Martinez, who came to the United States after launching his career in asthma research, is one of a number of specialists who believe that modern life may be responsible for the developed world's asthma rates -- but in a very unexpected
way. It is not tobacco smoke or pollution that is at the heart of the problem, these specialists believe, but modern hygiene practices and antibiotics that foreclose the need for the young immune system to tackle microbial and parasitic challenges. "Just as you need to use your eyes to develop sight and your legs to develop the muscles to walk," Martinez said, "your immune system develops through its experience. By legitimately protecting our kids from dangerous infections we may have kept parts of their immune systems from maturing."
This could explain why children in the developing world, who are repeatedly infected by bacteria and parasites, are unlikely to contract asthma, whereas children in the developed world, who are inoculated against infectious diseases and frequently given antibiotics, are contracting asthma in ever greater numbers. (Martinez quoted estimates that an astonishing 40 percent of children in the United States are given antibiotics for a period of a month or more in their first year of life.)
Read on. Have your thoughts provoked.