Despite its widespread popularity worldwide, the real causes of asthma vary and are often individualized. Common triggers include air pollutants, smoking, cold air and even emotional stress. Many people are exposed to the same triggers from the same environment. Some people develop asthma, some don't.
A Canadian research suggests that infants treated with antibiotics before reaching the age of one have higher chances of developing asthma. Researchers from University of British Columbia studied the stool samples of 319 3-month-old Canadian babies and found that infants who don't have four specific bacteria have the highest risks of developing asthma later in life. When the participants turned one, the markers almost disappeared. The research team believes that an infant's first 100 days of life are crucial. The bacteria found in an infant's gut during this 'critical window' influence asthma risk.
The four bacteria in question are Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella and Rothia. Collectively, these bacteria are called FLVR.
"In that first 100 days, the structure of the gut microbiome seems to be very important in influencing the immune responses that cause or protect us from asthma. That very early life window is critical," said Dr. Stuart Turvey, the study's co-author. Turvey works as a pediatric immunologist at British Columbia Children's Hospital.
In recent years, many papers have looked into how microbiome help shape the human health. Microbiome is community of microorganisms living in the human gut. Many studies began looking into how the microbiome is linked to illnesses like obesity, malnutrition and even acne. The recent addition to the microbiome study pipeline is asthma, which affects over 300 million around the world.
Asthma rates continue to rise, particularly in highly developed countries. These First World Countries have higher rates of antibiotic use. Even in childbirth, countries like the United States, Canada and Europe have higher rates of cesarean (C-section)-born children. Antibiotic usage and C-section both alter the microbiome that could be linked to asthma development, said study lead author Dr. Brett Finlay from the University of British Columbia.
To test their findings, the Canadian researchers injected the FLVR bacteria into one set of lab mice. Two mice groups then ingested feces from a child with asthma. The FLVR mice showed lower inflammation in their airways compared to the test subjects without the FLVR bacteria.
Finlay expressed that more studies need to be done to pin down the microbiome's role in asthma formation. He is hopeful that the findings will help in the development of a drug that could prevent the illness.
Professor Marsha Wills-Karp from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland commended the paper's importance. She was not part of the research team, but as an asthma researcher, Wills-Karp explained that other papers analyzed pieces of the asthma puzzle. The Canadian paper pieced it together, she added.
The Canadian study was published in the Science Translational Medicine journal on Sept. 30, 2015.