News Release

Skin microbiota, rural lifestyle, and allergies

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study suggests that living environment and lifestyle shape skin microbiota and the risk of allergies. Previous studies have found that allergies are less prevalent among children living on farms and people living in rural areas, suggesting that lifestyle and living environment affect the risk of allergies. Exposure to environmental microbes is thought to mediate the effect, but the interactions among environmental microbes, the host microbiota, and the immune system remain poorly understood. Jenni Lehtimäki and colleagues used a canine model as a compromise between complex human studies and artificial mouse model studies. The authors used gene sequencing to characterize the skin microbiota of 169 pet dogs as well as a detailed questionnaire to dog owners to assess the dogs' living environment, lifestyle factors such as family size and the presence of other pets, and allergy symptoms. Dogs living in an urban environment with a single owner and no other pets had distinct skin microbiota and a higher prevalence of allergies, compared with dogs living in a rural environment with a large family and other pets. According to the authors, the findings suggest that prominent and sustained exposure to rural-dwelling microbes through appropriate urban planning and lifestyle changes might improve the health of urban populations.


Article #17-19785: "Skin microbiota and allergic symptoms associate with exposure to environmental microbes," by Jenni Lehtimäki et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jenni Lehtimäki, University of Helsinki, FINLAND; tel: +358407561900, +358504480047; e-mail: <>

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