Four gut bacteria types affect chances of asthma in babies

Four gut bacteria types affect chances of asthma in babiesNew research has uncovered some very revealing information on the bacteria that may affect the chances of children developing asthma, singling out four types of bacteria that, if not sufficiently found in young babies, could increase their odds of developing asthma at one year old.

The study, which was led by University of British Columbia professor Brett Finlay, states that children who don’t have sufficient levels of the four aforementioned types of bacteria at three months old are more likely to develop asthma at the age of one.  The researchers studied fecal matter from 319 infants to come up with a snapshot of their gut environment, and based on this snapshot, Finlay isolated Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (FLVR, as known) as the four bacteria types with differing levels among three-month old infants, and with the most impact on the chances of a baby developing asthma.

However, that merely scratches the surface, as the differences in FLVR levels led to more questions relating to what causes levels of these bacteria types to vary across babies, and to drop to low levels and increase asthma risk.  Finlay believes the most likely variables include whether the baby was delivered vaginally or by Cesarean section and whether the baby is breastfed or not.  He also theorized that the mother’s diet and genetics may also be a factor.  “At three months, these babies are not even getting started in the world yet,” Finlay observed. “So it does point to some emphasis on prenatal, maternal type bugs and maternal behaviors that may be contributing.”

The study is not definitive proof that editing gut bacteria levels could reduce the risk of asthma, but Finlay’s team did work with mice, breeding them with low FLVR levels, then treating them with FLVR supplements similar to probiotics.  It was revealed through these tests on mice that they were somehow protected from the disease.  “That supports the idea of conducting more experiments on FLVR and its impact on babies’ health, with the goal of eventually being able to prevent asthma by screening newborns for levels of the bugs and then treating too-low levels with some type of probiotic,” he said.