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People who recover from swine flu may be left with an extraordinary natural ability to fight off flu viruses, findings suggests. In beating a bout of H1N1 the body makes antibodies that can kill many other flu strains, a study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine shows.
To muddy the waters over the value of a super-clean environment, evidence suggests it takes a little dirt to maintain a strong immune system. The hygiene hypothesis supposes that our immune systems need to be exercised in order to get stronger, and when our immune systems have not been challenged, we become prone to allergies. In one study, researchers predicted children who grew up in cleaner, less polluted environments would experience fewer allergies. They compared East and West German children after the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and found the opposite.
Asthma rates among children living in prosperous West Germany were higher than rates in children living in less affluent East Germany. They concluded the East German lifestyle, with its larger families and more rural setting, afforded children more contact with infectious agents and more opportunity to develop their immune systems. While no one recommends a return to cave dwelling, evidence suggests we are not meant to live in a sterile environment.