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New Study: Rural Environment and Long-Term Asthma Prevention

Awards & Grants, Environmental Health, COMI,

A new research initiative, spearheaded by Prof. Michael Schloter in collaboration with Dr. Laura Wengenroth from the LMU Hospital Munich, is dedicated to exploring how the rural environment provides long-term protection against asthma and allergies. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting the project with a grant of €600,000 over a period of three years.

The GABRIEL study, initiated by Prof. Erika von Mutius in 2007, examined children raised on farms compared to a group without farm exposure. The study's findings indicate that early-life exposure to cows, straw, and fresh cow's milk may provide protection against asthma and allergies. This protective effect is believed to be mediated by specific microorganisms and their metabolites primarily found in cow sheds.

It remains uncertain whether the observed effects persist when children from farms later move to cities. A re-examination of the participants from 2007, now young adults with some having relocated, offers an ideal opportunity to address this question. In addition to clinical allergy diagnoses, the focus lies on investigating the respiratory and gut microbiomes, alongside comparing them with the 2007 data.

“The willingness of former study participants to actively engage in the investigation provides us with an ideal basis to answer the question of how growing up in rural areas protects against asthma in the long term and what role early microbiome imprinting plays in this. Given the increasing global prevalence of asthma and allergies, our inquiries are of global interest. Based on the insights from this study, we could develop targeted prevention strategies against allergic diseases, particularly prevalent in urban environments.”

Prof. Michael Schloter, a microbiome research expert at Helmholtz Munich and Professor for Environmental Microbiology at the Technical University of Munich

Learn more about the GABRIEL study (German only)