Our health depends on constant conversation with the trillions of microbes that live inside our bodies. It is this group of microbes that are essential to digesting our food, training our immune system and since our childhood. I may say here – figuratively – that these dialogues between human and microbe originate in childhood, when the first three years of life are pivotal. Thus the bacteria colonize the babies and then the two parties need to enter into physiological synchronization. The idea here is that any major disruption during this time can lead to a change in this system, increasing children’s risks of allergies, asthma, obesity and other chronic conditions later in life.
Therefore, parents always hear and warn against the use of antibiotics without medical advice, especially since infants who receive large doses of antibiotics - which can eliminate this microbial diversity – are more likely to develop such problems.
Moreover, after the Corona (Covid-19) pandemic, the children returned to nursery and school. Of course, people no longer keep their distance or avoid large crowds. If the wave of respiratory viral diseases that is hitting now and we are noticing its spread in society, the microbes are once again hovering between the small hands and mouths. There is no doubt that the children who were infected with the Corona virus during the pandemic had an unusual childhood. On average, their microbiomes are bound to look very different. However, the difference is not necessarily bad!
This reminds me of the days of Corona and its aftermath, as I believe that the children most at risk – to the physiological fluctuations between those benign bacteria and their bodies – are the children whose families entered into a mode of excessive hygiene, especially in the first two months of their lives and even when microbes are necessary to properly calibrate the immune system’s counter-alarms. So if I can say that this is a miss of those opportunities, which the defensive cells in our bodies end up confusing enemies with allies or vice versa, which leads to severe infections or autoimmune diseases .... And this is what everyone is hearing about now!
However, no one can accurately choose which microbes they will be exposed to. Measures that stop the transmission of known pathogens have a way of stopping the transmission of benign microbes as well. But context is important here. It is possible that behaviors that attract microbes, such as playing outdoors, coexist alongside those that avoid microbes, such as ventilating indoor spaces when there is a large outbreak of respiratory viruses.
Finally, those choices that people have made and continue to make, to protect their families from pathogens, should not be seen as a harmful mistake either!
In the end, are there children that I can call - Corona children-; Those born before or during the height of the Corona pandemic, when the virus was everywhere and we as families and parents cleaned everything up because we didn’t want it to be around us. So my question comes, which really worries me and may require follow-up and studies by our concerned authorities in the Sultanate: Will we see in the coming years from now, as a result of these disorders, a group of children with asthma and obesity?!
Dr Yousuf Ali Al Mulla is a physician, medical innovator and writer.