June 17, 2024

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Infant Gut Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Major Childhood Allergies

Infant Gut Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Major Childhood Allergies


Infant Gut Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Major Childhood Allergies.

A recent study has uncovered a common thread among four major childhood allergies: an imbalance in the infant gut microbiome. These findings hold promise for informing treatments to correct childhood gut microbial composition and potentially prevent lifelong allergic conditions.

Allergies affect millions of people worldwide, and, like many recent health concerns, they are linked to gut health and the gut microbiota. Given the synchronized development of the microbiome and the infant immune system, a new study delved into their connection.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the BC Children’s Hospital in Canada examined the role of gut bacteria and early life influences in the development of four major childhood allergies: eczema, asthma, food allergies, and hay fever.

Stuart Turvey, the study’s lead author, remarked, “We are seeing a growing number of children and families seeking help in emergency departments due to allergies. Hundreds of millions of children worldwide suffer from allergies, including one in three children in Canada, so understanding the causes of allergies and how to prevent them is crucial.”

While these four allergy types have distinct symptoms, researchers aimed to determine if they shared a common origin related to the bacterial composition in the gut.

One of the study’s co-authors, Charisse Petersen, explained, “Technically, these are different diagnoses, each with its own set of symptoms, so most researchers tend to study them individually. However, when examined at the cellular level, they actually have many similarities.”


The researchers tracked 1,115 children from birth to age five. Among them, 523 were classified as “healthy” children with no evidence or history of allergies, while 592 were diagnosed with one or more allergic conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis, or food allergies, during regular check-ups over five years. The researchers analyzed their microbiota from fecal samples collected at three months and one year of age.


Infant Gut Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Major Childhood Allergies


The fecal samples revealed a common bacterial “signature” in children who developed any of the four allergies before the age of five, suggesting an imbalance or dysbiosis in their gut microbiota, likely leading to compromised gut mucosa and heightened intestinal inflammation.

Courtney Hoskinson, the study’s lead author, noted, “Normally, our bodies tolerate the millions of bacteria living in our intestines because they provide many health benefits. One way we tolerate them is by maintaining a robust barrier between them and our immune cells and by limiting the inflammatory signals that summon these immune cells into action. We found that these mechanisms in infants tend to break down before allergies develop.”

The researchers also investigated whether factors like antibiotic use or breastfeeding influenced children’s microbiota and their likelihood of developing allergies.

Turvey explained, “From this robust analysis, we gleaned many potential insights. We see that factors like antibiotic use in the first year after birth are more likely to lead to future allergic diseases, while breastfeeding in the first six months has a protective effect. This is a consistent finding across all the allergic conditions we studied.”

These research findings hold promise for guiding therapies to rectify gut dysbiosis, potentially preventing the onset of allergies.

Turvey concluded, “Thus, developing therapies that can alter these interactions in infancy might prevent the development of various childhood allergic diseases that often persist throughout life.”

This study was published in the journal “Nature Communications.”




Infant Gut Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Major Childhood Allergies

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