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article imageYeast found in guts of babies increases asthma risk

By Tim Sandle     Feb 19, 2017 in Health
A study performed in Ecuador has shown a yeast in the gut of new babies to be a strong predictor that the babies will go on to develop asthma.
The new research adds further to studies about the microbiome (the diversity of different microorganisms found in different niches on or within the human body) and the major role it plays with health and disease. This is a topic that has been extensively featured on Digital Journal's science and health pages. The new South American study focuses on one specific disease: asthma.
Asthma is a common long term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs; caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While the condition affects people of all ages it often starts in childhood. There is no cure for asthma, the main ways to manage to condition involve avoiding exposure to triggers and the use of either reliever inhalers or preventer inhalers.
The identified yeast of concern is a genus called Pichia. More than 100 species of this genus are known, and they are teleomorphs which and form hat-shaped, hemispherical, or round ascospores during sexual reproduction. Comparative studies of children from Canada and Ecuador show that the presence of the microscopic fungus Pichia is strongly linked to asthma. While the fungus was present in both countries, the Canadian children were more likely to have beneficial bacteria in their guts that could counteract the effects of the fungus. The absence of the bacteria left the Ecuadoran children more exposed.
As to the link with asthma, this has been found by University of British Columbia microbiologists. Commenting on the research, lead scientist Brett Finlay said: "Children with this type of yeast called Pichia were much more at risk of asthma", explaining that this "is the first time anyone has shown any kind of association between yeast and asthma."
The research has yet to be published but it has been presented to the 2017 annual meeting for Association for the Advancement of Science.
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