Keeping babies isolated and “too clean” may trigger a form of leukaemia, new research suggests.
Youngsters who are genetically at risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) are significantly more likely to have the disease if they are not exposed to germs, a study found.
Researchers analysed a range of studies including one where mice who were genetically predisposed to ALL and lived in germ-free environments all developed the condition when exposed to common bacteria and viruses, shares Daily Mail.
Previous research also suggests toddlers who attend nurseries are 30 per cent less likely to develop ALL due to them picking up infections from other children that strengthen their immune systems.
Lead author Professor Mel Greaves, from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: ‘The research strongly suggests ALL has a clear biological cause and is triggered by a variety of infections in predisposed children whose immune systems have not been properly primed.
‘The most important implication is most cases of childhood leukaemia are likely to be preventable.’
ALL affects around 830 new people a year in the UK and is the most common type of leukaemia in children.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, which helped fund the study, said: ‘We urge parents not to be alarmed by this study – childhood leukaemia is very rare and only around one in 2,000 children will develop it.
‘While developing a strong immune system early in life may slightly further reduce risk, there is nothing that can be currently done to definitively prevent childhood leukaemia.”
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