The bacteria living in our digestive system, the gut microbiome, can have a profound influence on the human body. It can, e.g., have an influence on the development of the immune system. The gut microbiome matures over time in infants, as more and more bacteria are introduced. This process could, for example, impact the development of allergies and asthma.
Søren J. Sørensen, Hans Bisgaard, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues have studied the gut microbiome of children in their first year of life and its impact on a risk for asthma later in life. As part of the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood2010 (COPSAC2010), the team studied 700 children, of which 26 % were born to mothers with asthma. The team collected fecal samples in the children’s first year of life and analyzed the microbiome using gene sequencing. The children were scheduled for follow-up visits in the first five years of life.
Overall, the diversity of bacteria increased from birth to the infants’ first birthday. There was a statistically significant difference in the gut microbiome detected at one year of age between the 9 % of children who had developed asthma at age five and those who had not. Children with an immature gut microbiome had an increased risk of developing asthma.
This correlation was only found in children with asthmatic mothers, which suggests that an inherited asthma risk in predisposed children could be activated by a lack of microbial stimulation in the first year of life. According to the researchers, an adequate development of the gut microbiome could, conversely, protect these children from developing asthma. The microbiome could be improved, e.g., by microbial supplementation for high-risk cases. Having older siblings in the house also caused a more mature microbiome and had a protective effect.
- Maturation of the gut microbiome and risk of asthma in childhood,
Jakob Stokholm, Martin J. Blaser, Jonathan Thorsen, Morten A. Rasmussen, Johannes Waage, Rebecca K. Vinding, Ann-Marie M. Schoos, Asja Kunøe, Nadia R. Fink, Bo L. Chawes, Klaus Bønnelykke, Asker D. Brejnrod, Martin S. Mortensen, Waleed Abu Al-Soud, Søren J. Sørensen, Hans Bisgaard,
Nat. Commun. 2018.
Also of Interest
- Microbes Rule Our Guts,
ChemViews Mag. 2014.
Why you should think twice when you’re about to “go with your gut” in food decisions