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Co-habiting influences person’s immune system more than illness

Co-habiting influences person’s immune system more than illness - Featured Image

A Belgian study has found that co-habiting and specifically raising a child together can have a bigger impact on a person’s immunity than getting the flu shot or contracting gastro.

The research, published in Nature Immunology, found that people who lived together had immune systems that became 50% more similar compared to two non-related people in the wider community.

670 healthy people aged 2 to 86 were studied over a period of three years to “provide a description of the population-level heterogeneity in the cellular composition of the circulating immune system,” the authors wrote.

They found that the immune system was quite elastic, with it bouncing back to its original state after a bout of gastro or receiving the flu vaccine.

The result that was most interesting to them was the impact of co-parenting on immune systems.

Related: How modern life has damaged our internal ecosystems

“One of the most surprising results from our study was the degree to which immune profiles were more similar between parents than unrelated people living in different households. This suggests that a shared environment acts in some way to bring immunoprofiles toward a convergent equilibrium,” they wrote.

They also said there was little effect of gender on the immune landscape, which is at odds with the longstanding observation that autoimmune diseases are more common in women than men.

“Notably, sex-based differences are more limited at the cellular level than at the molecular level. The incomplete correlation between gene signature and cell type suggests that the discrepancy can be resolved by a model where high diversity in molecular expression is largely compensated for at the cellular level,” they wrote.

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