Gut flora affects maturation of B cells in infants

Infants whose gut is colonised by E. coli bacteria early in life have a higher number of memory B cells in their blood, reveals a study of infants carried out at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The bacteria in our gut outnumber the cells in our bodies by a factor of ten and are extremely important for our health because they stimulate the of the immune system. The normal bacterial flora in the gut is established at the very beginning of our lives, but an increasingly hygienic lifestyle has led to changes in this flora.

Colonised ever later

These days Swedish children are colonised by E. coli bacteria later and later. They also have a less varied bacterial flora and a smaller turnover of in the gut than children in developing countries. Meanwhile, diseases caused by deficiencies in have increased sharply, making allergies a major public health issue in the Western World.

B cells play key role in development of allergies

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy have looked at , a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies that can protect the body against infection and play a key role in the development of allergies. By studying 65 healthy newborn babies in the Västra Götaland region, researcher Anna-Carin Lundell and her colleagues were able to show that infants whose gut is colonised by E. coli bacteria during the first few weeks of life had a higher number of memory B cells at the age of both four and 18 months.

"The results are important for understanding the relationship between our complex bacterial gut flora and our immune system, and show what we risk losing with an excessively hygienic lifestyle," Anna-Carin Lundell explains.

"Most of the bacteria around us are harmless, and we should see them as a very important form of training so that our children's immune systems mature properly. Healthy newborns should not be over-protected against natural exposure of the gut flora."

More information: The article "Infant B cell memory differentiation and early gut bacterial colonization" is soon to be published in the Journal of Immunology. May 2012

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Resistant gut bacteria will not go away by themselves

Jun 19, 2007

E. coli bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics will probably still be around even if we stop using antibiotics, as these strains have the same good chance as other bacteria of continuing to colonise the gut, ...

Healthy gut flora could prevent obesity

May 25, 2011

Poor gut flora is believed to trigger obesity. In the same way, healthy gut flora could reduce the risk. This has shown to be the case in tests on rats.

Recommended for you

Study unlocks basis of key immune protein's two-faced role

Nov 26, 2014

A Brigham and Women's Hospital-led team has identified a long sought-after partner for a key immune protein, called TIM-3, that helps explain its two-faced role in the immune system—sometimes dampening it, other times stimulating ...

Profilin can induce severe food-allergic reactions

Nov 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Profilins are complete food allergens in food-allergic patient populations that are exposed to high levels of grass pollen, according to a study published in the December issue of Allergy.

Structured education program beneficial for anaphylaxis

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—A structured education intervention improves knowledge and emergency management for patients at risk for anaphylaxis and their caregivers, according to a study published online Nov. 19 in Allergy.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.