According to Canadian scientists, being exposed to “good bacteria” early in life could prevent asthma developing.
The research team, reporting in Science Translational Medicine, were analyzing the billions of bugs that naturally call the human body home.
Their analysis of 319 children showed they were at higher risk of asthma if four types of bacteria were missing.
Experts said the “right bugs at the right time” could be the best way of preventing allergies and asthma.
In the body, bacteria, fungi and viruses outnumber human cells 10 to one, and this “microbiome” is thought to have a huge impact on health.
The specialists, at the University of British Columbia and the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, compared the microbiome at three months and at one year with asthma risk at the age of three.
Children lacking four types of bacteria – Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (Flvr) – at three months were at high risk of developing asthma at the age of three, based on wheeze and skin allergy tests.
The same effect was not noticed in the microbiome of one-year-olds, suggesting that the first few months of life are crucial.
Further experiments showed that giving the bacterial cocktail to previously germ-free mice reduced inflammation in the airways of their pups.
One of the researchers, Dr. Stuart Turvey, said: “Our longer-term vision would be that children in early life could be supplemented with Flvr to look to prevent the ultimate development of asthma
“I want to emphasize that we are not ready for that yet, we know very little about these bacteria, [but] our ultimate vision of the future would be to prevent this disease.”
Asthma is caused by airways that are more sensitive to irritation and inflammation.
One explanation for the rise in asthma and allergies is the “hygiene hypothesis”, which suggests that children are no longer exposed to enough microbes to calibrate the immune system to tell the difference between friend and foe.
Giving birth by Caesarean section and not breast-feeding both limit the bacteria that are passed to a newborn. Antibiotics taken by a pregnant woman or newborn child can also change the microbiome.
Dr. Brett Finlay, another researcher in the project, said: “[I was] surprised to realize that fecal microbes may be influencing things.
“What data’s really starting to show these days is that the immune system gets itself set up in the gut and influences how it works everywhere else in the body.”
According to a new research, fruits, vegetables and whole-grains might be an unlikely treatment for asthma.
The animal study results, published in Nature Medicine, showed that a high-fiber diet could reduce inflammation in the lungs.
The extra fiber changed the nutrients being absorbed from the gut, which in turn altered the immune system.
The researchers argue the shift to processed foods may explain why more people are developing asthma.
The airways are more sensitive to irritation and more likely to become inflamed in people with asthma.
It leads to a narrowing of the airways that make it harder to breathe.
However, a possible solution may lie in another organ, the gut, and the bacteria which live there.
The cells of the human body are vastly outnumbered by the trillions of microbes that live in and on it.
There is growing evidence that these bacteria have a significant impact on health.
Fruits, vegetables and whole-grains might be an unlikely treatment for asthma
A team at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland showed that the high and low fiber diets altered the types of bacteria living in the guts of the mice.
Bacteria which can munch on soluble fiber, the type found in fruit and vegetables, flourished on the high-fiber diet and they in turn produced more short-chain fatty acids – a type of fat, which is absorbed into the blood.
The scientists said these fatty acids acted as signals to the immune system and resulted in the lungs being more resistant to irritation.
The opposite happened in low-fiber diets and the mice became more vulnerable to asthma.
Their report argued that a dietary shift away from fiber in favor of processed foods may be involved in rising levels of asthma.
It said: “In recent decades, there has been a well-documented increase in the incidence of allergic asthma in developed countries and coincident with this increase have been changes in diet, including reduced consumption of fiber.”
One of the researchers, Dr. Benjamin Marsland said some of the differences caused by high-fiber diets have already been observed in people by comparing diets in Europe and Burkina Faso.
The team in Lausanne is also investigating the role of diet in long-term lung inflammation such as COPD, which is set to become the world’s third biggest killer.
An alternative to tweaking diets is giving the purified fatty acids themselves as a dietary supplement.
This worked in mice, but Dr. Benjamin Marsland warns there “certainly needs to be more work” before this is suggested in people.
Jazz singer Patti Austin has cancelled a concert in Beijing after suffering “a severe asthma attack”.
A statement on the singer’s website said Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall on Friday night “due to health problems”.
While the cause of her illness has not been confirmed, it comes at a time of growing concern over air pollution levels in the Chinese capital.
Beijing has recently announced measures to combat worsening pollution.
They include taking half of the city’s four million private cars off the roads on days when there are serious levels of pollution.
The system will be based on a vehicle’s license plate – odd numbers will be allowed on the roads one day, even numbers the next.
Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing due to health problems
A statement on Patti Austin’s website said: “She was taken in an emergency to the Peking Union Medical College Hospital this morning where she has been treated for a severe asthma attack in combination with respiratory infection.
“Ms Austin is currently resting in her hotel. Her current breathing condition does not physically enable her to perform tonight.
“Ms Austin is extremely disappointed about this situation since she was very much looking forward to performing.”
The new anti-pollution system will give out four different degrees of air pollution warning – blue, yellow, amber and red.
On days when an amber warning is given, factories will stop production and work will be halted on construction and building sites.
Restaurants which offer open-air barbecues will be ordered to close temporarily, and fireworks will be banned throughout the city.
When a red warning is issued, the new car restriction measure will be implemented. Schools and kindergartens will also be closed.
The measure to restrict the number of private cars from using the road is proving to be controversial.
Critics have aired their concern that those who can afford to buy two or more cars will able to drive any day when the restriction is in force.
Beijing has almost 21 million permanent residents, according to official estimates.