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article imageStudying the guts of babies predicts asthma

By Tim Sandle     Sep 20, 2016 in Science
Microbiologists are now certain that characterizing the gut microorganisms of new born babies informs about the likelihood of babies going on to develop diseases such as asthma later in life.
The research follows on from various insights about the human microbiome, especially in relation to the types of microorganisms found in the gut and how the organisms interact with the human body.
The microbiomes of babies differ. This is due to multiple factors, including whether the mother breastfeeds; the difference between vaginal births (as opposed to C-sections) and whether there are pets in the household, among other influencing factors.
A new study has shown how microorganisms residing in a baby's gut, during its first month of life, impact the developing immune system. The consequences of this can, depending upon the composition of the microorganisms, increase the risk of allergies and asthma later in childhood.
Specifically the research connects a particular pattern of microbes in the guts of one-month-old infants to a three-fold higher risk of developing certain ill-health conditions before reaching the age two; and with developing asthma by the age of four.
The reason for this is linked to the perturbed microbial ecosystem releasing by-products that reduce the level of a particular immune cell. This immune cell (T-regulatory cells) helps to prevent allergies. The fewer the number of these immune cells then the greater the chance of a hyperactive immune system developing.
The research was based on testing stool samples from babies and tracking their progress up to to five years of age and noting overall health.
The impact of the study could lead to testing of the infant microbiome and potential interventions designed to improve microbial health in babies. The lead researcher, Dr. Susan Lynch explains the significance in her research note: "If we are to prevent disease development, we need to intervene early…if the genesis of the disease is visible as a disruption of gut microbiota in the very earliest stages of postnatal life, it raises an exciting question: could we reengineer the community of microbes in at-risk infants to prevent allergic asthma from developing?"
The research has been published in Nature Medicine. The research paper is “Neonatal gut microbiota associates with childhood multisensitized atopy and T cell differentiation.”
More about Asthma, Babies, Disease, microbiome, Gut
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