Analysis of stool samples taken at three months of age found that 22 babies shown by allergy testing to be at high risk of asthma had decreased F-L-V-R levels in their gut flora compared to children at low risk.
Most babies attain the four types of gastrointestinal bacteria – nicknamed FLVR (Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, Rothia) from their environments, but occasionally they don’t due to birth circumstances and other factors.
When researchers analysed gut bacteria from fecal samples of one-year-old children there were fewer differences in FLVR levels.
Exposure to these germs in the first months of life supercharges the immune system and prevents asthma from developing.
Asthma rates have risen sharply in the developed world but not in poorer countries – perhaps because wealthier countries have higher rates of Caesarean sections and antibiotic use, both of which alter the gut microbiome and have been linked to asthma, according to Dr. Brett Finlay, a microbiologist with the University of British Columbia and the study’s senior author.
Recent research shows that four types of gut bacteria could help prevent infants from developing asthma.
The team hopes to conduct a further study with a larger number of children to confirm their findings and explore how these bacteria affect asthma development.
The researchers, from B.C. Children’s Hospital, recognized asthma is the top reason for going to the hospital.
There are good bacteria in the baby’s gut that can prevent this condition.
“What I think is important and not so surprising to pediatricians was how important the very early life is”, says Stuart Turvey, pediatric immunologist at the University of British Columbia and a co-author of the study. It now affects more than 300 millionpeople worldwide and is thought to be caused by disregulation of the immune system.
“There could be other microbes that have a similar function, but we don’t know that yet”, Finlay said.
“The big, ambitious goal would be to develop a preventive strategy for asthma by treating with the FLVR bacteria”, he said Wednesday from Vancouver.
But if the researchers added a mixture of the four missing microbes to the mice’s digestive tracts along with the feces, the mice no longer had a heightened risk of developing asthma.
New born asthma-prone mice harbouring the bugs turned out to be much less likely to suffer air way inflammation and symptoms than those which did not, indicating a protective effect from the microbes. A clearly skeptical Turvey said “one of the issues is that we’re starting to discover this massive universe of bacteria, and the bacteria that are often presented in the probiotics we can buy at the health food store or the supermarket … don’t include this flavor combination that we’ve identified”. While 319 babies were studied, only 22 had wheeze and allergic reactions at age one, and only 19 of these were in the group classified as having, or being at highest risk of, asthma at age three. “And so our best guess is the way these microbes are working is they are influencing how our immune system is shaped really early in life”.
A child uses an inhaler to treat asthma