The key to preventing asthma and reducing allergies may lie in an unexpected source: parasitic worms. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have managed to cure experimental asthma in the lab using a live worm, the first time a human parasite has been used for this purpose. Dr Padraic Fallon from the Department of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin will present these findings at the BA Festival of Science on Monday 5 September.
The UK and Ireland are experiencing an asthma epidemic and have some of the highest rates of asthma in the world and the prevalence of allergic diseases has more than doubled over the last two or three decades in the developed world. This is particularly marked in Irish schoolchildren, with just under a third of children aged 13-14 showing symptoms of asthma.
‘The reasons for the dramatic recent increase in allergic diseases are complex,’ says Dr Fallon. ‘We believe a major factor is the reduction in parasitic worms, and bacterial or viral infections, in modern ‘clean’ societies. This is the often quoted: “If your kids play in dirt they will not get asthma”.’
Craig Brierley | alfa
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