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Children's Asthma Risk Can Be Lowered by a Healthy Gut

Scientists reveal that babies and children with more mature gut bacteria populations are less likely to develop allergy-related wheezing or asthma.

The study, presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan, Italy, says these bacterial communities, or microbiota, form in the body of an individual during the first few years of life. Sometimes, they are beneficial to the body, such as when synthesizing vitamins and enhancing the immune system, and sometimes they are harmful, like when they contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and stomach ulcers.

When babies are born, they already have some bacteria in their stomachs from their mothers. As children become older and are exposed to more diverse sources, such as other kids, animals, and cuisines, their microbiota diversity grows and matures.

A better-developed newborn gut microbiome at one year of age was linked to a decreased risk of developing food allergies and asthma in childhood, according to research by Yuan Gao of Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, who presented the findings.

Asthma has no known treatment and is a common lung ailment that occasionally makes breathing difficult, and asthmatics use simple therapies to manage their symptoms.

Gao continues by saying that rather than individual bacteria, this appeared to be influenced by the gut microbiota's general makeup. Then, we put out the idea that early gut microbiota maturation in infants is connected to a lower risk of allergy-induced wheezing in later childhood.

What did the research team discover?

Between 2010 and 2013, 1074 infants were enrolled in the Barwon Infant Study (BIS), which has been ongoing in Australia since 2010. Since then, researchers have been tracking the babies' development. For the current study, Gao and her associates examined the microorganisms in feces samples taken from the BIS infants one month, six months, and a year after birth.

The BIS researchers asked the parents to report if their children had experienced allergy-related wheezing or asthma in the 12 months before at the one-year and four-year postnatal evaluations.

Additionally, they performed skin prick tests to discover if the kids were allergic to any of the 10 different meals and any airborne ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction, including ryegrass or dust.

The BIS team utilized a DNA sequencing approach to detect and characterize the gut microbiota in a subgroup of 323 kids who were chosen at random. They arrived at 'microbiota-by-age Z-score (MAZs), a mathematical estimation of the maturity of the kids' gut microbiota.

Gao noted that they discovered infants were less likely to get an allergy-related wheeze at one and four years old if their gut flora was better developed at the age of one.

If MAZ increased within a certain range, known as standard deviation, it halved the risk of allergy-related wheeze at both these ages. In other words, the more mature the gut microbiota, the less likely were the children to have allergy-related wheeze. We did not find a similar association with MAZ scores at one or six months.

- Gao

It is unclear how mature gut microbiota contribute to preventing diseases linked to allergies. By comprehending how the gut microbiome strengthens the immune system, the team wants to find novel approaches to avoiding allergy-related diseases like asthma.

For instance, it could recommend strategies for promoting gut microbiota development early in life, preventing future cases of asthma and other allergy-related disorders in children. More research is required since so little is known about the causes of allergies and asthma in infants.

To test the hypothesis that giving young children an oral mixture of dead bacteria can prevent wheezing illnesses or asthma by enhancing a healthy immune response to viral infections, researchers plan to enroll 2,000 kids from Australia and New Zealand in the ARROW clinical trial.

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