Lack of Contact with Certain Bacteria Could Increase Risk of Childhood Asthma

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Marji_031015According to a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, infants who acquire four types of gut bacteria by three months of age might lower their risk of developing asthma.

Since the 1950s, asthma rates have increased significantly, affecting almost 20% of children in Western nations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 6.8 million children in the U.S. currently have asthma.

To investigate why the asthma rates have risen, study researchers analyzed fecal samples from 319 children who participated in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.

Researchers discovered that three-month-old infants who were at an increased risk for asthma had lower levels of four types of gut bacteria: Faecalibacterium, Veillonella, Lachnospira, and Rothia. When researchers studied one-year-old children, they found fewer levels of the four types of gut bacteria—indicating that the first three months of an infant’s life is crucial for immunity.

Findings were also confirmed in mice; the team found that newborn mice, when injected with the four types of bacteria, developed less severe asthma.

Researchers hope that these findings could be used to create a test for predicting the risk of asthma in children.

“This discovery gives us new potential ways to prevent this disease that is life-threatening for many children,” concludes Dr. Stuart Turvey, the study’s co-lead researcher. “It shows there’s a short, maybe 100-day window for giving babies therapeutic interventions to protect against asthma.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
Ellis, M., “Is a ‘too-clean’ environment to blame for childhood asthma?” Medical News Today web site, October 1, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/300350.php.

Finlay, B.B., et al., “Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma,” Science Translational Medicine September 30, 2015, doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab2271.

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