Gut Bacteria Tied to Asthma Risk in Kids
Study suggests that antibiotics in infancy might also play a role
In the first 100 days of life, gut makeup influences the immune response that causes or protects kids from asthma, he said.
Testing for these bacteria in infants might help identify children who have a high risk of developing asthma, Turvey said. "These children could be followed and treated more quickly if they end up with asthma," he said.
While the study found a connection between gut bacteria and asthma risk in children, it did not prove cause and effect.
Whether giving kids probiotics -- good bacteria -- might reduce asthma risk isn't known, the researchers said. Turvey said the probiotics available in over-the-counter forms do not include the four bacteria identified in this study.
"Studies like ours are identifying specific bacteria combinations that seem to be missing in the children at the highest risk of asthma," he said. "The long-term goal is to see if we could offer these bacteria back, not the general nonspecific probiotics."
Finlay said these findings need to be replicated in larger groups and in different populations. He said the researchers also want to know if all four bacteria are protective, or just one or two.
"There could be other microbes that have a similar function, but we don't know that yet," Finlay said.
Turvey cautioned that treatment with bacteria is a long way off. "We are not ready for that yet," he said. "We know very little about these bacteria, but we are working to see if that might be a safe option to prevent this disease."
Dr. Maria Franco, a pediatric pulmonologist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, had this to say: "The finding shows how our immune system in the first three months actually changes things in life for the long term."
It's still not known how these bacteria get into the gut, Franco said. "But it shows how something so natural can make a big difference in a child's life," she said.