Influences of environmental bacteria and their metabolites on allergies, asthma, and host microbiota

Allergy. 2017 Dec;72(12):1859-1867. doi: 10.1111/all.13220. Epub 2017 Jun 28.


The prevalence of allergic diseases and asthma has dramatically increased over the last decades, resulting in a high burden for patients and healthcare systems. Thus, there is an unmet need to develop preventative strategies for these diseases. Epidemiological studies show that reduced exposure to environmental bacteria in early life (eg, birth by cesarean section, being formula-fed, growing up in an urban environment or with less contact to various persons) is associated with an increased risk to develop allergies and asthma later in life. Conversely, a reduced risk for asthma is consistently found in children growing up on traditional farms, thereby being exposed to a wide spectrum of microbes. However, clinical studies with bacteria to prevent allergic diseases are still rare and to some extent contradicting. A detailed mechanistic understanding of how environmental microbes influence the development of the human microbiome and the immune system is important to enable the development of novel preventative approaches that are based on the early modulation of the host microbiota and immunity. In this mini-review, we summarize current knowledge and experimental evidence for the potential of bacteria and their metabolites to be used for the prevention of asthma and allergic diseases.

Keywords: asthma; environment and hygiene hypothesis; prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Environment
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Immunomodulation
  • Microbiota*
  • Models, Animal
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / immunology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / microbiology