GemApps finds perfect places for preventing allergies and asthma

With the use of a database and a mobile application, people could spot beneficial microbial biodiversity areas in their environment.

Research conducted in the University of Helsinki shows that the more hygienic the living conditions and the better the health care, the more common are immune-mediated diseases, such as allergies, asthma and type 1 diabetes.

In addition, land use is an important factor in immune-mediated diseases. When the environment gets more urban-like, fewer diverse environmental microbes get transferred indoors. The number of flowering plants in the vicinity of homes has also been shown to diminish the prevalence of atopy.

"Over the years we have gathered a great deal of data from these big research projects, some of which are still continuing. We thought that the data could be of use for all people wanting to find information about their surroundings. That's why we are proceeding with GemApps," says researcher Aki Sinkkonen from the University of Helsinki.

GemApps is a project combining a mobile application and a database. The database integrates geospatial land cover information with microbial information. Through the app, people could gain very important information and guidance about the living environment. This would be very beneficial for them to prevent or control their allergies, asthma and other immune-mediated diseases.

"We want to help people to develop a balanced immune system. This could happen through an adequate exposure to suitable microbes. It is therefore important to show how people can find places and environments where optimal microbial exposure is possible. With mobile applications this information would be available for millions of regular people who are seeking appropriate ways to gain sufficient microbial exposure around the home, exercising or even travelling," Aki Sinkkonen says.

In addition to a general audience, the database can serve many different operators, such as mapping and routing operators, game developers, real estate agencies or urban designers in the municipalities or private companies. New mobile apps can also be developed based on the existing data.

Research Group Nature-Based Solutions, University of Helsinki