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Interaction between infant lung microbiota and viral agents may hold clue for asthma development later

Posted:  Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What if one could get a clue on the kind of respiratory conditions one may come down with early on in infancy? Swiss researchers seem to have provided just that in their recent study. They observed the interaction between infant lung microbiota and viral infection in the nose, and found that it could hold clues to respiratory disease development later in life.

The results of the study are slated to be presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress. The researchers observed the interaction between rhinovirus and the innate lung microbiota in 32 otherwise healthy infants from the BILD (Basel Bern Infant Lung Development) cohort study. They collected a nasal swab every alternate week from the age of 5 weeks till 1 year. They analysed the microbiota and 12 different viruses in each sample.

The researchers found that the diversity of lung microbiota decreased when the infants were showing symptoms of a viral infection. The diversity was not affected when the infants had asymptomatic rhinovirus infection. This meant that when the immune system reacted with symptoms to a viral infection, the bacterial diversity was reduced.

The researchers also noted that recurrent viral infections in the 1st year of life were associated with reduced diversity of the lung microbiota. The researchers expressed the need to confirm these findings with additional studies. As a next step, the team is researching the effect of virus in modulating bacterial diversity in comparison to other factors such as nutrition and antibiotic use.

The respiratory microbiota is known to be altered in chronic lung diseases. However, its role in the development of disease is yet to be explored. Early life viral infections are linked to the development of respiratory conditions, such as asthma, in later life.

Commenting on the study findings, they said, “We are already seeing this kind of approach with the gut, where patients are prescribed oral probiotics to stabilise the normal variety of the microbiota. If we find that these changes in the respiratory microbiota are linked with, for example, later asthma development, we could try to influence the nasal and respiratory microbiota as a preventive step. The immune response and the individual microbiota are shaped during the early years and this could therefore be best influenced during this period.” The team plans a follow up study among 6 year old children to understand how these early changes could lead to asthma development.

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