Asthma in infant boys may eventually be preventable

November 27, 2017, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Anita Kozyrskyj, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, has published a study that shows moms passing on asthma to their babies is not just about genetics, and may even be preventable. Credit: University of Alberta

A new University of Alberta study shows that the family risk for asthma—typically passed from moms to babies—may not be a result of genetics alone: it may also involve the microbes found in a baby's digestive tract.

AllerGen investigator and UAlberta epidemiologist Anita Kozyrskyj led a research team that found that Caucasian baby boys born to pregnant moms with —who are typically at the highest risk for developing asthma in early childhood—were also one-third as likely to have a gut microbiome with specific characteristics at three to four months of age.

"We saw a significant reduction in the family of microbes called Lactobacillus in Caucasian baby boys born to pregnant women who had asthma, and this was especially evident if the asthmatic mother had allergies or was overweight," said Kozyrskyj, senior author of the study and one of the world's leading researchers on the gut microbiome—the community of microorganisms or bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans.

These findings provide the first evidence that maternal asthma during pregnancy may be associated with changes in an infant's , according to Kozyrskyj.

"Our discovery, with more research, could eventually lead to a preventative approach involving modifying the gut microbiome in infants to reduce the risk," she explained.

She also cautioned, however, that it is too early for parents to be seeking probiotic treatments for their infants to address this particular concern.

Kozyrskyj and her team's research involved over 1,000 mothers and their infants participating in AllerGen's CHILD Study, a national population-based birth cohort.

Kozyrskyj said that she and her team were motivated to study the gut microbiome-asthma link by the well-established fact that maternal asthma affects infant birth weight in a sex-specific manner.

"The Caucasian male fetus is more likely to have a lower in response to maternal asthma, so we knew there were already sex-based differences occurring and we decided to study them further."

The study also found that maternal asthma had an impact on the gut bacterial profile of baby girls, but in a different way.

"Baby girls were more likely to have higher amounts of bacteria in the Bacteroidaceae family, which are important for maintaining the mucus barrier that protects gut cells from damage by harmful substances," said Kozyrskyj.

"We speculate that this may protect baby girls from developing asthma in early life. On the other hand, changes to bacterial composition specific to baby girls may increase their risk for developing asthma during puberty, when the gender switch in asthma occurs."

"Given emerging research linking the to asthma and allergies, we are excited that our results have uncovered a new finding that may eventually contribute to the prevention of ."

The study, funded by CIHR and AllerGen, was published in European Respiratory Journal.

Explore further: Researchers ID microbiome genes tied to asthma

More information: Petya T. Koleva et al, Sex-specific impact of asthma during pregnancy on infant gut microbiota, European Respiratory Journal (2017). DOI: 10.1183/13993003.00280-2017

Related Stories

Researchers ID microbiome genes tied to asthma

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—Functional genes in the upper airway microbiome may be tied to childhood asthma, according to a study published Nov. 20 in Allergy.

Maternal uncontrolled asthma ups risk of asthma in offspring

July 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Children whose mothers have uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing the disease at a young age, according to a study published online July 13 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical ...

Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity

April 6, 2017
If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

Influence of C-section, formula feeding and antibiotics on infant gut microbiome

September 26, 2017
A new analytical approach, described in open-access journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, shows how different interventions - cesarean section, formula feeding, and antibiotics - can alter an infant's developing gut microbiome.

Breastfeeding does not protect children against asthma and allergies: study

November 13, 2017
The effect of breastfeeding on the risk of developing asthma and allergy has been debated for a long time. In a recent study, Uppsala University researchers show that breastfeeding might in fact increase the risk of developing ...

Asthma increases risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery

October 4, 2017
Women with asthma suffer more often from preeclampsia (PE) and run a higher risk of giving birth to underweight babies. These and other complications during pregnancy and delivery can not be explained by hereditary or environmental ...

Recommended for you

Bystander T cells can steal the show in resolving inflammation

March 23, 2018
In Type 1 diabetes the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing pancreatic cells, leaving patients dependent on lifelong insulin injections. The putative perpetrators of the attack—which are called ...

Researchers discover a 'security chief' that sounds the alarm against infections

March 23, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have identified a key molecule that serves as a "security chief" to help the immune system quickly recognize and fight infections with dangerous gram-negative bacteria like ...

Whether the donor and recipient are male or female influences transplant rejection rates—investigators explore why

March 22, 2018
Biological sex differences can have far-reaching, clinical consequences, as illustrated by organ transplant outcomes. Men and women who receive donated organs can have different rates of transplant rejection, in some cases ...

Mumps resurgence likely due to waning vaccine-derived immunity

March 21, 2018
A resurgence of mumps in the U.S. among vaccinated young adults appears to be due to waning of vaccine-induced immunity, according to a new analysis from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers found that vaccine-derived ...

How allergens trigger asthma attacks

March 19, 2018
A team of Inserm and CNRS researchers from the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology have identified a protein that acts like a sensor detecting allergens in the respiratory tract that are responsible for asthma ...

Single steroid-bronchodilator treatment for control and rescue improves persistent asthma

March 19, 2018
When it comes to treating teens and adults with persistent asthma, using a single corticosteroid and long-acting bronchodilator treatment for both daily asthma control and for rescue relief during sudden asthma attacks is ...


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.