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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Update

Air Date: Week of

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TOOMEY: Children in industrialized nations are developing allergic diseases, including asthma, at increasing rates. One explanation proposes that lack of exposure to microbes early in life causes the immune system to overreact later on. Now a new study bolsters this theory. Researchers gave a beneficial bacteria, the same kind found in the human digestive tract, to a group of pregnant women. The treatment continued for six months after birth, with the bacteria transmitted through breast milk or mixed into bottle formula. A similar group was given a placebo. Researchers found that by the age of two, the babies in the bacteria group had cut their risk of developing eczema in half. Eczema is an early sign of allergic reaction and asthma risk. Researchers think so-called good bacteria can be used to train young immune systems to resist allergic reactions later on. That's this week's health update. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

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