In a recent study published by the Science Translational Medicine journal, researchers have found a link between gut bacteria in early infancy and the development of asthma.
The team began by analysing the gut bacteria of 319 children. What they found, was that children who were missing a specific four types of bacteria, where at a much higher risk of asthma than those who contained the bacteria.
Children missing the bacteria – Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella and Rothia (Flvr) – at the young age of three months were in the highest percentage for developing asthma by the age of three.
When the researchers attempted to identify the same presence of bacteria in one year olds, the same effect was not able to be identified. This suggested to researchers that earlier life proves to be crucial in addressing changing the direction of gut bacteria in those at risk of allergies.
Experts leading the research said that exposure to the “right bugs at the right time” could be the best option for preventing allergies and asthma later in life.
“What I think is important and not so surprising to paediatricians was how important the very early life is,” said Stuart Turvey, co-author of the study. “And our study emphasises that in that first 100 days the structure of the gut microbiome seems to be very important in influencing the immune responses that cause or protect us from asthma.”
Whilst previous research had linked gut microbes to asthma, Turvey stated that this study was able to look at specifics; “Our advance was to put a name to some of the bacteria and to emphasise the 100-day window” after birth when newborns needed crucial exposure.
Asthma itself had an uncontrollable genetic component, but science is also revealing certain environmental factors, such as the missing microbes, that can contribute to the disease.
There are ways the children are missing out on being exposed to gut bacteria necessary for prevention of certain allergies. For example in an elective C-section, babies can be prevented from acquiring the mother’s bacteria that would otherwise be transmitted through labour. When children miss out on formula, or if the mother is given antibiotics whilst breastfeeding, they can also miss out on “favourable microbes.”
Dr Brett Finlay, another researcher in the project, told BBC: “[I was] surprised to realise that faecal microbes may be influencing things.
“What data’s really starting to show these days is that the immune system gets itself set up in the gut and influences how it works everywhere else in the body.”
“There’s more and more evidence that modern illnesses derive from this loss of microbes—especially early in life,” said Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the research paper. “The good germs are the ones we get from mum, and those guys are disappearing.”
Whilst the study is just the beginning of further research into the importance of gut bacteria in preventing various diseases and allergies, the authors suggest that these findings could lead to various treatment and preventative measures.
Dr Stuart Turvey, said: “Our longer-term vision would be that children in early life could be supplemented with Flvr to look to prevent the ultimate development of asthma
“I want to emphasise that we are not ready for that yet, we know very little about these bacteria, [but] our ultimate vision of the future would be to prevent this disease.”