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Rural life may boost allergy resistance

Country dwellers richer in immune-calming bacteria

Children who grow up close to nature may have fewer allergies because of protective skin bacteria.

That finding is a new twist on the hygiene hypothesis, the idea that contact with bacteria early in life is crucial for the development of the human immune system. Skin microbes tied to the diversity of the natural environment seem to teach the body to calm allergic responses, researchers report online the week of May 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Here is yet another reason for planning green spaces in towns and cities,” says Ilkka Hanski, an ecologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

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