- Maziak, W
- Background: The recent increase in childhood asthma has been a puzzling one. Recent views focus on the role of infection in the education of the immune system of young children. However, this so called hygiene hypothesis fails to answer some important questions about the current trends in asthma or to account for environmental influences that bear little relation to infection. Discussion: The multi-factorial nature of asthma, reflecting the different ways we tend to interact with our environment, mandates that we look at the asthma epidemic from a broader perspective. Seemingly modern affluent lifestyles are placing us increasingly in static, artificial, microenvironments very different from the conditions prevailed for most part of our evolution and shaped our organisms. Changes that occurred during the second half of the 20th century in industrialized nations with the spread of central heating/conditioning, building insulation, hygiene, TV/PC/games, manufactured food, indoor entertainment, cars, medical care, and sedentary lifestyles all seem to be depriving our children from the essential inputs needed to develop normal airway function (resistance). Asthma according to this view is a manifestation of our respiratory maladaptation to modern lifestyles, or in other words to our increasingly artificial habitats. The basis of the artificial habitat notion may lie in reduced exposure of innate immunity to a variety of environmental stimuli, infectious and non-infectious, leading to reduced formulation of regulatory cells/cytokines as well as inscribed regulatory pathways. This could contribute to a faulty checking mechanism of non-functional Th2 (and likely Th1) responses, resulting in asthma and other immuno-dysregulation disorders. Summary: In this piece I discuss the artificial habitat concept, its correspondence with epidemiological data of asthma and allergy, and provide possible immunological underpinning for it from an evolutionary perspective of health and disease. © 2005 Maziak; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
- March 31, 2005
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