Bacteria exposure decreases children’s asthma risk

19 November 2015

Four types of gut bacteria may hold the key to protecting children from asthma, according to a recent MSFHR-supported study.

A research team co-led by 2011 MSFHR Scholar Dr. Stuart Turvey found that three-month-old infants with lower levels of the bacteria Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia – collectively known as FLVR –  face an elevated risk of developing asthma by the age of three. The findings suggest that exposure to these bacteria during the first months life may play a role in shaping the immune system and conferring protection against asthma in later life.

The researchers, based at the Child & Family Research Institute, BC Children’s Hospital, and the University of British Columbia, analyzed samples from more than 300 children enrolled in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study. Their findings could lead to probiotic treatments that would prevent asthma in young children, as well as predictive tests to assess a child’s risk of developing asthma.

Asthma affects up to one in five children in developed countries, and rates have been rising in recent years.

“This discovery gives us new potential ways to prevent this disease that is life-threatening for many children,” said Turvey, a pediatric immunologist at BC Children’s Hospital, director of clinical research and senior clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute, and Aubrey J. Tingle Professor of Pediatric Immunology at UBC.

“It shows there’s a short, maybe 100-day window for giving babies therapeutic interventions to protect against asthma.”

The study was published September 30 in Science Translational Medicine and has garnered international media coverage.

In addition to Turvey, three current or previous MSFHR-supported researchers contributed to this research: Dr. Kelly McNagny (2003 Scholar; 2008 Senior Scholar), Dr. Tobias Kollmann (2012 Scholar), and Dr. Shannon Russell (2009 Trainee).

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