Among the many areas being revolutionized by the recent introduction of culture-independent microbial identification techniques is investigation of the relationship between close contact with large animals, antibiotics, breast feeding, mode of birth, and other exposures during infancy as related to a reduced risk of asthma and allergic disease. These exposures were originally clustered under the “Hygiene Hypothesis” which has evolved into the “Microbiota Hypothesis”. This review begins by summarizing epidemiologic studies suggesting that the common feature of these allergy risk-related exposures is their influence on the founding and early development of a child's gut microbiota. Next, studies using culture-independent techniques are presented showing that children who have experienced the exposures of interest have altered gut microbiota. Finally, selected mouse and human studies are presented which begin to corroborate the protective exposures identified in epidemiologic studies by elucidating mechanisms through which microbes can alter immune development and function. These microbially driven immune alterations demonstrate that microbial exposures in many cases could alter the risk of subsequent allergic disease and asthma. Hopefully, a better understanding of how microbes influence allergic disease will lead to safe and effective methods for reducing the prevalence of all forms of allergic disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Biochemistry, medical
- Physiology (medical)