PoughkeepsieJournal.com – Preventing allergies might get a little dirty
Here’s the new wisdom: Early exposure to pets, peanuts and intestinal worms might actually be good for you, because they program the developing immune system to know the difference between real threats, such as germs, and Aunt Millie’s cat.Evidence to support this view has been mounting for more than a decade. But now, for the first time, researchers are beginning to test remedies based on these theories in patients. Other doctors are trying to make use of novel approaches to retrain the immune system once it’s too late and allergies set in.
“What we’ve learned is that it may, in fact, be important to be exposed early on to a sufficient quantity of allergy-causing substances to train the immune system that they are not a threat,” said Andy Saxon of the University of California-Los Angeles. “And, in people who already have allergies, we see for the first time where the problems lie, and we have new opportunities to tweak the system.”
Scientists base this radical new thinking about human allergies on a deeper understanding of how the immune system works. They have begun to exploit fresh insights to attack allergies and other immune diseases in unexpected ways. No longer content just to treat allergy symptoms, they hope to outwit the immune system and stop allergic responses before they start.