While logic dictates that playing in the dirt may be harmful for children, a new study has found that it is in fact beneficial for building up the immunity in infants.
Researchers of Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) conducted the study looking into the theory, known as Hygiene hypothesis, which involves exposing infants to germs and dirt. The study was conducted on two groups of mice, one of which lived in a germ free environment and the second group lived in a normal environment with microbes.
The researchers found that the mice which lived in the germ free environment displayed an exaggerated inflammation of the lungs and colon, similar to asthma or colitis, due to hyperactivity of a unique class of T cells (immune cells).
The researchers concluded that exposure to microbes early in life helped condition the immune system of the body. "These studies show the critical importance of proper immune conditioning by microbes during the earliest periods of life", BWH's Richard Blumberg said. The study has been published in the journal Science.