Why is this significant?
Immune diseases and psychological issues are on the rise in modern urbanised and urbanising countries. The study of the effect of the human microbiome on these issues is at the cutting edge of human health and nutrition. Our environment is a major determinant of our microbiome and studies in this field are showing the positive potential of environmental microbial diversity.
Our microbiome ultimately comes from our environment. Whether from as early as the birth canal or from our current diet it all contributes to our individually unique microbiome. But what about the effect of urbanisation and the loss of green space?
Well the Healthy Urban Microbiome Initiative was formed to consider just this issue.
As they say “The relationship between allergies and urban living has been recognized for over a century but the underlying causes for the higher rates of immunological diseases in urban areas are just starting to be revealed. Immunological diseases including allergies, asthma, diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, multiple sclerosis, and even diseases not traditionally considered immunological (eg obesity and depression) are increasingly being linked to the bacteria that inhabit the human body.”
Our modern world too often emphasises reducing and killing any and all environmental microorganisms. (Just watch a Dettol ad!) The hygiene hypothesis is that allergenic diseases are connected to this reduced exposure to microbes, often due to urbanisation.
Also “The old friends and biodiversity hypotheses extend beyond allergies and claim that the whole immune
system can become unbalanced and lead to myriad diseases when humans are not exposed to a diversity of
microbes (biodiversity hypothesis) or the specific microbes with which we have evolved (old friends hypothesis).”
And those microorganisms ultimately come from our environment. Have a look at the image below to see the interconnections of our environment and health.
Biodiverse urban green spaces (BUGS) are one proposal to reduce the potential adverse effects of urbanisation. If this hypothesis is proven then imagine the health benefits and cost reduction in current, and especially future, health services!