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The Answer to Asthma May Be in Dirty Diapers

By February 1, 2018No Comments

Childhood asthma has been rising for decades and local researchers think the answer to why is in dirty diapers.

“We’ve seen a tripling in the rates of asthma and other allergic diseases,” said lead investigator Stuart Turvey, a pediatrician at B.C. Children’s Hospital and a professor at UBC. “Our genetics haven’t changed in one or two generations … so it points to something in the environment that these kids are growing up in.”

Or something that is missing in their environment. The research flows from the so-called Hygiene Hypothesis.

“Kids aren’t being exposed to infections and microbes in early life, and that may be the missing link,” he said.

Turvey’s team will receive $9 million over four years from Genome Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) to find out for sure.

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in Canada and costs the healthcare system $2 billion a year. About 2.4 million Canadians have asthma and that number is growing fast.

Among the most interesting clues for Turvey is which children are at the lowest risk of asthma: Children who grow up on farms, have lots of older siblings, or go to daycare in their first six months of life, where they are exposed to bacteria and viruses. Infants who are given antibiotics, which wipe out bacteria in the gut, are more likely to develop asthma.