Caesareans ‘are too sterile a way to enter life, leaving allergic kids’
And this 107-year-old doctor should know, seeing he is the 'grandfather' of allergy research
Birth by Caesarean section is “too sterile” a way to begin life, Britain’s “grandfather of allergy” has warned as he celebrates his 107th birthday.
Dr Bill Frankland, who popularised the pollen count and championed the hygiene hypothesis, which suggested modern cleanliness damages the immune system, warned that most allergies today are not caused by genetics, but by the environment.
Failing to properly prime the immune system by allowing babies to pass through the birth canal or breastfeeding them could store up problems for the future, he warned.
Asked what practical steps parents could take to protect their children from allergies, Frankland said: “Genes may be important for 30% of allergies, but 70% are due to the environment – is it from grandparents or parents smoking?
“How long is breastfeeding taking place, if at all? The obese child is unhealthy. Does the family live near a road and therefore breathing in pollution?
“How many children are born by Caesarean, which is too sterile a way to begin life?”
About 13% of the 679,000 births in Britain are now by elective Caesarean, while a further 15% need emergency C-sections. But there are fears that unless the baby passes through the birth canal it does not pick up important bacteria.
As Britain’s oldest working doctor, Frankland still contributes to journals and consults people about their allergies. He also recently contributed to a biography of his life’s work.
It was Frankland who championed the view that an allergic reaction resulted from a malfunctioning immune system, paving the way for the possibility of curing long-term sufferers by exposing them to small doses of the allergen.
He also worked alongside Alexander Fleming at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, and said Fleming was always concerned that bacteria would one day become resistant to penicillin.
Antimicrobial resistance is now one of the major concerns in modern healthcare, with experts fearing that unless the use of antibiotics is capped, even minor infections could prove deadly and surgery impossible.
“I was taught as a medical student by Professor Fleming in 1936 that antibiotic resistance would likely occur when penicillin was overused,” he said.
“New antibiotics are being devised, which hopefully will not become, even if overused, bacterial resistant.”
But he is confident the future of medicine will see people living for longer.
“We will learn how to live longer using information about cells and why they become abnormal,” he added.
Frankland served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War 2, and was taken prisoner while working in Singapore, spending three-and-a-half years in an internment camp on Blakang Mati Island.
He received his MBE, aged 103, in 2015. – © The Daily Telegraph