Good gut bacteria might reduce an infant’s chances of developing asthma

According to a new study, babies who acquire 4 key bacteria in their guts before turning three months old might remain protected against asthma. This finding by a team of Canadian researchers has been published in the journal Science Translation Medicine.

The researchers are saying that the findings of the study might result in development of tests for identifying babies at maximum risk of having asthma as well as inoculations for preventing onset of the disease.

Additionally, the study also supports the “hygiene hypothesis”, according to which, by being obsessed with the concept of having a clean environment at home, people belonging to western societies have ended up triggering a massive increase in asthma rates since the early 1950s.

During the study, researchers analyzed stool samples collected from 319 infants, all of whom were aged between three months and one year. These children were participants of a larger study called CHILD or Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development.

The analysis showed that stool samples of the three month olds, who were later identified to have a higher risk of developing asthma, had lower levels of four gut bacteria, Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (together they have been nicknamed FLAVR). However, the researchers found that different in the levels of those four bacteria became negligible as the children turned one. This means the initial three of months of a baby’s life is critical for development of his or her immune system.

Prof. Stuart Turvey, who teaches pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, is the lead coauthor of the study. According to him, the findings of the study show that there’s a short window of around 100 days to provide babies with therapeutic interventions for protecting them against asthma. However, he added that while the study throws up some significant facts, still there’s a lot of information to be gathered about the four bacteria.

Prof. Turvey said that the majority of the babies taking part in the study acquired FLAVR naturally from their environments. The researchers, however, not yet know the exact sources of those bacteria. Right now, they are trying to find out which of these four bacteria are important and whether it is possible to give those bacteria to children with the aim of protecting them against asthma.