The increasing number of people that suffer from asthma and other allergies seems to indicate that is an affliction of the 21st century.
Perhaps by studying the immune systems of those alive a few centuries ago could be helpful in determining why this is the case.
With mice that is possible as their generations pass by in a few years compared to centuries in humans.
Even lab mice are a modern phenomenon in that they are bred for that purpose and are never affected by outside factors and maybe their immune systems never gets tested enough.
A University of Nottingham team lead by Joseph Jackson believe that their research into lice infected mice, using rodents captured from the wild, has shown that immune systems may need to build up a level of tolerance by exposure to certain conditions.
Jackson believes that the immune dysfunctions of today could be caused by the totally dissimilar world that people live in now. The mice were all infected by a Polyplax serrata louse after which their immune systems were carefully examined.
Research on these mice showed that those carrying the most lice had calmer immune systems than rodents without any parasites. Published in the BMC Biology journal by BioMed Central, the main theory is that in childhood the body’s immune system should be built up by exposure to certain factors.
The change in our environment and the way we live could well mean that a child will not experience something that will ultimately help ward off pollens and other allergic triggers.
If scientists can discover what this might be then it could be vital in the treatment of asthma and other debilitating problems that affect more children every year.