Low Levels of Gut Bacteria May Increase Risk of Asthma in Infants

New research has found an association between low levels of four species of gut bacteria in infancy and an increased risk of asthma. Infants usually acquire the four species of bacteria—named FLVR (Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia)—by three months of age through exposure to the birth canal, breast milk, and their environment. However, C-sections, bottle feeding, and the use of antibacterial substances may limit infants’ exposure to FLVR. In the new study, reported on by the Wall Street Journal and published in Science Transitional Medicine, researchers looked at data from 319 children participating in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study. Of those children, 22 of them had a genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases and were showing symptoms of allergies by age one (such as wheezing). By age three, most of the 22 children were diagnosed with asthma. Researchers then studied stool samples taken when all of the children were three months old to analyze and compare their gut bacteria. Here is what they found:

  • At three months of age, the 22 children with an increased risk for asthma had lower-than-typical levels of FLVR bacteria compared with the levels in the other children.
  • At one year of age, the 22 children with asthma had FLVR bacteria levels more similar to typical levels found in the children without asthma.

These results suggest that it’s critical for infants to acquire FLVR bacteria in the first three months while their immune systems are still developing. The findings could play a role in the development of tests to predict asthma in infants and maybe even suggest probiotic treatments for asthma. However, more research is needed before either of those options become available.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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