Early Exposure to Bacteria May Improve Babies’ Immune System

August 13, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. strengthen /ˈstrɛŋk θən/ (v.) – to make something stronger and healthier
Example: Walking strengthens the child’s bones.

2. infant /ˈɪn fənt/ (n.) – a baby or a young child
ExampleInfants become healthier when they are breastfed.

3. wheeze /ʰwiz, wiz/ (n.) – a whistling sound while breathing that is caused by illness
Example: The signs of the disease are cough and wheezing.

4. periodically /ˌpɪəriˈɒdɪkli/ (adv.) – describes something that happens at regular intervals
Example: Hospital beds are periodically cleaned for safety and protection.

5. dropping /ˈdrɒp ɪŋ/ (n.) – animal waste
Example: There are cockroach droppings in my closet.


Read the text below.
A new research suggests that early exposure to harmful microorganisms could strengthen the immune system of children.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that exposing infants to bacteria and allergens during their first year may prevent allergies, asthma, and wheezing.

The researchers tracked the health of 500 newborn babies from Baltimore, Boston, New York, and St. Louis for three years. During the course of the study, the team periodically checked the infants’ homes for signs of bacteria and allergen contamination.

Surprisingly, babies who grew up in homes with mouse or cat dander and cockroach droppings have lower chances of wheezing and having allergies compared with those who live in healthier environment.

Robert Wood, the study’s author, said that timing is very crucial. He and his team noted that for the bacteria to have protective effects, exposure within the child’s first year of life is vital. He also added that immune responses were developed in the first year, so exposure to certain bacteria and allergens could help stimulate and train a baby’s immune system.

According to previous studies, babies who grew up in farms are less likely to have allergies and asthma because of bacteria exposure from farm soil. Researchers also discovered that while exposing one-year-old infants to bacteria may have positive effects, exposing babies to high levels of bacteria after the first year may cause higher rates of wheezing, asthma, and, allergies. 

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree that a little dirt may be good for a child’s health? Why or why not?
·         What do you think is an appropriate environment to keep a child healthy?

Discussion B

·         How can a person strengthen his/her immune system?
·         What are other ways that parents could do to further strengthen their babies’ immune system?

August 13, 2014