comparison, they also studied culturally and genetically similar Hutterite communities, where asthma is 75% more prevalent than in the Amish.
The primary difference between the Amish and their more asthmatic counterparts was found to be the presence of cows. While the greater US population, as well as the Hutterite communities, has moved towards machines for their transport and farming use, the Amish still rely on draft animals — oxen, and horses. This means that Amish babies and children are exposed to a unique combination of microbes in their daily lives, which lead them to become asthma-resistant adults. The researchers proved this with the help of another animal: mice!
The study […] recruited 30 Amish children from Indiana, [and] 30 Hutterite children from South Dakota. […]

[R]esearchers descended on both communities, taking blood tests, sampling the air and drawing up detailed maps of the microbes in both Hutterite and Amish homes.

The first clue was blood tests showing that the Amish children had much more robust immune systems than the Hutterites. For instance, the Amish carried a higher rate of neutrophils, a type of disease-fighting white blood cell.

Then, researchers gathered dust from Hutterite and Amish homes and exposed it to lab mice.

The mice hit with Hutterite dust were relatively unaffected, but the Amish-dusted mice soon became noticeably resilient to allergens.”
The researchers hope to harness (no pun intended!) the healthful effect that cow microbes have on mice and humans, to create an inoculation for those unlucky enough to live away from our bovine friends. I, however, will continue to try to lure my neighbours over to the fence for a quick hit of microbes every once in a while.