Asthma is one of the most common chronic respiratory disorders. Many epidemiology studies have suggested an increasing trend of asthma in many different regions of the world but the exact reasons explaining such trend remain unclear. Nevertheless, changing environmental factors are most likely important in explaining the trend of asthma. Studies in the past decade have clearly shown a mark difference in the prevalence between urban and rural regions. The consistent findings of a markedly lower prevalence of asthma in children and adults who have been brought up in a farming environment clearly indicate the importance of environmental influence of asthma development. Although the exact protective environmental factors in the rural region remain to be defined, there have been many studies suggesting that early exposure to microbes or microbial products may play a role in modulating the immune system so as to reduce the future risk of asthma and allergies. Advances in the understanding of the genetic predisposition and how these genetic factors may interact with specific environment factors are of paramount importance for the future development of primary preventive strategies for asthma.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.