The westernized lifestyle includes something that we often do not realize is a more important part of our life than it was to people hundreds of years ago: cleaning. With newly developed technology, like vacuuming, we are able to maintain cleaner homes, but this has also increased exposure to allergens such as dust mites. Allergens have a proven impact on the immune system of exposed persons, and as we have seen, the microbiome and the immune system are closely linked. The work of certain Norwegian scientists, published by Microbiome, explores the significance of washing and vacuum cleaning on the gut microbiome of mothers and their children.
The study group included 358 mother-child pairs that were included in a controlled non-randomized longitudinal study called IMPACT (Immunology and Microbiology in Prevention of Allergy among Children in Trondheim). Data was tested for the pregnant woman and then their two-year-old children (two years later). Average cleaning frequencies were 2.9 washings and 6.6 vacuum cleanings per month. For pregnant women, increase in Faecalibacterium prausnitzii showed the strongest association with increased vacuum cleaning frequency in once statistical model, while Roseburia faecis was found to have the strongest association in another statistical model. For the 2-year-old children, the Blautia species in one model, and the Oscillospria species in a second model, were identified as significant.
While the results of this study are a bit confusing, the main point is that the indoor household environment, including hygienic behavior, could have a potentially significant influence on the adult gut microbiome. High frequency of vacuuming could increase allergen presence in the air, which, when breathed in, could go on to influence the immune system – and therefore the microbiome. While many other environmental factors could not be controlled for in this study, the results do bring up the possibility of allergen and microbiota association.