Gut Bacteria In Infants Decreases Their Asthma Risk

First Posted: Sep 30, 2015 04:02 PM EDT

A new study examines four types of gut bacteria that may decrease asthma risk in infants. The findings are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

During the study, researchers at UBC and BC Children's Hospital analyzed fecal samples from children in over 300 families across Canada who were involved in the Canadian Healthy Infant Long Development (CHILD) Study.

Asthma rates have dramatically increased since the 1950s and now affect up to 20 percent of children in western countries, researchers say. Findings revealed that the majority of infants in the study showed lower levels of the four specific gut bacteria researchers were looking for at the three-month-mark--increasing their asthma risk. The four types of bacteria, nicknamed FLVR, include the following: Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, Rothia.

Though they are typically easy to acquire naturally from the environment, some infants do not receive them, because of their birth circumstances or other factors. Furthermore, the researchers also found fewer differences in FLVR levels among one-year-old children. In other words, this means that the first three months are a very critical time period for a baby's developing immune system. 

"This discovery gives us new potential ways to prevent this disease that is life-threatening for many children. It shows there's a short, maybe 100-day window for giving babies therapeutic interventions to protect against asthma," said co-lead researcher Dr. Stuart Turvey, pediatric immunologist, BC Children's Hospital, director of clinical research and senior clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute, Aubrey J. Tingle Professor of Pediatric Immunology at UBC, in a news release.

The discovery opens the door to developing probiotic treatments for infants that prevent asthma. The finding could also be used to develop a test for predicting which children are at risk of developing asthma.

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