Meet the Scientist: Hammad & Lambrecht

“It’s intriguing that something as simple as growing up on farm is actually protecting children from asthma. We are unravelling these mechanisms and aim to turn them into a preventive treatment that will reach the patient in a few years.” Hamida Hammad, about her innovative research within the Asthma Prevention Consortium.

Children growing up on family-run farms suffer significantly less from asthma and allergies than children growing up in urban areas. An equally remarkable fact is that they suffer less from (severe) viral respiratory tract infections such as RS virus and rhinovirus during their first year of life. Not only because they often drink farm milk, but also because they inhale farm dust.

Since there is strong evidence that frequent and severe viral respiratory tract infections during the first year of life increase the risk of developing asthma later on in life, farm dust may well have a preventive effect against asthma too.

Asthma is the biggest chronic disease in children. Scientific research shows that a preventive approach to asthma might be possible if we go back to ‘nature’ and properly educate young children’s immature immune system (our body’s natural defense mechanism). However, in our urbanized world, living on or near a farm is not for everyone. If we succeed in unravelling the protective mechanisms and bringing the beneficial effects of farm life to children in cities, we might well be able to protect many children from developing asthma.

Next to farm dust, the Asthma Prevention consortium works on minimally processed milk, diet and parasites to find new treatments for preventing asthma.