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The pattern of Infant’s gut bacteria: Biomarkers of future food allergy?

Posted:  Friday, March 13, 2015

The clue to food allergy development in an infant probably lies in the gut. Canadian researchers in a new study have found that infants with less diverse gut bacteria at 3 months were more likely to show sensitivity to common food allergens such as egg, milk and peanuts by the age of 12 months. The researchers found that variations in the levels of 2 types of bacteria, namely Enterobacteriaceae and Bacteroidaceae may be responsible for the development of food sensitisation.

Published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, the study evaluated data on 166 babies from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study. The researchers classified the bacteria in the infants’ stool samples collected at 3 months and 12 months of age using DNA analysis. They then found the bacterial genus which could predict the development of food sensitisation at 1 year, measured by a skin reaction test.

They found that 7.2% of the infants were sensitised to one or more common foods at 1 year. In the gut microbiota of food-sensitised infants at 3 months and 1 year, Enterobacteriaceae were overrepresented and Bacteroidaceae were underrepresented. Lower microbiota richness was evident only at 3 months. An increase in gut bacteria richness at 3 months was linked to a significant reduction in the risk for food sensitisation by 1 year. The researchers also found that an increase in the ratio of Enterobacteriaceae to Bacteroidaceae was associated with an increased risk of food sensitisation.

Talking about their findings, the researchers said, “At the end of the day, we want to know if infants who show changes to the normal gut bacteria composition will go on to develop food or other allergies, or even asthma.” They further added, “Ultimately, we hope to develop new ways of preventing or treating allergies, possibly by modifying the gut microbiota."

The researchers clarified that not all infants with food sensitisation may develop food allergies in adulthood. They plan to extend their research to study children aged 3 and 5 years.

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