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Researchers Explain How Dust May Improve Asthma and Allergies


In the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers found that dust found in the home could improve asthma and allergies.

This seems counterintuitive, as most people have heard that dust makes allergy symptoms worse. However, the research team found that the powder actually improves the immune system, making it more resilient. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, together with the Danish Center for Pediatric Asthma at Herley and Gentofte Hospital, participated in the study and published their findings in November 2020.

The team found that microorganisms that live in dust found in children’s beds strongly correlates with their own gut bacteria. Researchers believe that microorganisms can decrease the likelihood that a child will develop asthma, allergies, and autoimmune diseases as they age. While we can’t see them, countless microbes share our beds with us as they live in the naturally occurring dust in our homes. These microbes can influence the types and diversity of microorganisms that develop in our own bodies, especially in childhood.

The more diverse our gut bacteria, the more resources and immunity our bodies will have to fight disease. Therefore, children whose beds are more dusty tend to have stronger immune systems. But what causes certain microbes to settle in the dust of some houses and not others?

The study

To better understand the relationship between dust and gut bacteria in children, the researchers took dust samples from the bed. They obtained them from 577 children’s beds and compared them with samples from the respiratory system of 542 children. In the largest study of its kind, the researchers hoped to find out how environmental factors influenced the types of microbes found. Also, they wanted to see if the microorganisms found in bedding dust affect the types of bacteria that live in children’s airways.

“We see a correlation between the bacteria that we find in bed dust and those we find in children. While they are not the same bacteria, it is an interesting discovery that suggests that these bacteria affect each other. It may turn out to have an impact on reducing asthma and allergy risks in later years ”, explains Professor Søren J. Sørensen from the UCPH Department of Biology.

The microbes that live in our beds can boost our immune systems.

Of course, the more microbes that lodge in the dust of our bed, the more resistant our immune systems become. Children need to be exposed to various bacteria to build their immunity. Various microorganisms that live in the home help increase a child’s resistance to allergies and diseases. Beds tend to accumulate a large number of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that cover their homes in dust.

“We are well aware that the microorganisms that live within us are important to our health with respect to asthma and allergies, for example, but also to human diseases such as diabetes II and obesity. But to improve our treatment of these diseases, we must understand the processes by which microorganisms emerge during our early stages of life. And it seems that the bed plays an important role, ”says Søren J. Sørensen.

Because our immune systems are strengthened by the microorganisms in the dust, perhaps we shouldn’t wash our sheets as often. We live in a clean and overly sterile world, which actually lowers our immunity.

“The microorganisms in a bed are affected by the environment of a house, where a high bacterial diversity is beneficial. The simple message is that it may not be necessary to constantly change the sheets, but we need to investigate this a little more closely before we can say for sure, ”he added.

Rural life, pets, and older siblings all stimulate gut bacteria.

The research team found 930 different types of bacteria and fungi in the dust obtained from the beds of six-month-old children. Environmental conditions and the location of the houses greatly affected the diversity of bacteria found in the various samples. The team sampled urban and rural homes and found that rural homes had much higher levels of bacteria.

“Previous studies tell us that city dwellers have less diverse gut flora than people living in more rural settings. This is generally attributed to spending more time outdoors and having more contact with nature. Our studies show that changes in the bacterial flora in the bedding dust may also be an important reason for this difference ”, says Søren J. Sørensen

Previous studies have also found that rural life, pets, and older siblings help reduce the risk of developing autoimmune diseases. As pets carry a variety of fungi, dust and dirt on their fur, exposure in early childhood helps boost immunity. Children need this exposure to germs and bacteria to strengthen their immune systems and lower their risk of disease. Our expanding urban population loses these important bacteria and, as a result, has reduced intestinal diversity.

Older siblings help the immune system of young children because the mother has a more active immune system. Studies have found that babies whose mothers had previously been pregnant had more signal proteins, which triggered an immune response. This is passed on to the younger sibling, which means that their immune system recognizes threats, such as infections, more often.

In future studies, the research team hopes to find what types of bacteria in bed dust cause allergies or asthma development.

Final thoughts on the study on bed dust that ameliorates allergies and asthma

In a pioneering study, researchers have found that dust on children’s beds it can protect them against allergies and asthma. In the Western world especially, many people believe that dust aggravates allergies. However, this study shows that our immune systems actually benefit from the presence of dust and bacteria in our homes. The study found that children with the strongest immune systems had more diverse microorganisms living in the dust on their bed.

Additionally, the study found that children living in rural settings had more robust intestinal flora. This directly correlates with the types and diversity of microorganisms found in your homes. In future studies, the researchers hope to determine whether certain types of bacterial flora increase the chances of developing allergies and asthma.


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