Cause of asthma in a child

A new study from the University of Alberta shows that there is an additional and potentially treatable reason why children born to mothers with asthma often develop the disease later on.
Familial risk for asthma tends to be passed from mothers to babies, scientists say, and this may not be the result of genetics alone, but a combination of factors such as exposure to microbes found in the baby’s digestive tract. The research team found that Caucasian boys born to moms with asthma, who are typically at the highest risk of developing asthma in early childhood, were also one-third more likely to have a gut microbiome with specific characteristics at three to four months of age.
The authors found a significant reduction in a family of microbes called Lactobacillus in Caucasian boys born to women with asthma, and this was especially noticeable if the mother was allergic or overweight. These findings provide the first evidence that maternal asthma during pregnancy may be associated with changes in the baby’s gut microbiome , the researchers say.
This finding, backed up by several studies, could eventually lead to a preventive approach that involves altering the gut microbiome in infants to reduce their risk of developing asthma. Along with this, scientists are concerned that parents are undertaking probiotic treatments for their children too early to solve this problem.
More than a thousand mothers and their children have been studied. The team became interested in studying the relationship between asthma and the gut microbiome , based on the fact that maternal asthma affects the birth weight of a child depending on gender.
It was already known that a male fetus would have a lower birth weight if the mother had asthma, so it was decided to investigate further, given the differences already found based on the sex of the child. The study also showed that maternal asthma affected the intestinal bacterial composition of female infants, but in a different way. Girls had more bacteria in the Bacteroidaceae family , which are important in maintaining the mucus barrier that protects intestinal cells from damage by harmful substances. The authors suggested that this may protect girls from developing asthma at an early age. On the other hand, changes in the composition of the bacteria characteristic of infant girls may increase the risk of developing asthma during puberty.
Given new research linking the gut microbiome to asthma and allergies, the new findings may ultimately help prevent asthma in children.

event_note March 1, 2022

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