Modulation of the gut microbiota in infants at high risk for asthma by Lactobacillus supplementation

By Rachele Invernizzi

The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that exert a marked influence on the host in homeostasis and disease. Research within the microbiome field is advancing at a rapid pace; recent work has shown that the composition and function of the gut microbiota are symbiotically linked with host health, and altered in several immune-mediated disorders, including asthma. With the intention of modulating the intestinal microbiota, early probiotic administration has been used for the prevention of allergic diseases in infants, with variable success.

Durack and colleagues (1) wanted to explore the maturation of gut microbiota over the first year of life in infants at high risk for asthma, and whether it was modifiable by early-life Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) supplementation. They found that early-life gut microbial development was distinct from seen adults but malleable, and infants at high risk of asthma were therefore responsive to LGG supplementation. This meant a daily oral dose of probiotic temporarily modified the gut microbiota of these infants, changing the bacterial composition and metabolic profile of the gut while altering the immune system by potentially allowing more regulatory T cell development.

This study reinforces the observation that the gut microbiome is altered and has delays in diversification in infants at increased risk of childhood asthma. More importantly perhaps, given the difficulties in making significant, disease changing alterations to the gut microbiota in adults, they show that early-life strategies such as probiotics could prove effective.


(1) Durack et al, Delayed gut microbiota development in high-risk for asthma infants is temporarily modifiable by Lactobacillus Nature Communications. (2018). 9:707.

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