Researchers from Murdoch Childrens Research may have found a way to prevent high risk infants from developing eczema- and they say the answer could be in their gut.
A study by the Institute found a reduced diversity (variety and abundance) of gut bacteria in infants may increase their risk of developing eczema by the time they are 12 months old.
The study, which was published in the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology journal, included 98 infants who were at high risk of allergic disease. Of the infants 33.7% developed eczema in the first 12 months and 24.4% had at least one positive skin prick test (allergy test) to a food or inhalant allergen – and were therefore considered to be ‘atopic’ (predisposed to develop allergic disease).
The study found those infants who went on to develop eczema at 12 months had a significantly reduced diversity of gut bugs from as early as seven days of age, compared to the infants who didn’t develop eczema.
Importantly, the study also found the levels of gut bacteria was not related to whether the infants had a predisposition to allergy (sensitisation), or the allergic status of their parents.
Lead researcher, A/Professor Mimi Tang said the findings suggest that the development of infant eczema could be influenced by altering the gut bacteria in early life.
“This study highlighted that infants who later go on to develop eczema have a reduced variety and abundance of healthy bugs from the very first week of life, which might contribute to development of eczema. This suggests that altering the mix and amount of bacteria in our guts in early life could be an effective approach to the prevention of eczema, especially for those with an increased risk of developing allergic disease.”
“The findings also suggest that exposure to a diverse environment of common germs in early life, may be an important factor in protecting against the development of childhood eczema among infants at increased risk of developing allergic disease.”
Factors that have been identified to influence the development of gut bacteria include mode of delivery at birth, type of feeding (breast fed or formula), exposure to antibiotics and contact with parents, siblings and hospital staff.
This is the largest study to examine the relationship between very early life gut bacteria and the subsequent development of allergic disease.