December 1, 2010

New Clues into Asthma Occurrences

by Heather Falconer

Throughout the US, asthma rates have been steadily increasing over the last few decades. According to the CDC, the rates of self-reported asthma conditions rose 75% between 1980 and 1994 (doctor’s visits more than doubled between 1975 and 1990). Today, an estimated 15 million Americans deal with this condition.

While scientists still have nothing conclusive to explain why asthma is becoming more prevalent, new research is being conducted exploring potential connections between asthma and bacteria. In the last ten years, studies in both the US and Copenhagen have shown that infants born to asthmatic mothers have a different variety of bacteria in their lungs and guts than those born to non-asthmatics. Likewise, different bacteria exists for those born naturally versus those delivered through C-section. And, again, for those living in highly sterile environments.

If this research is considered in connection with asthma experiments conducted on rats, the bacteria-asthma connection becomes stronger. Rats exposed to yeast and mold spores had a greater incidence of developing asthma when they were also given an antibiotic drug.

There is still much work to be done, but it does raise the question of whether the significant increase of antibiotic hand-washes, toys, and cleaners that has occurred in the last two decades has had an unintended effect on our health. Likewise, it raises questions about whether we’ll find physical evidence to support the long-argued claim that eating certain foods affects asthma symptoms.

What are your thoughts?

Heather Falconer

Written by

Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.