(STUDY FINDS) – Looking to expand your family with some pets? Consider taking on chickens or goats. A study of gut microbes collected from Amish babies, who are raised around a variety of livestock, showed they are much more diverse — in a good way — than the gut microbes of urban babies. This suggests, according to researchers at Ohio State University, that early exposure to a wider variety of environmental bacteria, including those found in and on livestock, leads to health and immune system benefits later in life.
Furthermore, in a first-of-its-kind experiment, the research team was able to gather evidence that a healthy, diverse gut microbiome might lead to better development of the respiratory immune system. If you're one of those parents quick to squirt a dollop of hand sanitizer on your children's palms after visiting a petting zoo, experts suggest considering the other side of the coin.
"Good hygiene is important, but from the perspective of our immune systems, a sanitized environment robs our immune systems of the opportunity to be educated by microbes. Too clean is not necessarily a good thing," says co-lead author Zhongtang Yu in a release. Yu is a professor of microbiology in Ohio State's Department of Animal Sciences.
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