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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting a bead on asthma.

The culprit may be a substance called chitin, found in everything from shellfish to molds.

I have it, and Maddie has a (much milder) case of it than I do, despite my requests to God that they avoid it altogether. I guess I'll settle for milder. Plus, I've pretty well outgrown my case, and I was able to play football in my youth, so it wasn't crippling. At least attack time gave me the opportunity to read.

A lot.

So this study is of great interest to me, especially an intriguing finding that common harmless bacteria can break down chitin:

So what are we to do—live knee-deep in bacteria to prevent allergies and asthma?

"That's a big question, and a loaded question since it's tough to say, 'Go out and get dirty!'" Locksley says with a laugh. "If there really is an association with chitin, maybe the response is not so much to worry about the bacteria in a household, but to worry about the chitin. One approach might be to develop ways to break down chitin in the environment."

Amplifying his point, Locksley cites a compelling example of bacteria and chitin at play.
"The snow-crab industry is a big part of a seasonal industry up in Alaska and Canada," he begins, emphasizing that the shells of crabs are a rich source of chitin. "College kids come in and they work in these crab processing plants. It's the food industry, so the first thing they do is get all the bacteria out of the environment by using microbicides. Then you’ve got these kids in there pulverizing chitin shells for hours on end.

"The attack rate for new onset asthma in that industry is something like 25 to 28 percent per year," he says. "It's now a major cause of disability in Canada."

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