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article imageDisease-causing gut bacteria prevalent in children

By Tim Sandle     Oct 31, 2016 in Science
A study in Denmark has found an unexpectedly high proportion of a pathogenic gut bacteria present in children. The bacterium is more commonly associated with disease in developing countries.
The bacterium of concern can cause diarrhea and inhibit growth in children. Typically associated in areas with poor sanitation, the research team found that 14 percent of children sampled in Denmark also carried the organism. The presence did not mean, however, that the children were commonly sick; they either had experienced mild gastrointestinal symptoms or no symptoms at all. The research group are keen to understand why this is.
The bacterium is ernteroaggregative Escherichia coli. It is also linked with conditions like traveler's diarrhea. Not all cases lead to symptoms occurring; the pathology appears to be connected to factors like nutrition and the overuse of antibiotics. The pathogenesis of the organism involves the bacteria aggregating and colonizing the intestinal mucosa, releasing toxins that damage host cells and inducing inflammation.
The relatively high presence of the organism among children in Denmark was found based on samples taken from children in day care. Here 179 children aged up to six years old were sampled, with analysis based on fecal samples (to indicate the composition of the gut microbiome). Carers were polled in relation to each child in terms of their overall health noting in particular incidents of diarrhea.
Of the 14 percent of children who tested positive of the organism (25 children), just over half (13 children) had experienced gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms were, however, milder than equivalent symptoms as would be experienced in most parts of the developing world.
With the 25 children who tested positive, a variety of different ernteroaggregative Escherichia coli strains were recovered. Some of these exhibited multi-antibiotic resistance. This level of resistance raises concerns that, should the gut microbial population become disrupted, a greater manifestation of ill-health could occur.
As to why the symptoms are worse in the developing world, it is thought to relate to nutrition and the types of food eaten. Further research will be needed to verify this, as well as to understand why symptoms do not appear in some children.
The research findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. The research paper is titled “Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli in Daycare—A 1-Year Dynamic Cohort Study.”
More about Gut bacteria, microbiome, Disease, Pathogens, Children
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