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Backyard Biodiversity May Stem Allergies

A decline in the variety of life — including the plants and animals that live around us, as well as the microbes on our bodies — may play a role in the rapid rise in allergies and asthma, indicates new research.

The study focused on a predisposition for allergies among 118 Finnish teenagers, finding links between a healthy immune system (the body's system for fighting disease), growing up in more natural environments and the presence of certain skin bacteria.

The results support the idea that declining biodiversity might be contributing to the rapid rise in allergies, asthma, and other inflammatory diseases, which include autoimmune disorders and some types of cancers in the developed world, said Ilkka Hanski, a research professor at the University of Helsinki.

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