© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Study: Livestock May Help Boost Babies' Immune Systems

Ohio State Fair Facebook page

Ohio State researchers have found that exposure to farm animals could help babies improve their immune system.

Scientists compared babies from rural Amish communities to babies living in or near the city of Wooster.

They collected fecal samples from the 10 babies, all around 6 months to a year old. The five Amish babies all lived in rural homes with farm animals. The other five babies had no known contact with livestock.

Although the study is small, the samples revealed important differences.

For the Amish babies, there was a wide variation in microbes and an abundance of beneficial bacteria. They did not find the same results in infants who lived in urban areas.

"Good hygiene is important, but from the perspective of our immune systems, a sanitized environment robs our immune systems of the opportunity to be educated by microbes. Too clean is not necessarily a good thing," said the study's co-lead author Zhongtang Yu, a professor of microbiology in Ohio State's Department of Animal Sciences and a member of the university’s Food Innovation Center.

Researchers say those microbes can play a big role in helping to develop the immune system.