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Healthy mix of GI tract microbes are key to preventing allergies and asthma

ANN ARBOR, Mich. If you want to avoid allergies or asthma, scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School suggest you start paying more attention to what's in your gut.

In the January 2005 issue of Infection & Immunity, U-M researchers report new evidence suggesting that changes in the normal mixture of microflora bacteria and fungi in the gastrointestinal tract can intensify the immune system's reaction to common allergens, like pollen or animal dander, in the lung and increase the risk of developing chronic allergies or asthma.

"Our research indicates that microflora lining the walls of the gastrointestinal tract are a major underlying factor responsible for the immune system's ability to ignore inhaled allergens," says Gary Huffnagle, Ph.D., an associate professor of internal medicine and of microbiology and immunology in the U-M Medical School. "Change the microflora in the gut and you upset the immune system's balance between tolerance and sensitization."

To test their hypothesis, Huffnagle and Mairi C. Noverr, Ph.D., a U-M post-doctoral fellow, have developed the first mouse model designed to mimic how humans develop allergies following antibiotic therapy. In a just-published study in the current issue of Infection & Immunity, they report results of new experiments linking changes in GI tract microflora to an overzealous allergic response in the lung.

Instead of sensitizing them to an allergen in advance, Noverr gave normal Balb/C laboratory mice a five-day course of antibiotics, which killed their gut bacteria, followed by a single oral introduction of the yeast Candida albicans. Increased growth of C. albicans in the gut is a common side-effect of antibiotics.

After stopping the antibiotics, Noverr inserted ovalbumin a commonly used experimental allergen derived from egg whites via the nasal cavities of all the mice in the study. Then, she examined the mice for the presence of an allergic response in th
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23-Dec-2004


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