Children could emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with underdeveloped immune systems due to prolonged lockdowns that forbid them from going outside, according to Dr. Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist who teaches at the University of Guelph in Canada.
In an article published on March 10 in the Conversation, Bridle explained that regular exposure to the environment is critical for children’s immune systems to learn to differentiate between safe versus disease-causing germs.
A concept in immunology called “hygiene hypothesis” states that interactions with the microbial world- an environment full of bacteria, parasites, viruses and other microorganisms- after birth are extremely important for the proper development of the immune system.
“The immune system is a learning device, and at birth it resembles a computer with hardware and software but few data. Additional data must be supplied during the first years of life, through contact with microorganisms from other humans and the natural environment,” according to a 2016 study cited by Bridle.
Billions of germs reside inside and outside a healthy person’s body. Under normal circumstances, they have a mutually beneficial relationship with their host and promote a robust immune system. But inadequate exposure to the microbial world can weaken young children’s immunity against diseases. Read more…