Recent research has highlighted a promising avenue for asthma management by exploring the impact of soil intake on gut microbiota and immune responses. The study, led by Mengjie Li and colleagues from Southeast University, provides significant insights into how a low-clean living environment (LCLE), specifically soil, can modify gut microbiota and alleviate asthma symptoms. The research is published in the World Allergy Organization Journal.

Dr. Dongrui Zhou from Southeast University, who spearheaded the study, along with his team, investigated whether consuming sterilized soil could serve as a prebiotic to attenuate inflammation in an ovalbumin (OVA)-induced asthma model in mice. The findings suggest that soil intake can significantly alter gut microbiota composition and reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with asthma. This work is published in the World Allergy Organization Journal.

Asthma, a chronic respiratory disease, affects over 300 million people worldwide. Epidemiological studies have shown that exposure to a LCLE can increase gut microbial diversity and protect against allergic diseases. This study aimed to explore whether the intake of sterilized soil, while being incubated with microbes in the air, could modify gut microbiota and alleviate asthma symptoms.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments using 16S rRNA gene sequencing to analyze gut microbial composition and immune parameters measured in lung and serum samples. The results showed significant differences in the fecal microbiota composition between test and control mice. Notably, the test mice exhibited a higher abundance of beneficial bacteria such as Allobaculum, Alistipes, and Lachnospiraceae UCG-001, which are known to produce short-chain fatty acids beneficial for health.

Soil intake also significantly downregulated the concentrations of IL-4 and IL-9 in serum and increased the expression of IFN-γ, which helps regulate the Th1/Th2 balance in the lungs by polarizing the immune system towards Th1, thereby alleviating OVA-induced asthma inflammation. According to Dr. Zhou, “Soil intake effectively reduced the expression of inflammatory cytokines in asthmatic mice, possibly by promoting the growth of multiple beneficial bacteria.”

Further experiments revealed that soil intake promoted the growth of beneficial bacteria, which play a crucial role in maintaining gut health and mitigating allergic responses. The study demonstrated that soil-based prebiotics could be a potential therapeutic approach for managing allergic asthma by enhancing gut microbiota composition and promoting an anti-inflammatory immune response.

The study also explored the impact of various factors such as air microbes and age on gut microbiota composition. While these factors did have an effect, the influence of soil intake was more pronounced. This finding underscores the potential of soil-based interventions in modulating gut health and alleviating asthma symptoms.

In conclusion, the research provides strong evidence supporting the development of soil-based prebiotic products for allergic asthma management. Dr. Zhou emphasized the significance of these findings, stating, “The results indicated that the development of soil-based prebiotic products might be used for allergic asthma management.”

Journal Reference

Li, M., Li, N., Dong, Y., Zhang, H., Bai, Z., Zhang, R., Fei, Z., Zhu, W., Xiao, P., Sun, X., & Zhou, D. (2024). Soil intake modifies the gut microbiota and alleviates Th2-type immune response in an ovalbumin-induced asthma mouse model. World Allergy Organization Journal, 17, 100897. DOI:

About The Author

Dr. Zhou Dongrui is an associate professor at the Key Laboratory of Child Development and Learning Sciences at Southeast University in China. Their research has been focusing on the impact of environmental cleanliness on intestinal microecology since 2007. They found that a low-cleanliness environment plays an important role in accelerating intestinal microbial repair and maintaining intestinal microecological balance. Their further research found that the soil in low-cleanliness environment is the key factor in maintaining intestinal microecological balance. They also found that soil intake has a significant therapeutic effect on allergic diseases (allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, urticaria, chronic enteritis, etc.), as well as on regressive autism, tics, and ADHD combined with allergic diseases.