A new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine and discussed in the journal Science this week illustrates the importance of a normal microbiome and what changes in your microbiota may mean for long term health.
To look find associations between microbiota and disease, scientist have been looking at the entire microbiome. They do this using something called high-throughput genetic sequencing of the 16S ribosomal DNA sequence. The researchers who published this study were from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and investigated the microbiome of 319 babies at both the 3 month and at the 1 year mark. They then tracked the health of these babies over 5 years (where they looked at overall health at the 1 year/3 year/5 year time points).
Researchers found a significant difference in 4 key populations of bacteria. Children who were low or missing these four types of bacteria had a much higher chance to go on to develop asthma as they aged. The key missing bacteria were from the genera Lachnospira, Veillonella, Faecalibacterium, and Rothia.
First of all let me stress: These are NOT bacteria that come from eating yogurt or taking probiotics. These are specific bacteria found in the normal guts of newborn infants and were only found using this new method of sequencing ALL the bacteria found in the gut. It is important to note that only these new techniques allow us to see and compare all the bacteria in the gut (it is be very hard to culture or identify even a fraction of the normal microbiome using the old standard techniques for bacterial identification).
But to prove it was the loss of these missing organisms that were CAUSING the problem, mice grown in a germ free environment were given microbiota from babies in the study lacking these four kinds of bacteria. The mice given this type of flora developed inflamed lungs similar to what is seen in asthma.
When they reconstituted the mice with microbiota containing high levels of the four key genera of bacteria, mice were no longer at risk for developing asthma!!!
The scientists in the study were also looking for commonalities in the babies that were missing the important microflora. Were they delivered by C section? Were they given more antibiotics? Were they breast-fed or given formula? Did they live in the city or on a farm. This study indicated that the only factor that seemed to predict the loss of these important four types of bacteria was early exposure to antibiotics.
They are going to continue look to determine if the identification of missing specific organisms in the microbiota of newborns could be an early detection system for allergy and asthma in the future. Also, they are looking to determine if reconstitution of the missing bacteria could be protective!
Stay tuned for more!!!