Ms Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare Executive, and Medical Economics.
Researchers in study of gut dysbiosis in infants say new finding could potentially yield a microbe-based asthma preventive treatment.
Therapeutic inoculation with four specific bacteria in infancy could prevent the development of asthma in adulthood, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia (UBC).
Researchers found that gut dysbiosis in the first 100 days of life is linked to later asthma and allergy development, but that inoculation with microbiota Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia-dubbed FLVR by the research team-significantly reduced lung inflammation.
Study author and microbiologist B. Brett Finlay, PhD, told Medical Economics the research was spurred by a comment from his wife, a pediatrician, that infants who do not receive certain antibodies in their first year of life have higher rates of asthma. At first, Finlay did not believe her, but then found literature to back the idea.
“There were these smoking guns to indicate gut microbes might affect asthma,” he says.
Initial research was conducted in mice, then on more than 300 children enrolled in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study and screened using the Asthma Predictive Index (API). Finlay and his team found that children with high levels of FLVR had a low risk of developing asthma, while children with low colonization of the microbes had a higher risk. Specifically, the research team identified Lachnospira as possibly having the most significant impact on inflammation.
“These four bugs can be potentially used as biomarkers of asthma,” says study author Marie-Claire Arrieta, a UBC postdoctoral fellow. “We can later determine someone’s risk to develop asthma based on the abundance of these four bugs. And later we can think of the therapeutic potential of these four bugs given to babies that are determined to be at risk.”
Increased use of prenatal and perinatal antibiotics, increased urban living, and formula feeding in infancy may all play a role in the decrease of FLVR in the infant gut, eventually leading to an altered microbiota and possible asthma development, according to the report.
Any interventions would have a small “critical window” if developed, however, as the research team found that virtually all the biomarkers found early in infancy had disappeared by the time the children reached 1 year of age.
There is potential to use the data uncovered in the study to develop future therapies that could head off the early gut dysbiosis and prevent development of inflammation and asthma.
In the animal models, mice with asthma that were treated with the FLVR combination experienced reduced inflammation. Additionally, of the 22 children in the study that were deemed most at-risk of developing asthma based on the microbial makeup of the infants’ stools, eight had already been diagnosed with asthma by age 5.
“We identified several early-life metabolic alterations with biomarker and therapeutic potential, which will prompt further functional studies to determine their role in asthma pathogenesis,” the study authors write. “Together, our findings establish an important role for the early-life intestinal microbiota in shaping immune system development, and enhance the potential for using rationally designed microbe-based therapies to prevent the development of asthma and other allergic diseases that begin in childhood.”
Researchers, who already are working to patent their microbial discovery, say their finding could potentially yield a microbe-based asthma preventive treatment.