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Study: Growing up on an Amish farm may protect children against asthma

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — It’s in the dust. A new study says house dust may be the key to preventing asthma in children.

The research shows a connection between the house dust found in Amish homes and a significantly lower rate of asthma in Amish children.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine that was co-authored by University of Arizona Health Sciences researcher Dr. Donata Vercelli compared two farming communities — the Amish of Indiana and the Hutterites of South Dakota.

Those two communities were chosen because they both have similar genetic ancestry, have similar lifestyles and customs, but utilize distinctly different farming practices.

There is also a striking difference in incidence of childhood asthma in the two communities according to researchers. Study co-author Dr. Carole Ober of the University of Chicago said about 5 percent of the Amish schoolchildren have asthma, while 21.3 percent Hutterite children have the illness. The U.S. average is 10.3 percent.

Vercelli said they’ve known for a decade that farming can protect against childhood asthma. Now, this research shows that “traditional” farming, the kind practiced by the Amish, generates dust that suppresses asthma.

“If you’re a traditional farmer, you come into contact with animals and microbes much more than if you are an industrialized kind of farmer,” Vercelli said.

“The much higher microbial content in the dust that comes from a traditional farming environment” is the factor in the Amish environment that that leads to the protection against asthma.

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