Feature

Health scare of the week: Roaches and asthma

A new study has identified cockroaches as the cause of asthma among inner-city children.

A disproportionate number of poor children suffer from asthma, and a new study has identified the culprit: cockroaches. Dr. Daniel Remick and his team at the Boston University School of Medicine scooped up dust balls from homes in inner-city housing projects where kids had been stricken with asthma. “We collected house dust—big dust bunnies—added water, let them mix overnight, and spun the junk out of them, until we had extract,” Remick tells The New York Times. It turns out that the extract was packed with cockroach droppings and pieces of the dead bugs’ exoskeletons. When lab mice were exposed to this material, they had asthma attacks, while mice exposed to common dust mites and other irritants did not get nearly as sick. “For inner-city children,” Remick says, “the major cause of asthma is not dust mites, not dog dander, not outdoor air pollen. It’s allergies to cockroaches.”

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