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Massey Magazine Issue 13 November 2002

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Study seeks pregnant women to test asthma theory

The link between asthma and dirt is under the microscope in a new study that needs 800 pregnant women.

Researchers from the Centre for Public Health Research are testing the idea that where pregnant women are continually in contact with farm animals, their children are less likely to develop asthma than other children.

They are looking for women in the lower North Island, from Taranaki to Hawke’s Bay south, to help with the study, which will involve monitoring the children for several years after they are born.

Associate Professor Jeroen Douwes and his team are investigating why children on a farm, with mothers who were exposed to animals, have a lower prevalence of asthma.

“We are keen to find out what kind of exposures might help,” Dr Douwes says. “We will try and assess which specific immunological mechanisms play a role. Then we hope to develop ideas about effective preventative strategies.”

Study participants will be a mixture of women living on farms and in towns and cities during pregnancy.

The centre has an $800,000 New Zealand Health Research Council grant for the study.

Professor Douwes says his team is looking for women from the lower North Island, including Taranaki and Hawke’s Bay.

Information about the study is being distributed to midwives and GPs involved in obstetrics.

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